In 1965, Johnson would end up sending over 50,000 U. S. Troops to Vietnam. This massive escalation of the war effort would later prove futile as the war progressed and eventually ended with American failure. In reality, this escalation could have been avoided. Despite being faced with opportunities for a negotiated settlement with Hanoi and the lack of support from international allies, Johnson and his administration favored intensified military involvement.
The reasons they chose the path to a massive war were that there was a great desire to stop the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia and the fruition of the Domino Theory, the overspent and army in Saigon were not strong enough on their own to withstand the Communist threat, the idea that all Communists wanted to revolutionize the world, the belief that the United States could not lose the War due to its military superiority coinciding with the belief that the United States held a mandate to be the defender of the free world, and the desire of Johnson and his officials to not seem weak or become failures if the U.
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S. Withdrew. 1 President Johnson was unfortunate to inherit the increasingly difficult dilemma evolving in Vietnam. He could not predict that the troubles for him ND his administration would only get worse. Eventually the situation would involve, “a frequently enunciated American commitment to save South Vietnam, an American public poorly informed by their political leaders as to what that commitment might require, and a situation on the ground in South Vietnam which exposed thousands of American soldiers and civilians to injury, captivity, and death. 2 unfortunately for Johnson, burden and pressure of the struggle throughout Vietnam would only get more and more complicated. The threat of Communism was deemed too legitimate to walk way from and the United States had sworn to protect South Vietnam from falling and becoming the first ‘domino’ in Southeast Asia. Johnson reiterated the policy towards Vietnam in a speech he gave to Congress in August 1 964: Our policy in Southeast Asia has been consistent and unchanged since 1954. I summarized it on June 2 in four simple propositions: 1 . America keeps her word.
Here as elsewhere, we must and shall honor our commitments. 2. The issue is the future southeast Asia as a whole. A threat to any nation in that region is a threat to all and threat to us. 3. Our purpose is peace. We have no litany, political, or territorial ambitions in the area. 4. This is not just a jungle war, but a struggle for freedom on every front of human activity. Our military and economic assistance to South Vietnam and Laos in particular has the purpose of helping these countries to repel aggression and strengthen their independence. The goals of intervention were liberation and protection of the countries in Southeast Asia. Johnson claimed military ambitions were nonexistent, yet soon enough he would dramatically increase the level of military involvement in Vietnam. He later went on to state the United States intended no wider war, yet around that same time he was calling for the Gulf of Tontine Resolution that would enable him to increase the scale of military intervention in Vietnam in whichever way he chose.
He called for the “full and effective restoration of the international agreements signed in Geneva in 1 954” to reassure the American people that he had no intention of pursuing illegal activity in Indochina, although illegal activity had already begun. 4 In 1964, some hope still remained that the government in Saigon and the RAVE could sufficiently challenge their enemy to the North. In an article from the New York Times, Secretary of State Dean Rusk was quoted speaking favorably about the United States’ South Vietnam partners: Mew do know that the leadership is determined to prosecute this war with full vigor.
We see no significant relaxation of the desire of the Vietnamese themselves to free themselves from these penetrations from outside and the disorder and the insecurity existing within the country. ‘”5 Rusk trusted that Saigon and its supporters could stand up to their so-called oppressive neighbor to the North. However, his statement could easily have been describing what many Vietnamese people, especially those in the North, thought of the United States. The goal for the NC and the NAVA was to rid their country from the foreign invasion of the U. S.
Many officials would soon realize that it was the Northern forces and the Viet Congo who were resilient and determined, rather than the RAVE. Even with all the aid and military advisers, the Saigon government and its military remained very weak, adding to the struggles of Johnson and his administration. Rusk’s own view changed, as seen in a session with the Foreign Relations Committee in 1 965: Secretary RUSK. Think, IR, that the consequences of a collapse in South Vietnam or our withdrawal from South Vietnam would be very serious. The CHAIRMAN. What would they be? Secretary RUSK.
Well, we saw what they were when Vietnam was divided, and North Vietnam was organized as a Communist country. Laos immediately came under pressure, and an attempt was made to grab Laos. South Vietnam immediately came under pressure, and would suppose that it is all laid out there in what Peeping has said publicly about the nature of their world revolution, the necessity for militancy. It is all there. 6 The resounding notion hat if the United States were to withdraw, the Saigon government would fail to stand on its own against the more powerful and organized North was perhaps one of the top reasons that Johnson escalated the war effort.
A New York Times article in 1 964 stated, “Withdrawal of US personnel and aid from South Vietnam would almost surely mean handing the country over to the Communists. ” 7 Withdrawal meant the Communists would soon takeover the entire country, which was completely unacceptable to Johnson and his advisors. Not only were Secretary Rusk and President Johnson worried about South Vietnam falling if they were to withdraw, but also that Communist China would then take the initiative to spread Communism further in Southeast Asia.
Therefore, the United States decided to escalate the war in Vietnam in order to prevent the Chinese goal of liberating other nations in the region through Communism. However, the administration failed to recognize that Hanoi was not fighting due to Chinese pressure but from its own nationalistic goals of a liberated nation. There were some like Senator Fulbright who thought that Communism might not be the same across the entire Communist bloc.
In 1964, one important concept that e brought forth was the idea that Communism was not monolithic, or uniform, “the myth is that every Communist state is an unmitigated evil and a relentless enemy of the free world; the reality is that some Communist regimes pose a threat to the free world while other pose little or none. “8 Of the Communists regimes in the world, not all must be regarded as some great threat to the ‘free world. ‘ North Vietnamese Communism was not the kind that sought to take over the world but a nationalist sentiment striving to reunite its own country.
Johnson and his administration failed to recognize he difference and believed that Communism was not to be tolerated in any shape or form. As stated in a New York Times article in 1962, “It is an oversimplification to say, as American politicians and officials often do, that the former French empire in Indochina is a theatre of the struggle between ‘communism’ and ‘the free world. ‘”9 Ho Chi Mini and the Viet Congo had their own ambitions of nationalism and expansionism in Vietnam rather than simply being the outlet for the greater Communist powers of China and the Soviet Union.
While others successfully discerned that Hanoi did not want to end to China’s will, Secretary Rusk and many other officials could not distinguish the difference between the Communism of China and the nationalist communism of North Vietnam. 10 Johnson soon discovered that he would need to step up the military involvement. Previous tactics pursued in Vietnam were not working as well as desired and there were some misgivings that led to the decision to escalate: The decision was made swiftly and in an atmosphere of crisis.
After almost three months of euphoria (RAFF was holding together and the Saigon government was stable), four factors converged in late May and early June to et the decision full speed in motion: (1 ) Rolling Thunder was recognized in itself as insufficient to convince Hanoi to negotiate; (2) on 12 June, the Quad government fell, and all the nightmares about no Saigon political authority reappeared; (3) the Viet Congo, it was supposed, was about to launch an all-out offensive, cut the country in two, and establish an alternate government-in- country; and (4) RAFF, faced with an unfavorable force ratio, quickly demonstrated that it could not cope. 11 The bombing of the North had failed to yield any significant gains for the U. S. Military position.