Type: History
Pages: 11 | Words: 3191
Reading Time: 14 Minutes

The United States of America has been involved in various wars and battles over the past centuries. It is believed that various reasons and motives have backed up America’s involvement in all these wars. Each war had its specific cause. For example, the Battles of Lexington and Concord of 1775 are believed to have been motivated by attempts to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams, while the war between the United States of America and Japan, which led to the attack on Pearl Harbor, was caused by America’s attempt to control South Asian nations such as Singapore, Malaysia and Burma.

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was a stern fight that emerged between the United States and North Vietnam between 1959 and 1979. According to Tucker, it is the longest war the United States has ever been involved in (2008). The Vietnam War started in early 1959 and lasted for nearly fifteen years. It finally ended in 1979 after the United States lost the fight. Additionally, this was the first war that America lost.

The Vietnam War was progressive. It started as a mere provision of military advice by the United States of America to South Vietnam. This gradually evolved into the engagement of United States military soldiers in the fights between North and South Vietnam. It progressively changed from political and economic assistance to the actual involvement of US troops in the war.

History of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War started immediately after the French colonies left Vietnam. The leader of Vietnam’s Communist Party, Ho Chi Minh, was fighting for independence from the control and rule of the French colonies. In 1954, Ho Chi Minh defeated the French colonial rule. This forced France to withdraw its soldiers and rulers from Vietnam. Immediately after the exit of France, North Vietnam, under the direction of Ho Chi Minh, started acquiring full control of South Vietnam as well. Vietnam was divided into two different territories by the French colonies. Ho Chi Minh wanted Southern Vietnamese citizens to become communists, too. However, the South resisted this demand and thus started the war with the North.

War historians also argue that the war between the United States of America and Vietnam was a result of political tensions built up during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union (Peake, 2008). Immediately after the Cold War, Soviet Union forces acquired control of most European countries and started communist governments. It was expected that communist movements would spread to other nations as well, so America had to hinder the encroachment and spread of this unwanted movement.

Causes of United States Involvement in Vietnam

The United States of America entered war with Vietnam to prevent communism from further spreading to the Southeastern part of Asia. It is believed that the American leaders got worried that communist movements would manage to take control of Vietnam. The leaders feared that the entry of communist forces into South Vietnam would facilitate its spread to other nations. Communism refers to a particular political and economic system that the United States of America had strongly opposed for several years.

In 1954, Vietnam was divided into two separate states as they were busy fighting for independence from the French. Communism emerged in North Vietnam a few years after the exit of the French forces. The split of Vietnam in 1954 facilitated the capacity of the communists to gain control of North Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh led the communist movement in North Vietnam. On the other hand, South Vietnam was led by a weak government which was non-communism. Because the United States was against the communists, it had to support the weak South Vietnam government in fighting against communists from the North. By supporting the Southern government, the United States leaders believed that they would prevent the Northern communists from taking control of the whole of Vietnam, including the South, which was non-communist.

At the beginning of the war, America provided financial support and military advisers to South Vietnam. During his presidency, US President John Kennedy sent more military advisers to South Vietnam, consequently increasing the number of foreign American advisers in Vietnam (from a low number of less than seven hundred advisers to more than fifteen thousand advisers).

In 1964, it was reported to the US Congress that communists from North Vietnam had attacked the US Navy ships along the coast of Vietnam. President Lyndon Johnson made this report. This led to an increase in the number of US troops in South Vietnam. By the end of 1965, nearly one hundred thousand soldiers of the United States of America were in fights in Vietnam. The United States of America conducted atrocious air attacks against North Vietnam. Within one year, the US Air Force had conducted more than one hundred and fifty bombings in North Vietnam. More bombs were dropped by the United States of America’s troops in 1967. By 1969, the United States had more than half a million troops in Vietnam. Data from the United States Department of Defense (DoD) revealed that the number of troops in Vietnam by 1969 was five hundred and sixty-five thousand. Most of these troops were teenagers with an average age of nineteen years.

Whiteclay suggests that the United States of America got involved in the Vietnam War so that it could be able to stop the spread of communism to other states. Leaders from the United States of America based their arguments about the possibility of the spread of communism to other nations on the theory of domino. The domino theory postulated that if any country fell under the control of communists, other neighboring nations would soon follow (2009). The United States of America thus wanted to take control of Vietnam after the French colonial rule left Vietnam in 1956, and the United States of America felt the need to fill the gap it left so that it could prevent Ho Chi Minh from uniting both North and South Vietnam as a single communist state. Vietnam was divided into two different states by the French. Immediately after France left, the United States of America started sending its military advisers to assist the South Vietnamese Army in the fight against communists. The first lot of military advisers from the United States of America was sent in early 1955. The conflicts between communists and non-communists continued to escalate

The United States of America leaders such as President Truman and Kennedy viewed communism as a great threat. After the Second World War; President Truman stated that his doctrine would assist governments of all nations that were not embracing communism. The United States of America considered communism theory as bad. For example, through communism, the French colonies implemented harsh rules to regulate trade. France imposed that only the government in Vietnam was allowed to sell certain commodities such as alcohol and table salt. Similarly, rice has been imported from France. America also believed that most Vietnamese workers who were employed in the mining industry were working under pressure and through from France. Those who attempted to quit their jobs were arrested and jailed. From the American’s point of view, such rules, which the leaders of North Vietnam acquired, could spread to South Vietnam and consequently result in unnecessary exploitation of the South Vietnamese people if Northern communists could manage to take control of the whole of Vietnam. The United States of America believed that Ho Chi Minh was a member of the French Communist Party and, hence, would exercise the harsh rules in South Vietnam as earlier done by France.

The United States of America became worried about the high possibility of the spread of communism and its principles in Asia. Through the French communist party, France created a state of imbalance in the socio-cultural, political and economic situations of the United States of America. Under the rule of the Communist Party, Vietnamese people lost their peaceful lives. The communists thus took advantage of this state of political instability and weakness so that it could spread its power across all nations that had been previously imbalanced by the French colonial system. The United States of America was not impressed by such communists’ motives.

According to Dudley and Bender, the United States’s involvement in the Vietnam War extended its Cold War mission (2010). During the Cold War era, the US Government vowed to contain and bring communist power under its control.

However, Hunt argues that the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War could not be elucidated clearly due to the overlapping of its starting dates. He argues that the diversity of the starting dates makes it difficult to know the exact motives that made America enter into war with North Vietnam (2006). According to Michael Hunt, in 1960, US President Truman and his allies regarded Ho Chi Minh and other communists as oppositions to political democracies, great violators of human rights, as well as according to military violence and hostilities (2006). The United States of America also accused communists of practicing closed economic systems in most states. This restrained and held back most capitalist countries from trading with them. Thus, America and its allies were not happy with the political systems of communism and thus did not want its spread to other nations. America judged communism against contagious diseases that were easily spread. In 1949, the communists took over power in China. Consequently, America was frightened and terrified by the high chances of the quick spread of communism to other Asian nations.

President Truman believed that offering political and military support to Southern Vietnam would stimulate economic development in this less-developed, non-communist nation. The United States of America could increase its trade activities with such nations through increased economic development. Founded on this belief, America opted to assist South Vietnam in resisting the invasion by North Vietnam, which was already under communist power. Accordingly, if South Vietnam could win the war and attain its previous economic status, America could, directly and indirectly, benefit from its revived economy. These economic and trade ambitions were the second set of reasons that could have facilitated the involvement of the United States of America in Vietnam.

Thirdly, the United States of America got involved in the Vietnam War so that it could keep its promise to support non-communist nations from possible invasions by communist states. During the Second World War, the United States of America signed a treaty called SEATO, which stated that it would continue its support to non-communist states that faced threats of attack by communists. To keep its word, America had to support South Vietnam in fighting the North Vietnam communists. According to Frey-Wouters and Laufer, the United States of America got involved in the Vietnam War so that other nations could not view it as an unreliable government that did not keep its promises (2008).

Fourthly, America entered into war with North Vietnam due to an attack on its Navy Army along the shores of Vietnam by North Vietnamese soldiers. It is believed that the United States of America’s navy ship, USS Maddox, was attacked by North Vietnam due to the involvement of the US in the fights between North and South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Communist Party in the North, was not happy with the United States’ involvement in the fights by providing financial support and sending its military advisers to South Vietnam to assist in the war. The United States of America thus responded to this attack by full engagement of its soldiers and military in the war in favor of South Vietnam. Political analysts Young Blatt, John Fitzgerald and Grunfeld Tom assert that the whole of America was neither pleased nor contented with the attacks of its Army’s ship. Therefore, the US Congress unanimously passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that permitted President Lyndon Johnson to boost and amplify the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War by sending more soldiers to fight the Northern communists. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution stated that President Johnson should take callous and unsympathetic measures to keep at bay possible attacks on the US army by Northern communist soldiers in the future (2002).

Furthermore, Morris Robert and Julius Becton suggest that America was involved in the Vietnam War as a result of the personality traits of American presidents. They further argue that various American presidents, such as John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, were just extending the wars to show commitment to continue with the wills and missions of previous presidents. The political administration of the United States of America changed from time to time after every election. New-elected presidents wanted to continue with the objectives of previous administrations (Morris, 2011). From my part, I would argue that Morris and Beckon did not provide a solid reason or evidence to support their arguments and allegations on the factors that led the United States of America to be involved in the Vietnam War. The suggestions they give are mere reasons that back up why the United States of America continued with the fights in Vietnam. They fail to give an elaborate cause or basis that explains why America involved itself in the fights.

End of the War

When Richard Nixon became the President of the United States of America in 1969, he slightly increased the number of troops present in North Vietnam. However, he soon started to withdraw American troops from Vietnam. This led to South Vietnam’s fall due to decreased American support. At last, North Vietnam won the war, and Vietnam finally reunited to become a communist state.

Effects of the War

The Vietnam War led to the deaths of millions of people. Although a few soldiers also died, most of the people who were killed were civilians. According to Wiest, the number of American civilians who died as a result of the war was estimated to be sixty thousand people (2007). The exact figures are not known. Additionally, more than two hundred thousand people were left with serious injuries that resulted from the shootings and bombings during the fights.

The war also resulted in massive displacement of people. Wiest estimates that nearly five million Vietnamese citizens sought refuge in foreign countries (2007). Most people were also rendered homeless during and after the war. Additionally, the deaths left numerous children orphans and thousands of women widows.

The involvement of the United States of America in the Vietnam War also caused great opposition and political divides in America. A few years before it was terminated, various human rights activists, families of the US Army soldiers, and soldiers themselves held demonstrations against the involvement of the US in the war. According to Kimball, human rights activists claimed that many lives were lost during the war for no good reason. Economists also argued that the scarce resources of the United States of America were misused in the war (2009). Accordingly, they suggested that these resources, which included finances and military equipment, could be used more efficiently back home than in the Vietnam War. The general public also got involved in demonstrations to push the Federal Government to withdraw its soldiers from Vietnam. For instance, thousands of students from Kent State University in Ohio demonstrated against the war in May 1970.

End of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War ended after huge public outcries, which forced President Richard Nixon to sign peace accords with North Vietnam in 1972. The peace accords called for an immediate end to the war. In the peace accords, it was stated that North Vietnam should, with immediate effect, release all the American soldiers who were imprisoned in Vietnam. It also called for the immediate end of hostilities between America and Vietnam.

Validity of the Causes of the US Involvement in the Vietnam War

In my opinion, given that the major cause of the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War was to prevent the spread of communism in Vietnam and other nations, I would argue that this cause was reasonable and valid. This is because of the cross-territorial impacts that the war imposed on neighboring nations. Wars have been known to have adverse political and economic impacts that negatively affect the statuses of other host countries. Just as America presumed, the war in Vietnam could negatively affect its trade with other nations, such as Britain. It was, therefore, rational and sensible for the United States of America to protect its trading and political interests by controlling power and political interferences in partner countries.

However, I would also challenge the United States’ decision to send troops to Vietnam to kill and destroy North Vietnam communists. In my view, this reflected excessive use of force and coercion through direct control of the affairs of foreign countries. The killings were also carried out in an inhumane manner.


I would conclude that although the primary objective of the States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War was to prevent the spread of communism and to stop North Vietnam from attacking South Vietnam through destruction and killing, the United States of America did not effectively manage its military operations and thus failed to achieve the mission of its involvement in the war.

Furthermore, the effects of the war were more severe in South Vietnam than in North Vietnam. The war resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent Vietnamese civilians as well as thousands of Vietnamese soldiers. The impacts of continued involvement in the war were that of more losses to the Vietnamese people. In my view, the losses were more than the intended gains that could be possibly achieved in the case of winning the war. Hence, it was of no benefit to the citizens of South Vietnam. The negative effects of the fights surpassed the positive gains by far.

Additionally, the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War clearly shows how awful policies may be inherited from one political era to another. This was demonstrated by the continual support of incoming presidents to continue with the Vietnam War. I would suggest that political leaders exercise great caution to ensure they do not pursue or accomplish unethical or unnecessary political missions initiated by their predecessors.

Last but not least, the effective push of the public to the federal government to withdraw American soldiers from Vietnam was an incredible political and social lesson. From this successful push, we learn that the public can effectively lobby or influence decisions made by their governments for the general public’s interest. For instance, several repeated demonstrations that were held by human rights organizations and the general public forced the US Congress to formulate and enact legislation requiring the US President to withdraw American soldiers from the Vietnam War. In my view, the American citizens were fighting for the interest of their family members in troops sent to Vietnam and for the effective utilization of national resources. The numerous resources used during the war could have been channeled to more productive activities that could boost the American economy, such as education and healthcare services.

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