- Politics and Social Issues
Did the United States Really Lose the Vietnam War?
Pursuant to post World War II Containment, the origins of which perhaps were best expressed in the 1947 Truman Doctrine, and the resulting Cold War that followed, the United States became involved in Vietnam during the mid 1950s in effort to prevent the spread of communism, and Soviet influence. There's no question after North Vietnam was declared an independent communist nation following World War II, North Vietnamese Prime Minister, Ho Chi Minh lead the North Vietnam Army and the Viet Cong with every intention of overrunning, and spreading communism into South Vietnam, which had been partitioned by the 1954 Geneva Conference, with support from South Vietnamese politicians, as a non-communist nation. Up until 1965 the United States' involvement in Vietnam had consisted primarily of the deployment of military advisers assigned there to aid South Vietnam soldiers in defending their grounds against communist uprisings. After a United States Defense Secretary Report on October 2, 1963 indicating that the United States task in Vietnam could be completed by the end of 1965, United States President, John F. Kennedy, signed NSAM 263 on October 11, 1963, warranting a gradual withdrawal of United States military advisers there. However, a communist coup in South Vietnam on November 1, 1963, which resulted in the assassination of anti-communist South Vietnamese President, Ngo Dinh Dien, shadowed some of the American optimism for an imminent victory there, and prompted United States President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign NSAM 273 on November 26, 1963, which allowed for President Kennedy's intended withdrawal, but also provided assurances to the Vietnamese that the United States still had every intention of supporting the South Vietnamese government, as well as their people, in their quest to defend their state against communist invaders.
After a congressional resolution in 1964 allowing the United States Commander and Chief to deploy military personnel in foreign nations without declaring war, in response to reported attacks by North Vietnamese torpedo boats upon a United States destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin, The first United States combat troops were deployed in Vietnam in 1965, to provide protection for United States' airbase in Da Nang. With the North Vietnam Army and the Viet Cong fighting fiercely, and reluctant to surrender, additional United States combat troops were deployed there consistently throughout the months that followed, with ground troop numbers reaching their peak by 1968. With American public support for the war declining in 1968, following a series of surprise and brutal attacks by communist forces on United States and South Vietnam soldiers early that year called the Tet Offensive, the United States began to gradually withdraw its troops from Vietnam. In 1975, with very few United States troops remaining there, the North Vietnamese Army invaded the South Vietnamese capitol of Saigon, drove out remaining United States troops, and reunited South Vietnam with North Vietnam as a communist nation. Well over a million Vietnamese soldiers, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians, and over 58,000 United States military personnel lost their lives there between the late 1950s and the end of the United States' involvement there in 1975. If measured in today's economy, the United States also spent close to 700 billion dollars on defending South Vietnam from communism during this time-frame.
A lot of Americans believe it was a mistake for us to have ever gotten involved in Vietnam. Massive opposition to this military action, however, didn't begin until after our situation there began to appear far more difficult than originally expected. The truth is, we didn't really know what we were getting ourselves into in Vietnam. We had just come out of a war in Korea, also involving containment of communism, victoriously, and we didn't expect Vietnam to be a whole lot different. As it turned out, the North Vietnam Army and the Viet Cong were prepared to stand up against any invasion in pursuit of their cause. They knew they'd suffer far more casualties than us, but much like the United States against Great Britain in the eighteenth century American Revolution, they were fighting for a cause they believed in very strongly, and many of them were prepared to die for their country to prove it. They also had numerous years of experience fighting for this cause prior to our involvement there, (particularly against the French, who had occupied their nation under colonial rule from 1885 until World War II, and again after World War II, from 1945 until 1954 when, after eight years of battle against the North Vietnamese, they were forced to surrender and end their colonial regime there), they had jungles and bunkers, (already dug by the time we first arrived), to hide in and to exploit for guerrilla warfare, and they had plenty of support from their communist allies, including the Soviet Union, (much of which the United States wasn't even aware of until after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989).
That being said, to have not gotten involved in Vietnam to at least put forth our best efforts within reason would've been the equivalent of betraying our commitment to fight the spread of communism. With the exception of South Vietnam, and the bordering small nations of Cambodia and Laos, all of which had expectantly converted to communism by 1978, communism didn't spread following our withdrawal from Vietnam, which most likely can be highly attributable to the efforts we did put forth there. What nation would possibly want to risk suffering from as many casualties as Vietnam did as a result of the United States' involvement there? Despite the fall of Saigon, we made an impression there regarding our devotion to prevent communism that stood for future decades, and could very easily be the reason peace and democracy remain dominant worldwide ideologies to this day.