Vietnam is a small country to the south of China (‘Vietnamese’ means “non-Chinese people of the south”). There were a lot of reasons for the US to enter into this war, of course all of them were considered ‘moral’ and ‘correct’. One long term reason was America’s fear of Communism. The USA is a primarily Christian population, they as well as people of some other religions felt that Communism was “godless” because they were atheists. America was also a democracy where everyone had the right to vote. Communists had a dictator, the Americans were opposed to it. A second reason was the cold war, the Soviets were taking many countries in Europe and South America and turning them into communist states or satellite nations. Despite having worked as allies in WW2 the US was opposed to this and started the cold war with Russia. Remember it was the French who first colonised Vietnam, Laos and Combodia in 1868. It was part of French empire, as it was the age of colonialism and British had India as part of their empire by that time (1857 – 1947). Economic reasons for invading and conquering the region were simple. Vietnam became profitable for the French. Vietnam had good supplies of coal, tin, zinc and rubber. Much of this was sent to France. Vietnam also provided a good market for French manufactured goods. In 1902 Ho Chi Minh was a student in the university built by the French and resented the foreign occupation of his land and their forced conversion to Catholic christianity. He was inspired by the Russian Revolution. And in 1924 he visited the Soviet Union. While in Moscow, Ho wrote to a friend that it was the duty of all communists to return to their own country to: “make contact with the masses to awaken, organise, unite and train them, and lead them to fight for freedom and independence.” In those days it was not in vogue to call the freedom fighters as terrorists otherwise Ho would have been easily been labeled as Ben Laden or member of Jihad.
After the world war II In September, 1945, Ho Chi Minh announced the formation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Unknown to the Vietminh Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin had already decided what would happen to post-war Vietnam at a summit-meeting at Potsdam. They had agreed that the country would be divided into two, the northern half under the control of the Chinese and the southern half under the British. After the WW II ended, and French were defeated in 1954, Vietnam was split in two – the north was Communist, led by Ho Chi Minh, and the south was Capitalist under Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem’s regime received billions of dollars from the US but remained deeply unpopular with most Vietnamese people.
By the late 1950’s the Americans developed the “Domino Theory” as a justification for the involvement. This theory stated, “If South Vietnam falls to the Communist, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, India and Pakistan would also fall like dominos. The Pacific Islands and even Australia could be at risk”. We must remember that basically the American involvement was to hold the line against the spread of world Communism. America paid for the war the French fought against Communist Vietnam as a part of the Truman Doctrine (1947) “to protect free peoples…” and then by the 1950’s became involved when the war flared up again. This hypothesis to police the world against ‘enemies’ of freedom was born and tax payers money and American lives were spent to prove the hypothesis. Although Americans preached democracy it is interesting to note that The US prevented the elections that were promised under the Geneva conference because it knew that the Communists would win. Vietnamese Buddhist monks protested against American involvement by self-immolation (It was the rarest example of self immolation be peaceful Buddhist monks but there was as yet no concept of ‘self bombers of jihad’ so they were fortunate that they were not labeled as Hamas or Palestenian or Iraqi jihadees. Then came the famous ruthless, brutal, cleansing of people who opposed USA through “Operation Phoenix” which was organised by the CIA. This led to the arrest and murder of thousands of Communists in the south. First the US sent in military advisers, then President Johnson sent in troops in huge numbers. Among the religious causes we must remember that The main religion in Vietnam was Buddhism. Surveys carried out in the 1960s suggest that around 70% of the population were followers of Buddha. The French, aware of the potential threat of Buddhism to their authority, passed laws to discourage its growth and these laws were later adopted by the Americans and their puppet regime in South Vietnam. With L. B. Johnson as the president, Three months after being elected president, he launched Operation Rolling Thunder. Unlike the single bombing raid in August 1964, this time the raids were to take place on a regular basis. The plan was to destroy the North Vietnam economy and to force her to stop helping the guerrilla fighters in the south. Bombing was also directed against territory controlled by the NLF in South Vietnam. The plan was for Operation Rolling Thunder to last for eight weeks but it lasted for the next three years killing innocent citizens in millions. In that time, the US dropped 1 million tons of bombs on Vietnam. Later, In 1965, General William Westmoreland developed the aggressive strategy of ‘search and destroy’. Innocent civilians were often killed by mistake. As one Marine officer admitted they “were usually counted as enemy dead, under the unwritten rule ‘If he’s dead and Vietnamese, he’s VC.” In economic terms, the bombing hurt the economy of the United States more than North Vietnam. By the beginning of 1968, it was estimated that $300 million of damage had been done to North Vietnam. However, in the process, 700 US aircraft, valued at $900 million had been shot down. When all factors were taken into consideration it was argued that it cost the United States “ten dollars for every dollar’s worth of damage inflicted.”
How it helped the united states – it didn’t help because Vietnam went on to win the war and Ho Chi Minh became its first president and North and South Vietnam were again a united country. Of course it helped the Vietnamese to honor their freedom.