The Vietnam War
America’s Asian Enemies
There are three wars where America tried to colonize East Asia: The Philippine War, The Korean War and the Vietnam War. Often, it ran under the banner of freedom and liberation - in the VN war, it was sold to the public to stop the spread of communism.
By sending our young men and women to a distant country, we stopped the ‘domino effect’ of communism spilling into surrounding other countries.
The lack of communism spreading throughout Asia hints that it was dubious assertion — and this essay will explore the sources of this dubious assertion, the major anti-war movements of the time that stopped the war, the racists and imperialist undertones of the war, and what lessons we can glean from it today.
I will discuss the Vietnam war because it is far enough in American history to look at objectively (the youngest VN vet is 52 at this writing; most are in their 60s), while close enough that first-hand accounts are still available. Not only that, it’s close enough that the wounds are still being licked.
How America Got Involved
At the turn of the 20th century, former colonial countries the world over began to fight for independence. This included Vietnam who had been under the rule of the French since the late 1800s. Rule under the French was brutal for the Vietnamese because like their British and Spanish counterparts, Vietnam was a cash cow: The huge reserves of cheap labor, natural resources and access to ports gave Paris a lot of money.
Around the time of WWI, Ho Chi Minh went to study at KUTV in the Soviet Union. KUTV, also known as the University of the Toilers of the East, was a center of radicalization to help potential leaders begin a communist/nationalist revolution at home. A few notable people went to this school: Mao, Deng Xiaoping and black radical feminists.
There, HCM created the connections and the intellect to liberate his country from the French. First and foremost, HCM was a nationalist, and he used the Communist ideology to move himself forward. Nonetheless, because he was a nationalist first, he made some very, very pragmatic decisions: He allowed the capitalist, conservative classes of the Vietnamese join his ranks to fight the French; wrote numerous letters to Americans appealing for help to become a liberated country; wrote openly about the beauty and symbology of the American declaration of independence; even offered military navy bases to America to help kick the French out.
Despite all his imploring, America did not pay attention to HCM. France was/is America’s BFF.
At the battle of Dien Bien Phu in the 40s, the French government decisively lost to HCM’s nationalist forces. HCM and the French government made a peace treaty that would unite the country. America said okay and allowed this to happen, as according to the Paris Peace Treaty. Secretly though, America had no intentions to allow nationalist forces kick its ally and BFF out of the country.
When it came to unite the country between the French and the indigenous peoples, America didn’t allow it to happen. Where there were once French troops lined to protect their assets, Americans started showing up — this was under the Kennedy administration.
I personally don’t think Kennedy would’ve allowed America to get so deeply involved in this country. But his assassination pretty much allowed the mess to spiral out of control.
Part of the problem with beginning a war in Vietnam was that it was difficult to sell to the American people. At first, and according to Colin Powell’s memoirs, troops were initially sent as trainers and advisors to the American/French-friendly troops. It wasn’t a big deal. 10,000 troops stopping by in Da Nang were to advise, not wage war.
But as HCM’s fight began to intensify, so did America’s justifications for remaining in it — and all the original reasons went out the window.
More about that in the next entry!