Vietnam was so significant to the United States partly as it would be
the first war they would lose. It also had a tremendous financial
impact on the country and the casualties were also more in the public
eye than ever before due to the media. They learnt that:
"a long war for limited objectives, with its steady stream of body
bags, will not be supported by the American people" (Martino, 1996,
Some suggest that the US should have avoided any involvement in the
war. However, it is important to consider the political climate of the
time when passing judgement. The aim of this analysis is to explore
the debate surrounding US involvement in the Vietnam War. In
particular, the analysis is concerned with whether or not US
involvement in the war was avoidable and/or desirable. Initially the
background will be covered and the reasons why the US chose to get
involved, followed by analysis of the effects of US involvement. It
will show how US military involvement could and should have been
avoided but involvement in the initial stages was justifiable and
unavoidable considering the circumstances at the time.
At the end of World War Two (WW2) in 1945, it became necessary for the
allies to decide the future of the French colony, Indochina, when the
Japanese, who had been occupying the country, surrendered. President
Roosevelt was opposed to the French returning to power and proposed a
supervised trusteeship. This would have resulted in the Vietnam issue
being in international rather than U.S. hands. The US at the time were
supporting Ho Chi Minh whose nationalist movement, the Vietminh which
they had even been training, had since 1941 helped to fight the
Japanese during the war. Ho was determined to achieve independence for
the region. The French wanted to regain power and took badly to Ho's
proclaiming the former Indochina as 'The Democratic Republic of
Vietnam' in September, as the British had persuaded the allies to
return power to the French in October (Palmer, 1984).
At this time bi-polarity was not yet fully entrenched and Ho appealed
to the U.S. in his September speech to the masses, drawing on The
American Declaration of Independence (ibid.). America influenced the
celebrations and professed its friendship to the new state. However,
this did not last and reasons for America's turnaround are many.
During WW2 the US had viewed Indochina as of limited importance but
they began to reassess the situation (Herring, 1986).
France responded to Ho's proclamation by enlisting Britain's help in
expelling the Vietminh from the south of the country, creating a
division between Ho's North Vietnam and French South Vietnam. This was
followed by fruitless attempts to negotiate an agreement...