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Vietnam War: Causes and Consequences

Introduction

The Vietnam War emerged in 1954 when the nationalist forces defeated their French colonial masters. The French were not happy with the loss since it could mean that they fully lost control and economic domination in the region. The Vietnamese nationalist advocated for communist rule which offered a major threat to the French capitalism rule. The war, therefore, transformed its face and became a war between communists and capitalists. This was one of the longest wars in world history as it stretched from 1954 to1975. According to the scholars, the war was not merely between France and Vietnam but was a war between the two power blocks (communists and democrat’s power blocks). This paper seeks to critically analyze the initial cause and consequences of the Vietnam War to international relations.

Overview

In summary, the paper looks at the main cause of the war and why the Western and the Eastern blocks participated in the war. The paper will also look at the major accords which were signed as a result of the war and provide a fair analysis of how the war became the central ground for the two major power blocks (cold war).

The main cause of the Vietnam War

The nationalist decided to overthrow the French rule due to the persistent harshness and cruelty in their leadership. The Vietnamese were not only economically threatened but were enslaved by the French colonial masters who forced them to work for long hours and less pay on their farms. It is also known that after the Second World War, the French and Japanese dominated the economic activities and political leadership in Vietnam. The Vietnamese standards of living were even worsened by the huge taxation which overburdened their financial capacity. Poverty was therefore on the verge of increasing when a troop was formulated to fight for the Vietnamese liberation (Moyar 5).

The war was fueled by the influence of Russia and China’s support on the Vietnamese nationalists. The two communist parties, therefore, enhanced the northern Vietnam military capacity which overpowered the French troops. The two nations also supplied the nationalist’s troops with all the relevant military equipment and materials such as warplanes, machine guns, tankers and food. The France government was therefore left without an alternative choice other than seeking military support from the West including the US. The major reason why the US troops were sent to the region was to rescue Southern Vietnam which was facing communist threats from the North. The Vietnam War therefore aimed at slowing and stopping the communist growth in the Indochinese nation.

The 1954 victory of the nationalist troops over the French troops divided the country into two the north under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh and the south under the leadership of Ngo Dinh Diem. Northern Vietnam advocated for communist rule and was more powerful than southern Vietnam which supported democratic rule (Lawrence 27). The southern side initiated the Viet Cong after they withdrew themselves from the 1956 planned elections. Since then the control war began between the north and the south where each side sort the overall domination of the country. The continued defeat and suppression of the southern by the northern troops led them to seek assistance from the US government (Schulzinger 68). The US, therefore, supported the south with monetary and military training as it was pledged by the SEATO treaty. The SEATO treaty allowed any formal or informal support which could assist in the suppression of the communist regimes in the Southeast Asian countries.

Cold war

This was an ideological dispute between the communist nations and the democratic nations. The war took many forms which included propaganda, economic war or even military clashes at some points. The eastern block was led by the Soviet Union while the western block was led by the United States. The war emerged in 1947 when the then US president Truman declared an anti-communist policy that aimed at suppressing communism domination (Westad 30). The war resulted as the two blocks sort their territorial domination in Europe. The west advocated for the democratic liberation of the affected nations in the middle of Europe while the east advocated for an iron curtain that aimed to separate the communist nations from the western control.

The war period was therefore characterized by increased competition, tension, conflict and hostile perception between the Eastern the Western blocks. The cold war was also caused by the heightened quest of the US and USSR to dominate and influence the third world through military and monetary supplies. Although the war lasted from 1955-1991, its increased impacts were exhibited in the 1960s and 1970s (Painter 31). This is when the two superpowers really extended their domination and support to the many warring and needy nations across the world. It is also important to understand that the many wars that emerged in between this period were fueled by the sour relationship between the two major superpowers.

The link between Vietnam War and Cold War

It is true that the eastern block supported the northern nationalist troops in Vietnam since they wanted to dominate and win control over the region. The main reason why they advocated for the communist regime was to suppress the democratic rule that was established by the French colonies in the region. The continued communist threat over the west was increased during the Cuban missile crisis which the Soviet Union was accused of launching. The US was therefore more determined to counter the growing communism in the world a move which could only be attained by assisting the anti-communist troops in the East Asian territories. The US government, therefore, opted to assist the southern Viet Cong with military equipment, food, financial backups and also by physically sending their troops in the region to combat the strong and militarized troops from the north (Hanhimäki & Westad 209). Each side, therefore, wanted to dominate the region since the victory was not only important for Vietnam as a country but meant a lot to the two superpowers.

The communist used Cambodia as their military base despite the declaration of neutrality in the nation. The main reason why the declaration was made was to avoid western victimization which could have worsened the economic and political activities in the region. The communist troops, therefore, used the base to attack the southern and the American troops until when the US chose to respond by invading Cambodia. The invasion nevertheless was criticized by the American citizens. They claimed that their government was losing focus and as a result punished and killed innocent citizens in the war. This among others was the major frustrations that the US government experienced during the Vietnam War.

The major effects of the Vietnam War

It is estimated that more than 5 million Vietnamese both military and civilians lost their lives during the 1954-1975 Vietnam War. The war bombing mostly led to the deaths of innocent women and children in the region. It is also estimated that more than 200,000 US soldiers also perished in the same war. A considerable number of other troops like the Cambodian troops died during the war as they assisted the nationalist troops from northern Vietnam. The French, Britain and Australian troops also perished as they assisted their western counterparts. Although the two superpowers were fighting for supremacy and domination in the region there was a lot of mass killings that went against human rights (Harvard para.7).

There was an immense economic loss on the American side due to their consistent and generous financial and military support to the southern Vietnamese. It is because of this reason that the Vietnamese war is referred to as the most disastrous war in American history. It is estimated that the country spent more than $160 billion on the war. The exaggerated expenditure led the US to major inflation and federal debt crisis from the late 1960s all through to the 1990s. For the Vietnamese community, great natural and economic resources were damaged in the course of the war. A major restructuring of the overall economy was thus vital for the growth and development of the country. External forces especially from the communist block therefore aided the whole restructuring process.

The United State also endured high political costs due to the quick and firm decisions, which the political leaders had to make without prior negotiation with the senate and other political leaders. As a result of this war majority of the American people lost faith and trust in their political leaders. To them, the leaders paid more attention to the international war which would enhance the national pride instead of concentrating much on domestic growth and development. The communist regime on the other side received much welcome from the Vietnam nationals since the rule advocated for equal wealth accumulation in the country.

The war divided the political support in the American federal government. The democrats questioned the resolutions of the SEATO treaty which allowed the Americans to combat the growth and influence of the communist regime. The severity of division was seen when the democratic majority in the US congress, jointly passed a motion forbidding the president from sending US military troops without its consent. The continued public and political divisions in the war caused a mixed reaction to the US troops in Vietnam. To some point, the soldiers could clearly see the negative side of their country’s engagement in the Vietnam War. But on the other side, they could not just sit back and watch their colleague being killed every day. So the troops were left without any alternative but to fight not for their country but for their safety and lives.

The war-separated the Vietnamese veterans from their family members and therefore its end gave them a chance to reunite with them. The increased fear that the soldiers with further take over much power as they would be regarded as heroes led the government to discriminate against the ex-soldiers. The government also fully ignored the suffering and humiliations which the women underwent during the war and also in the post-war period. It is estimated that 5 million Vietnam veterans suffered differently due to the 1954-1975 Vietnam War. The northern communist win greatly influenced the southern veterans who increasingly sort refuge in the United States. Quite a huge number of them perished in the sea as they sort to flee for their safety. There was an increased enmity between the northern and the southern community something which considerably made the southern counterparts suffer much after the war ended. Most of those people who actively participated in the war were imprisoned while others were being sent to camps. Although the move was aimed at rehabilitating them and also installing communist agenda in their lives, it was not perfect for national healing. It was not until the early 1990s that the American and Vietnamese efforts to pressure the government to release over 6,000 veterans yielded fruits. This move, therefore, coincided with the end of the cold war later in 1991.

The communist victory

Although the United State and its allies fought hard to control and dominate Vietnam, the communist block led by the Soviet Union and China won the battle. Finally, the eastern block gained popularity and strength in the East Asian territories (Werner & Huynh p.116). The party was responsible for undertaking the economic, social and political reconstruction in the war-torn nation. Much more was even expected since national healing was vital for the country’s development. It is because of this reason that the communist status of Vietnam has continuously evolved to accommodate the democratic form of government in its operations. Although the party still dominates the current Vietnamese government structure, more reforms have been done to allow a capitalist economy in their market. There is therefore very close similarity between the Chinese and Vietnamese economies. It is also important to note that the two are currently the fastest growing economies in the world. The reforms came after 1986, but before then both the government and the economy were centrally controlled as the state had adopted the Soviet communism style. The weakening and disintegration of the Soviet Union led to the Vietnam adoption of Chinese communism. Until now only Cuba and North Korea still uphold soviet communism and both are among the poorest nations in the world. The trend, therefore, shows that there were a lot of inefficiencies in soviet communism which led to the loss of communist popularity in the world. The only reason why the Chinese and the Vietnamese communism have exhibited excellent performances in their economies is that they have positively reformed their style (Lawrence p.38).

The effects of the cold war on the Vietnam War

Both the United States and the Soviet Union managed to build and develop huge arsenals of ammunitions and missile bombs which were experimented on the battlefield. The two countries also heavily supplied their allies with ammunition, thus fueling the Vietnam War. The US used its military troops to support and offer training to the southern Vietnamese. As a result, the two blocs heightened destructions due to their high-tech military equipment. The disintegration of the Soviet Union also led to a major collapse of communism worldwide. The system was accused of having high economic inefficiencies, which led to economic constraints in the many communist nations. Although Vietnam and China have excellently utilized the system to their benefit, much more has been amended in order to incorporate efficiency and effectiveness in production.

How the Vietnam War led to great power rivalry in international relations

Despite the fact that Vietnam is a nation located in the East Asian region, the two competing world superpowers sort their domination in order to prove their supremacy. The reason why the war attracted international attention was that the two forces wanted to prove their dominance in world politics and more so in east and central Europe. The war was therefore transformed to take the democratic vs. communist war. Every power bloc supported its troops accordingly; the eastern bloc supported northern Vietnam while the western bloc supported southern Vietnam. The victory of the northern Vietnamese was assumed to be a communist victory since the rule was to be advanced to the rest of the region including southern democratic Vietnam.

Despite the fact that the neighboring countries knew what was going on in Vietnam, they feared to intervene since this could have amounted to support of the East-West rule. For instance, Cambodia declared itself neutral despite the fact that it wanted to fully support the northern communist regime. The nation feared the western attack due to its support of the east, but it never hid the situation for long. When the western realized that it was supporting the eastern bloc the US invaded it for allowing the eastern communist to establish a military base in their territory. According to the eastern bloc, they feared US domination in Eastern Europe since it could act as a base to attack them. Conversely, the western bloc led by the Americans feared the domination of Eastern Europe, since this could have led to significant economic growth for the eastern bloc. The bond of contention in the Vietnam War was not to reinstate the French colonial rule in the region but the rivalry between the two great powers.

Conclusion

The Vietnam War requires a more open perception in order to understand what the main cause of the conflict was. Since the war lasted for a long period of time, much more emphasis should be given in order to determine the major financiers of the war. Since the cold war took many forms which included propaganda, economic war or even military clashes at some points. The eastern block led by the Soviet Union supported northern Vietnam while the western block led by the United States supported southern Vietnam. The main reason why they advocated for the communist regime was to suppress the democratic rule that was established by the French colonies in the region.

The continued communist threat over the west was increased during the Cuban missile crisis which the Soviet Union was accused of launching. The US was therefore more determined to counter the growing communism in the world a move which could only be attained by assisting the anti-communist troops in the East Asian territories. The US, therefore, adhered to the SEATO treaty which allowed any formal or informal support which could assist in the suppression of the communist regime in the Southeast Asian countries. The US government, therefore, opted to assist the southern Viet Cong with military equipment, food, financial backups and also by physically sending their troops in the region to combat the strong and militarized troops from the north.

Works cited

Hanhimäki, Jussi & Westad, Odd Arne. The Cold War: a history in documents and eyewitness accounts. New York, Oxford University Press. 2004. Web.

Harvard, Sitikoff. “The Postwar Impact of Vietnam.” english.illinois.edu. N.d. 2010. Web.

Lawrence, Mark Atwood. The Vietnam War: a concise international history. New York, Oxford University Press US. 2008. Web.

Lawrence, Mark. Atwood. Vietnam War: a concise international history. New York, Oxford University Press US. 2008. Web.

Moyar, Mark. Triumph has forsaken: the Vietnam war 1954-1965. London, Cambridge University Press. 2006. Web.

Painter, David. The Cold War: an international history. London, Routledge. 1999. Web.

Schulzinger, Robert. A time for war: the United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975. New York, Oxford University Press US. 1998. Web.

Werner, Jayne & Huynh, Luu.Doan. The Vietnam War: Vietnamese and American Perspectives. New York, M.E. Sharpe. 1993. Web.

Westad, Odd. Arne. The global Cold War: third world interventions and the making of our times. London, Cambridge University Press. 2005. Web.

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