Sunday, May 9, 2010

Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was one of the most debated wars in history. It started out just as the Korean War had, in an effort to contain communism. The war continued to go downhill though, as the Vietnamese used Guerilla warfare and underground tunnels to escape the U.S. troops. The war quickly lost the support of the American people and ended in the first loss America had ever experienced.

Decades ago, the French colonized Vietnam. After World War II, Ho Chi Min and his band of communist soldiers fought a guerilla war against the French throughout the country. The conflict elevated in 1954 when the Vietnamese communists defeated the French in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and thereby occupied Hanoi, the capitol of Vietnam. Due to this, the French left Vietnam. Then, the United Nations split Vietnam into the North and the South. This was a compromise between communist powers and the western democracies. The North became communist and the South became a democracy. I think that the United States should have left Vietnam alone. During this time period, the people of the United States were happy and going to war with a country that they didn’t even understand was not something they supported. Without the support of the American people the war was even harder to fight and continue.

After North Vietnamese patrol boats allegedly attacked U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, President Johnson convinced the U.S. Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This was an unprecedented act by a U.S. president which allowed him to conduct a war without congressional approval. From 1959 to 1964 there were only a few thousand U.S. soldiers in Vietnam and they usually were not involved in combat. After the Gulf of Tokin Resolution was passed, it increased the number of troops from thousands to close to a half a million. Even though I don’t think we should have ever got involved in the Vietnam War, I think the president made the right decision by passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This allowed him to make quick decisions and not always have to rely on congress to approve them.

In 1966, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops launched a massive attack to surprise the U.S. troops. Before this attack, the U.S. public generally agreed that the U.S. was winning the war; this was the way the U.S. media portrayed it. The attack, which became known at the Tet Offensive, was a turning point in the war because it caused many Americans to no longer support the war. Even though the United States won the battle, the fact that the Viet Cong had the capability to stage such a major attack surprised Americans. I think allowing the media to share this information to the public was a mistake because without the support of the Americans at home, the war was guaranteed not to last long. This gave rise to many protests and movements against the war.

Due to the overwhelming superiority of American firepower and military strength, the Viet Cong had to resort to unconventional guerilla warfare against the United States. One of these tactics was the use of tunnels under South Vietnam. They used these tunnels to carry equipment, hide, and care for the sick and wounded. I was amazed to find out about these tunnels and I couldn’t believe that they had actually created entire cities and hospitals underground. I think that without these tunnels they would not have stood a chance against the American troops.

As the Vietnam War continued, more and more people began to openly protest the war. In 1967, a huge protest occurred at the Lincoln Memorial. Up to 50,000 people protested, including Mohammad Ali, who refused to be drafted into the war. It reached its peak in 1970 when 4 students attending Kansas State University were shot by the National Guard during a campus protest. I believe that these protests led to the U.S. government to end the war. The government realized how unpopular the war was and with the very little support of the American people, I think they knew they had to end the war as quickly as possible.

While I don’t believe that the United States should have gotten involved in the Vietnam War to begin with, I believe that once we did get involved, it was our responsibility to finish it. I think leaving Vietnam defeated only lowered the morale of the soldiers and the general American opinion of the war. Once we entered Vietnam, we should have done whatever it took to complete the mission, which was to ensure democracy to South Vietnam and even North Vietnam.

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