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Vietnam was an undeniable failure for the United States government. Despite expending more than $141 billion, and 56,000 American lives, the world’s largest military superpower was unable to achieve its sole strategic objective: to prevent Vietnam from falling under communist control. Historians are deeply divided over the reasons that led to US defeat. Most attribute the loss to several factors that each played a role. This topic offers an overview of those factors, with careful consideration of the evidence that both supports and refutes each claim as a viable reason for defeat.

Positions

Arguments supporting this position

Details

Context

After President Ngo Dinh Diem, Nguyen Van Thieu took over the South Vietnamese leadership. He also proved unpopular and an ineffective leader.

The Argument

The American government propped up a series of authoritarian, tyrannical dictators. The men were not popular among their compatriots. Diem employed oppressive policies against the local Buddhist population, so much so that many local Buddhist monks burnt themselves alive in public in protest of his oppression. General Thieu was not much better. He jailed journalists and closed down the free press. His administration was accused of rampant corruption and inefficiency. His Presidency was racked by regular protests calling on him to resign.[1]

Counter arguments

The Vietnamese had little control over their own government. If the Vietnamese government was ineffective, it was because the US government had chosen poorly. CIA agent, Colonel Edward Lansdale, helped orchestrate Diem’s election victory. The election ballots appealed to the Vietnamese sense of good luck, placing Diem’s name in red on the ballot, a colour which signifies good fortune in Vietnam. His opponent’s name, Bao Dai, was printed in green, a colour of misfortune.[2] Eisenhower would later admit that had the elections been free and fair in 1956, Diem would never have won. In the case of Thieu, Washington wanted a strongman to preserve order, not a charismatic leader who would charm the Vietnamese population. That was what they got. An autocrat who alienated his own population. Nixon provided Thieu with significant financial and political aid to ensure he won reelection in 1971. Nixon even delayed American troop withdrawals so that Thieu could show the Vietnamese population they were safe on election day.[3] Nixon had the opportunity to replace Thieu in 1971 and put somebody in charge more in-line with Vietnamese thinking. But he didn’t. Blame for the failings of the South Vietnamese leadership falls squarely on American shoulders. There is also considerable debate surrounding the efficiency of Thieu as a war-leader. TUnder Thieu, the South Vietnamese government, with the help of US troops, had wiped out the Vietcong insurgency by 1971.[4]

Premises

The South Vietnamese government were the link between the US and the Vietnamese population. It was up to them to mobilise the people to rally against communism. They didn't. Leading to the loss of the Vietnamese public support, and eventual loss of the Vietnam War.

Rejecting the premises

Enter the technical rejections of the premises here ...

References

  1. https://journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/federal-politics/looking-back-at-vietnam-war-the-fall-of-saigon/collection_e2f66b0b-663d-53e2-8e0a-dbbcfa9af529.html#11
  2. https://www.amazon.com/Vietnam-History-Stanley-Karnow/dp/0140265473
  3. https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/bitstream/11375/13092/1/fulltext.pdf
  4. https://www.nas.org/articles/Vietnam_Historians_at_War

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This page was last edited on Monday, 17 Sep 2018 at 17:07 UTC