Vietnam War Essay

The Vietnam War is one of the Cold Wars that occurred in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam between November 1955 and April1975. It occurred after First Indochina War between the government of South Vietnam backed up by the United States and other anti-communist nations, and the government of North Vietnam supported by communist allies. This paper describes the origins and the developments of the Vietnam Wars in relation to the Domino theory that was common during 1950s and 1980s. 

Domino Theory

This theory was developed after the Second World War, and it was commonly used by the successive United States government regimes during the Cold War era, to verify the need of American intervention in the several wars that were happening between different nations around the world. This theory hypothesized that, “if one state in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries will follow in a Domino effect”  (Lawrence, 2009). Domino theory is evident when it was used by the communist nations to conquer Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam countries in 1975, after the United States pulled out its troops from Southeast Asia following the end of the Vietnam wars. Moreover, it can further be explained that, the United States intervention into the Vietnam Wars revealed the earlier impacts of domino impact in Southeast Asia during and at the end of the wars. 

Domino theory application on the United States involvement in Vietnam wars

France began conquering and colonizing Indochina in the late 1850s. It fully colonized Vietnam by 1893 and through the 1884 Treaty of Hue, France declared to rule Vietnam for the next seven decades. Despite the strong military resistance especially by the Can Vuong by 1888, the Southeast Asia became the colony of France.  Several Vietnamese resistance movements were formed to oppose the France colonial rule, but none of them was as successful as the Viet Minh common front, managed by the Communist Party of Vietnam (Birkland, 2010). This party was founded by the Chinese Nationalist Party and the United States to oppose Japanese existence. Japanese collaborated with France after France invasion of French Indochina during the World War II. The French managed the affairs of the colony while power was in the hands of the Japanese colonial government. 

Vietnam Minh was founded on May 1941 to take power from France and also to evict the Japanese occupants. It received support from the Chinese national party and U. S to destabilize Japanese influence over Vietnam. Japan and France collaboration rule in Vietnam went on until the Germans were moved out of France and the French colonial government began holding secret talks with the Free French (Hall, 2007). On 9th March 1945, Japanese army decided to evict all the French from Vietnam after fearing they could no longer trust them.  They then took the full control of Vietnam under Bao Dai. 

Viet Minh fought against the Japanese and defeated them in August 1945. The Japanese surrendered unconditionally creating a power vacuum which gave the Viet Minh an opportunity to enter and grasp power in “August Revolution” (Burgan, 2006) . The Japanese colonial government supported Vietnam Minh to get rid of French by helping them to imprison all the French officials and surrendering all their weapons to them. Viet Minh leader, Ho Chi Minh, declared independence Democratic Republic of Vietnam before a crowd of people in Hanoi on 2nd September 1945. Major allied victors of World War II, however, declared that the Southeast Asia was still under French colonial government. France re-establishment in Vietnam was slow since they had no weapons, soldiers and ships to immediately overtake Vietnam. Super powers therefore, gave the British government to occupy the south. The British troops landed and began rearming French army and part of the remaining Japanese troops in order to support them in retaking southern Vietnam (Birkland, 2010). The British troops left Vietnam on 26th March 1946 and left the power in the hands of French troops. This led to the emergence of the First Indochina War, when the Viet Minh launched a guerrilla War against the French forces. This war spread to Cambodia and Laos in which the communists designed the Khmer Serei and Pathet Lao after the model of the Viet Minh. The Viet Minh war was unsuccessful due to the lack of weapons; however, it took a different direction when the Chinese Communists provided arms to them. 

Exit of the French, 1950-1954

In January 1950, communist and Non-communist nations recognized different governments in Vietnam. The non-communist nations recognized the French colonial government in Vietnam while the communist nations recognized the Viet Minh’s Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Birkland, 2010). The emergence of the Korean War in 1950 was an evident to the Washington peace veterans, that the war that was going on in Indochina was communist expansionism influenced by Kremlin. The United States launched the Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) to address the French request for advice on strategy, aid, and train Vietnamese army (Lawrence, 2009). Contrary to the U.S., the People’s Republic of China (PRC) military advisors started aiding the Viet Minh army in July 1950. They changed the Viet Minh army from a guerrilla to a modern army, by giving laborers, expertise and weapons. The French union of soldiers surrendered on May 1954 during the Battle of Dien Bien Phu after being defeated by Viet Minh under Vo Nguyen. The French and the Viet Minh agreed during Geneva Conference to end the war and independence was granted to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. 

John F. Kennedy’s Administration, 1961-1963

The domino theory applied to the Vietnam when the U.S. senator, John F. Kennedy, said to the American Friends of Vietnam during a speech that, “Burma, Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines and obviously Laos and Cambodia are among those whose security would be threatened if the red tide of Communism overflowed into Vietnam” (Birkland, 2010). 

The first issue John F. Kennedy addressed immediately after winning the presidential elections of 1960 was whether the Soviet Union missile and space had passed that of the United States. President Kennedy paid too much attention on Latin America and Europe more than Vietnam and Laos even after being warned by Eisenhower. On his inauguration ceremony he pledged that, “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, and oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty” (Levy, 2007). 

President Kennedy’s government remained focused on the Cold War Foreign policy inherited from former administrations. During that time, the U.S. failed to achieve its targets such as Berlin Wall construction, Bay of Pigs invasion, and resolving the problems between Pathet Lao and Laos, although it had over 50,000 soldiers based in Korea. Such failures made Kennedy realize that even the U.S. attempts to stop the spread of communalism will fail, and this may even damage the reputation of his administration. He was therefore determined to come up with permanent solutions to end communist victory in Vietnam when he said “Now we have a problem making our power credible and Vietnam looks like the place”  (Willoughby, 2007). Kennedy’s policy directed to the South Vietnam was based on the assumption that Diem and his army must win all the guerrilla wars on their own. He did not support further deployment of U.S troops into Vietnam. He believed this would create adverse politics and the result will be adverse military consequences.  The South Vietnamese army deteriorated significantly following corruptions, political promotions and bad leadership. 

Kennedy’s chief advisors suggested that, U.S. army should be sent to the South Vietnam as flood relief workers. Kennedy, however, turned down the idea and increased army assistance once again. John Kennedy’s advisor, John Kenneth Galbraith warned Kennedy that, “danger we shall replace the French as colonial force in the area and bleed as the French did” (Willoughby, 2007). Around 1963, there were approximately 16,000 American soldiers in South Vietnam. 

Strategic Hamlet Program was launched in 1961between U.S. and South Vietnamese government to resettle the internally displaced population into fortified camps. The motive of the program was to separate the population from the insurgents, provide health care and education, and help the government establish its roots in the country side. The guerillas quickly opposed the Strategic Hamlet Programs and the peasants in the countryside also rejected the programs having thought they were being evicted from their ancestral homes (Maurice Isserman, 2003). 

The government failed to implement land reforms subjecting farmers to high rents to selected landlords.  Corruption messed up the government and intensified the opposition. Fourteen nations in July 1962, including North Vietnam, United States, South Vietnam and China signed an agreement aimed at neutralizing Laos (Levy, 2007).  


In conclusion, the domino theory that suggested that if a communist country conquered a given country, then the neighboring countries would follow. It was initially proposed as a policy by the Eisenhower government.  This theory was and is still being suggested that it applied to Vietnam. In the United States, this theory was mainly used by President John F. Kennedy between 1961 and 1963 to implement the formulated policy towards Vietnamese military in order to end communalism in the Southeast Asia.  


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