The War in Vietnam, 1963’“1968
Vietnam War: Causes and Consequences during Johnson’s Administration (1963-1968)
Vietnam War is one of the greatest armed conflicts in the United States history. Not only because its political; social, and economic consequences. Vietnam War is important because it became the one of the most bloody and costly armed conflicts in the history. Besides, it meant a closer and conflictive approach to communism. In a strict sense, we can say that the war was the last armed, full-blown conflict of the War against Communism and an important episode of the Cold War Theater of Operations. The conflict has deep roots, as it began with the American involvement with France in the First Indochina War, where France tried to regain control over its Indochina colonial domains. The fall of the colonial empires after World War II gave Vietnam the possibility of fighting for its independence, and they succeeded, ending the French dominion over the country (Herring, 1991:106). After Vietnam’s independence, a communist regime was set up in the northern part of the country, with help from China, and Russia. That way, the United States saw Vietnam as a small part of its broader involvement in the Cold War. In the same way, the country’s willing to aid the southern part of Vietnam, that had a democratic government, was also an important cause of the first American involvement in the country.
When President Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the presidency, he was still an active advocate of the substantial participation in the war. Nevertheless, the consequences of the war were eroding the people’s confidence in this lengthy, and costly conflict. In the same way, a presidential period that had started well found a myriad of problems and conflicts that hindered the president’s capacity of taking affirmative action to fix all the subjects needed. In this essay, we shall explore the causes of the pre-Johnson involvement in Vietnam War, and offer our insight on the consequences that led to Johnson’s office and his involvement with the war.
Pre Johnson Vietnam War
In 1961, President Kennedy had expanded America’s involvement in Vietnam. Kennedy was an advocate of containing the menace Vietnam had posed, before it was too late. He increased the supplies and expanded the participation of American advisers and armed personnel in the country (Westheider, 2012:10). Kennedy’s administration reequipped the South Vietnam forces and trained them to make them better fighters while authorizing counterinsurgency and covert operations in North Vietnam. By 1963, there were approximately 3,200 American effectives in South Vietnam, and given the circumstances, South Vietnamese government needed direct troop support from the American Army. This direct involvement translated in bringing more troops and advisors to the country, to help training Vietnamese troops in modern fighting, as a way to repel the Viet Minh’s menace. In 1963, President Diem launched a series of reforms as a way to help alleviate the peasants and improve well-being in the country. Nevertheless, President Diem was highly despised by its people, which lead to his overthrown and execution by his brother in the same year. Before Diem’s assassination, President Kennedy had been thinking about taking a direct role in the conflict, and send troops to Vietnam to fight the insurgents. However, he, like Diem, was assassinated in 1963 (Westheider, 2007:12).
President Johnson and Vietnam War
We shall address the political; economic, and social difficulties that President Johnson had to deal with, while in his office, as a way to show the state of the country during the war.
Politic Situation during the Conflict: When Vice President Johnson assumed the office, after Kennedy’s death, he inherited the duty of involving in Vietnam War. He steadily increased the number of American forces in the country, hoping that it would ensure a swift victory over the North, after being compelled to withdraw army effectives. In the same way, there was the issue of the country’s Manifest Destiny, and since no President had ever lost a war, he did not want to be the first. In the same way, there was the issue of the Cold War. If Johnson did not involve directly in the conflict, he would give the impression that the U.S. was just a “paper tiger” as Chinese said (Cuddy, n.d.:361). That way, involving in the war was necessary to prevent the communist takeover of South East Asia
Economic Situation during the Conflict: In terms of expenses, Vietnam War was less expensive than World War II, and Korean War. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, Vietnam War cost around 9.5% of the country’s GDP at its peak in 1968 (IEP 2011:12). Nevertheless, the official start date for the conflict in Vietnam was 1 November 1965, which means that all the previous action during Kennedy administration, and covert actions before him, is not counted. This leads to the conclusion that the War hidden costs during those years of indirect involvement could have been greater. What it is true is that the spike during the country’s participation in the war was during Johnson’s administration. Johnson was a man who was already tired of a war that was not giving the results he had expected when he assumed the office in 1963. It is also important to note that those increases in the government expenditure did not come from the country’s revenues. Instead, they came from special war taxes imposed on the Americans. During Vietnam War the country did not grow, nor suffered a recession, it remained in a stable position that would continue until the end of the war in 1975.
Social Situation during the Conflict: Johnson administration saw the beginning of the Antiwar Protests, a series of protests that occurred during 1968 to 1975. These protests advocated the end of the American involvement in Vietnam and called for the return of the U.S. troops and advisors to the country. By the middle of 1966, 55 percent of the Americans considered that war, along with the social, and racial issues roaring in the country were the most pressing problems in America (McAdam & Su, 2002:698). In the same way, 35 percent of the public regarded war as a “mistake”. One of the most significant protests during Johnson’s administration was the march of October 1967 on the Pentagon. The rally featured 20,000 participants (McAdam & Su, 2002:698) and the ensuing clashes with the police required a series of arrests. Nevertheless, that issue spiked police brutality in the following anti-war protests of the country, as some of the protesters wanted more radical actions.
What it is true is that Vietnam War became the catalyzer of many feelings in the American public and proved that the country was not willing to stand a long war that gave no results. To President Johnson, it meant the end of the office, before 1968, he did not seek reelection, and Nixon won the presidency. This also shows how taxing can conflicts be for the chiefs of a state. We only named three points of the Vietnam War, but there are many more, and to deal with them must be a titanic work. Another thing that becomes clear is that countries need wars as a way to assert their power in the world. In the 1960s it was the Cold War, now is the War on Terror. History tends to repeat itself, and most of the times is through wars.
Cuddy, E. “Vietnam: Mr. Johnson’s War -Or Mr. Eisenhower’s?” North Carolina Central University. Web. 4 July 2015. from http://www3.nccu.edu.tw/~lorenzo/Cuddy Vietnam.pdf.
“Economic Consequences of War on the U.S. Economy.” Institute for Economic and Peace (IEP), 2011. Web. 4 July 2015. from http://www.thereformedbroker.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Economic-Consequences-of-War.pdf.
Herring, G. “America and Vietnam: The Unending War.” Foreign Affairs 70.5 (1991): 104. JSTOR. Web. 4 July 2015. from https://web.viu.ca/davies/H323Vietnam/Herring.AmericaVietnam.pdf.
Mcadam, D., and Y. Su. “The War at Home: Antiwar Protests and Congressional Voting, 1965 to 1973.” American Sociological Review 67.5 (2002): 696. JSTOR. Web. 4 July 2015. From http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/teaching/articles/McAdam_Su_ASR_2002.pdf
Westheider, J. The Vietnam War. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2007. Print.