The war in Vietnam was the longest fight with the US involvement in history. It started in 1954 and ended in 1975, and involved the communist regimes of North Vietnam and South Vietnam. Both fighting Vietnamese had their allies whereby South Vietnam gained the US support. Due to its capitalistic nature, the USA supported the soldiers of South Vietnam to prevent the spread and influence of the communist in the region. Despite all those years that took the war to end, large amount of money, thousands of deaths and injuries, the USA finally lost the war.
America’s failure to achieve victory resulted in different reactions from the debaters whereby some people believed that the US should have never entered the war in the first place or should have withdrawn from Vietnam to create the opportunities for peace. The other side of debaters found no regrets in the US involvement in the war, and they felt the war had its benefits on the US side.
The paper discusses the arguments to reveal the impacts of the Vietnam War by considering the two sides of the debate presented by the two articles “Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam” by Ralph Smith and “The Pro-War Movement: The Domestic Support for the Vietnam War and the Making of Modern American Conservatism” by George J. Veith. The first article argues for supports of the US involvement in the Vietnam War, while the second tries to disapprove any reason for the US involvement. Lastly, it argues in the support for war and America’s involvement in the war.
Support for War
According to Veith, “there are other methods of resolving conflicts of a nation or a group against another. Such methods include the mediation, negotiations, and arbitrations”. In some cases, these methods fail to offer the solution and peace desired, and that is where the other method of dispute resolution, a war, comes in.
George Veith expresses his belief and acceptance of the US involvement in the Vietnam War by providing supports and evidence to justify the US allying with South Vietnam in his military journal “The Pro-War Movement: Domestic Support for the Vietnam Wars and the Making of Modern American Conservatism”. In this article, he has proven how the government of USA was reluctant to enter the war until when Germans provoked it by attacking the US ships in the ocean. The USA remained neutral, but the ties to Britain, propagandas, and the sinking of the American ships by the German U-boats forced it (the USA) to enter the war. Germans also attempted to get Mexico in the war against the USA, thereby revealing accelerated desire to attack the USA indirectly (Veith 2). In response, the USA entered the war in support for the Southern Vietnamese.
The Vietnamese were influenced greatly to change their social and political values by the communist leaders. Such influence meant the spread of communism into the Vietnam territory, which was something that the USA did not want to allow because it had different views on the communist union. Thus, it found the need to stop the communists’ influence by allying with the Southern Vietnam. It was clear that once the USA lost the political support and the opportunities to exploit natural resources in Vietnam, Germany and China would take the land. The USA entered the war to prevent the takeover by the communists.
The Chinese government had entered the war by financing and arming North Vietnam, thus indicating their support for non-communist and fighting against the US interests in the Vietnam. In addition, Japan tried jeopardizing the US procurement of essential materials such as rubber and tin. These items were necessary for America’s economic growth. The main intention of the Japanese had was to ensure that US benefits from the Asia were cut off. The CIA operatives played a big role in spreading fabricated news thinking that people would support the noncommunist.
Reasons for America’s Involvement in the War
The American government had decided that there was the need to enter the war for a number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons was America’s fear of communism. Based on their Christian views, Americans felt that other people, especially from the East, were godless. America’s sense of democracy led to its hatred of the communism that was believed to practice dictatorship (Veith 1). People supporting these views felt that the influence of the communists on the Vietnamese would only install threats to the American interests in the region. Vietnam had rich supplies of zinc, tin, and coal. With Vietnam being the French colony, these commodities benefited the French more. The US government felt the need to gain such economic benefits and thereby started to create the sphere of influence in the region.
Another reason for the US involvement in the war was clear. The Germans attacked the US vessel while the Japanese wanted to cut off the economic supplies the USA received from Vietnam. The Japanese activities against Americans were as the result of America allying with the Southern Vietnam that by that time was in war with Japan.
Support for Peace
Ralph Smith has different views from the George Veith’s as evident in “Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalations of War in Vietnam”. Smith argues and proves that there was the possibility for peace during the war. He argues that the Vietnam internal social and political instability did not directly influence or affect America in any way. Therefore, America did not have to enter war. He also argues that many innocent lives have been lost during the fight. The cost of the war to the American government and taxpayers was too high, and the government should have considered other ways to resolve the dispute. The need to reduce the American debt and to allocate the resources to the other country’s program should have prompted the government to avoid the war. Ralph Smith feels that there was no need for the government to get involved in the unwinnable battle. The size of the Vietnamese army was no match for the American one. The Vietnamese army counted more than 700,000 soldier while the US army had about 250,000. Vietnam had all winning advantages, including the home ground advantage. It was so unwise for the US government to enter into a losing battle in Vietnam.
Following the views of the majority of American, Smith furthers the argument and hope for peace that were present during the war. However, the government did not consider opting out. The suffering and pain that many US soldiers and common citizens had experienced in wars could be avoided if the US government had withdrawn from the war. Almost 58,000 soldiers died in the war and more that 90,000 were made casualties. The war did not leave nay pleasure for soldiers or American people. Smith states that the loss of Americans in the battle was not worth the sacrifices.
It is not acceptable that the US actions were to stop the communists. The noncommunist Vietnamese were against the corruption and the oppressiveness of the government of Southern Vietnam. It is evident by the facts that the emperor appointed by Diem was greedy and he had ensured that more that 80% of South Vietnam land belonged to less than 5% of its population. Such misappropriation of land led some Vietnamese to rise against the corrupt government but not the communists, and the US entry into the war had made the situation even worse.
The US interference in Vietnam’s internal social and political affairs in the name of stopping the communist influence was unnecessary. Such interference in other nation’s sovereign interests is an abuse of the international law. It is only acceptable to attack a nation if they attack. There was no way the USA could have proven any attack by North Vietnam and subsequent violation of the international laws (Smith 3). The US fighters bombed Cambodia and Laos without any justification that the two Vietnam locations were a threat to the American people.
The Opponent’s Argument
In his arguments, Smith builds the case that there were opportunities for peace on the verge of winning the battle. He presents reasons why the government only caused more suffering than losing the war itself. America should not have been engaged in the conflict because the North Vietnam people had not threatened America in any way. He seems to be inconsiderate of the real nature of any war, whereby one group may have the consciousness to withdraw from the fight but the consequences of withdrawal are much worse than staying. It is difficult to stop a fight after it has started without a third party effort to help the warring parties reconcile.
Smith also fails to understand that the war in Vietnam was just like any other fight for freedom. Even in other countries, wars were fought in quest for the independence and there were negative consequences for both sides. The war in Vietnam was no different from the African freedom fight such as the South African apartheid struggle that had left many people, including school students dead. In such situations, nothing matters most than the real reason for the war. Not even the consequences but the ultimate goal the war intends to achieve.
When war strikes, it is a clear indication that other conflict resolutions methods have failed, and the conflict situation has worsened beyond the point of reconciliation. I support the US involvement in the war not because war is another resolution method where negotiations and mediations have failed but because the fighting groups involving Japan and Germany have ended up threatening the American people. Naturally, one tends to have a reflex response to an attacker, but for the US government, it was difficult to make the decision of entering the war. That is the reason it was reluctant to enter until when its ships were attacked and soldiers killed by Germans. Another reason for supporting the US involvement in the war is that fighters of North Vietnam were not alone in the battle against the southern region. The Germans and the Japanese had allied with them. Moreover, these two countries made their advancements against the USA. The involvement in the war as per this case could be compared to self-defense, whereby one must take the position to defend himself in time of an attack
The war had already erupted and once in the battlefield, there was no way America could have stopped it or opted out of it. Withdrawing from the war would have only encouraged the enemies to attack the USA more, causing deaths of American. Such an attack would have left the citizen blaming America for not taking the responsibility for national security.
Although Smith and the majority of Americans think that the war was uncalled for, they fail to recognize many factors that had determined the government decision to pursue the war. Such factors include the need to prevent the spread of communism, which was a threat to America. There was also the need to secure the state of American economy by ensuring its source for natural resources such as tin and zinc metal. The commodities that were easily available and cheap in Vietnam were vital for the US industries. The war had other benefits for America. For example, there were new inventions in medical and military fields. Since the war, these inventions have contributed significantly to the American economy.
In another sense, if America had not participated in the war, the non-communist people in South Vietnam would have been prosecuted more. Since the northern attack on the southern region, many people had fled while others were tortured and killed. The inhuman treatment of would have continued until everyone was killed. The fate of the people who died in the suffering under communists indicates that it was right for the American government to wage the war against the communists.
The war in Vietnam has shaped up the histories of participants in various ways. We can say that the US involvement was inevitable, and those who are to blame are the starters, particularly the oppressive Vietnam government. The US government took the time to make the decision to enter the war, which meant it was the only remaining option. However, it is clear that the war did not facilitate the peace and understanding. It only resulted in great losses to both fighting groups. Many lives had perished, many properties were destroyed, and the whole country of Vietnam was torn apart.