The Causes Of The Vietnam War In The Terms Of Cold War Global Politics. Essay Example
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The war in Vietnam is one of the largest military conflicts of the second half of the XX century. It has left an imprint on the culture of Vietnam and is very important for the modern history of the country, the United States and the Soviet Union, which played crucial role in it. The main point of the war was the struggle of the local government of South Vietnam with US support against local communist rebels supported by North Vietnam. The civil war began in South Vietnam. Later North Vietnam was embroiled in the war, and later received the support of China and the Soviet Union, while the US and its allies (SEATO military bloc) were on the side of friendly regime of South Vietnam.1 Soon the war was deeply intertwined with the parallel civil wars in Laos and Cambodia. All combat operations in Southeastern Asia, which took place from the end of the 1950s and until 1975, are known as the Second Indochina War. The war lasted more than 15 years - from 1959-1975 and was a good example of “hot” phase of the Cold War.
The origins of the war in Vietnam can be found in the context of relations between the USSR and the USA in the terms of Cold war, in the importance of the region for major actors of international relations and in the relations in the region and inside of Vietnam before the conflict.2 The war in Vietnam, to some extent, continued the First Indochina War, which lasted 8 years till 1954 and was waged by France for the preservation of their Indochinese colonies. It was already then, when in 1950 the US began to provide military assistance to French troops in Vietnam. Over the next four years (1950-1954) US military aid was $ 3 billion. However, in the same 1950, the Viet Minh began receiving military aid from the People's Republic of China.
In the end of 1950s attempts of North Vietnam to unite the country with the help of the USSR, led dictatorial South Vietnamese regime to seek for help from the United States. Fearing that the transition of South Vietnam under communist control would undermine US influence in Southeast Asia, Washington had to move from the supply of weapons to South Vietnam like during the First Indochina war, to direct military intervention on the side of South Vietnam. This decision was made by the USA due to the current security situation in the region and in the world in order to react appropriately on important challenges of the international arena of that time.
“Cold War” caused division of the world into two camps, gravitated to the Soviet Union and the United States.6 On the 5th of March 1946, speaking in the presence of the US President Truman in Fulton, Winston Churchill accused the Soviet Union in the deployment of global expansion, in the attack on the territory of the “free world”, that is, the part of the planet, which was controlled by the capitalist countries.7 Later the US President Harry Truman in the terms of the Cold war announced the American doctrine of containment or the “Truman doctrine”. The basis of the doctrine was the policy of “containment” toward the Soviet Union and the spread of communistic ideology throughout the world. “Truman Doctrine” was used to justify US interference in the internal affairs of other countries and marked the beginning of the provision of a broad military aid to other countries, accompanied by the creation of a network of military bases on foreign territories.
As a result of the “Truman Doctrine”, American government came to the conclusion that it needs to oppose sometimes even using military forces to communist revolutions in order to prevent its spread in the world. These considerations are reflected in the theory of the “domino effect”, that means that the revolutionary changes in one country induces revolutionary changes in the other, usually neighboring country.8,9 The origins of this theory are taken from the practice, which means that all dices of dominoes will fall one after the other, if at least one of them fall. Consequently, American theorists and politicians believed, that in the case of the fall of anti-communist regime in one of the countries, you must in any way create a barrier against the spread of the revolution to neighboring states in order to prevent worldwide “epidemic” revolution. Since most of the national liberation movements in the 50-60s won in a revolutionary way, this theoretical position automatically made the United States the enemy of national liberation movements.
The doctrine of “domino effect” was first made public by US President Dwight Eisenhower at a press conference in the White House on April 7, 1954: “Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the “falling domino” principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences”. 10 This strategy was used by the next US President John F. Kennedy, who was convinced that the USA needed to pay “any price” to prevent Vietnam from becoming communist country. Otherwise, in his opinion, sovietization threatened the whole region of Southeastern Asia. “Domino doctrine” identified the US policy towards developing countries over the next twenty years. In particular, taking into account the “domino effect”, American government decided to start US intervention in Vietnam.
So, the Vietnam War was determined by the configuration of the system of international relations, which occurred soon after the end of the Second World War. It was one of the most crucial “hot spots” in the relations between the USA and the USSR, which shaped the future relations between the counterparts for next decades. The struggle for the division of the world determined the beginning of the Vietnam War. The main cause of the war was an attempt of the American government to reduce the influence of the communism on the countries of the third world after the loss of China and had therefore quite the same background as the Korean War. The doctrine that the American politicians used for justification of their intervention in Vietnam was the “Domino doctrine”, which directly continued the “Truman doctrine” and aimed at the limitation of the communistic ideology and fight against it. The main idea of the “Domino doctrine” was the fact that the victory of communism in one country would entail the spread of it on the other countries of the region and all over the world. According to this, the loss of Vietnam would lead to loss of Cambodia, Laos and other countries in the neighborhood. The whole period of the Cold War was shaped by the conflicts between two biggest actors in the bilateral system of international relations and Vietnam War started as one of them.
1. Gettleman, Marvin E.; Franklin, Jane; Young, Marilyn. Vietnam and America: A Documented History (New York: Groove Press, 1995) 560.
2. Logevall, Fredrik. The Origins of the Vietnam War (Harlow: Longman, 2001) 156.
3. Arne Westad, eds. The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Volume II: Crises and Détente (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012) 680.
4. McMahon, Robert J. Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War: Documents and Essays (Boston: Wadsworth, 2008) 568.
5. Summers, Harry G. On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (Presidio press, 1982) 240.
6. Tucker, Spencer. The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History (Oxford University Press, 2011) 600.
7. Heller, Henry. The Cold War and the New Imperialism: A Global History, 1945–2005 (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2006) 384
8. Olson, James S.; Roberts, Randy. Where the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam, Where the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam 1945–1995 (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2008) 323.
9. Bostdorff, Denise M. Proclaiming the Truman Doctrine: The Cold War Call to Arms (College Station: Texas A 81 M University Press, 2008) 198.
10. President Eisenhower's News Conference, Public Papers of the Presidents (New York: Times Press, 1954) 382.
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