Theinvolvement of the United States in the Vietnam War is probably oneof the most controversial decisions that the U.S as a country hasmade in history. The war exhausted the U.S in all aspects includinghuman resource, cost, and most important public trust with thegovernment of the day. It is the longest war in the history of theU.S (Herring, 2001). Questions has been raised over the involvementof the U.S in Vietnam War. One of the schools of thoughts that weredeveloped as the war unfolded in the orthodox theory. This paper willfocus on this school of thought and analyze why it is right in itsopposition to the U.S engagement in the infamous war.
Theorthodox belief explains that, the United States senselessly enteredinto a war against communism rule that it could never win. Right fromthe beginning, the United States had its priorities misplaced. Whenthe Viet Minh were fighting their colonizers the French and theJapanese, the U.S was not interested in helping the Vietnamesedespite the support that the Viet Minh were giving to the U.S againstJapan during World War II (Robbins, 2007). The Vietnamese through theViet Minh regardless defeated the French and were able to form agovernment. The U.S knew very well that the North Vietnamese werevery much united and determined to maintain their independence.
Clearly,the engagement of the United States in Vietnam War was not targetedat winning over the North Vietnamese, but was a way to maintain itsposition against communism. In fact, the U.S was only interested incurtailing the communism dominance of the USSR and China againstspilling over in Vietnam. Basically, North Vietnam and the Viet Congwere aligned towards communism while the South Vietnam was alignedtowards the West, which is predominantly capitalistic. By engaging inthis war, the U.S was not prepared to deal with the force that theNorth Vietnamese was staging against the South Vietnamese and togreater extent their affiliates.
TheU.S initially sent military advisers to Vietnam to access thesituation. As many as 16,000 military personnel were sent to Vietnamto collect intelligence in the 1950’s when conflict between Northand South Vietnam was looming. Nevertheless, this was not necessaryas it proved it was not an American War. By 1969 over half a millionU.S soldiers were in Vietnam, but did not manage to contain theraging North Vietnam which was determined to win the war againstAmerica as they called it (Herring, 2001).
PresidentJ.F Kennedy who was the first president to start the war in Vietnamacted alone. He did not engage public debate or the congress and onlyworked with what he believed was the right thing to do. Hispredecessors like President Johnson also continued in the samespirit. For example, the 1968 Tet Offensive, an attack by NorthVietnamese and Viet Cong in over a hundred South Vietnamese citiesand towns, the U.S did not withdraw even though it lost greatly(Robbins, 2007).
Thepublic was against the U.S participation in the Vietnam War. Anygovernment that knows the importance of public support in a War knowsthat, going against the public can have detrimental outcome. Thus,when the U.S went to War in Vietnam, it was prepared to lose, andlose big. Most of the soldiers in Vietnam were demoralized withconstant attacks and losses. The people of North Vietnam were unitedas a community. Children and women rendered their support to the VietCong and North Vietnamese forces in general which made it difficultfor the U.S to identify the enemy. In addition, they spoke in onedialect which gave them an advantage over the United States Army,which relied on translations from their associates South Vietnamese.
Theengagement of the U.S in the Vietnam War was a very big mistake thatshould never be repeated. The war was a Vietnam affair and theinvolvement of the U.S as an anticommunism campaign was a lameexcuse. If the U.S was so much concerned against communism, it wouldhave approached the problem head on, by attacking the USSR and China(Robbins, 2007). Trying to engage in domestic war in Vietnam, the U.Sexposed its weaknesses not only to the North Vietnamese, but also tothe whole world, that was watching the unfolding of the events. Thepublic had lost hope with the administration and lack of supportcontributed greatly to defeat. Consequently, America with all thepower that it had, the military superiority and dominance across theworld would not be so much worried with Vietnam affairs. In the end,Vietnam became a communist republic, which did not harm the U.S inany way. It would have been better for the U.S to concentrate ondiplomatic resolutions, if it so felt it was necessary, instead ofthe offensive that they put against the North Vietnam insurgency.Hence, the orthodox school of thought best explains the U.Sinvolvement in the Vietnam War.
Herring,G. (2001). America`sLongestWar: The United States And Vietnam, 1950-1975 With Poster Author:George C. Herring, Publ. 384.
Robbins,M.S. (2007). Againstthe Vietnam War: Writings by Activists,Rowman & Littlefield.