The United States of America is often described as invincible and unyielding. Yet during the Vietnam War, America was forced to look at its weaknesses, both politically and militarily. President Lyndon B. Johnson, in sending U. S. Marines in March 1965, followed shortly thereafter by U. S. Army ground combat units, broke the strategic continuity of American involvement in Vietnam and, in so doing, paved the way for the U. S. forces’ ultimate defeat. Thus, it is plausible that President Johnson”s policy in Vietnam was “doomed to fail” from the beginning.
Although South Vietnam asked for help, which the United States had previously promised, the entire conflict was managed in order to meet personal political agendas and to remain politically correct in the world”s eyes rather than to bring a quick and decisive end to the conflict. This can be seen in the selective bombing of Hanoi throughout the course of the Vietnam War. Politically, this strategy looked very good. However, militarily it was ludicrous. War is the one arena in which politicians have no place.
War is the military”s sole purpose. United States involvement in Vietnam continued to escalate throughout the 1950″s and into the early 1960″s. On August 4, 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred in which American Naval Vessels in South Vietnamese waters were fired upon by North Vietnam. On August 5, 1964, President Johnson requested a resolution expressing the determination of the United States to continue in its basic policy of assisting the free nations of the area to defend their freedom.
On August 7, 1964, in response to the presidential request, Congress authorized President Johnson “to take all necessary measures to repel any attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression… ” (A). The selective bombing of North Vietnam began immediately in response to this resolution. In March of the following year U. S. Troops began to arrive. Although the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution specifically stated that we had no military, political, or territorial ambitions in southeast Asia, the interests back home were of a different nature.
The United States was not expecting a more extensive development in Vietnam, and Johnson shocked the nation by his exclusive decision. “A mature great power will make measured and limited use of its power… Since in this generation we have become a great power, I am in favor of learning to behave like a great power… ” (B). Thus a major downfall of Johnson”s policy was his blatant misuse of his respective power. According to Johnson in his State of the Union Address, “We will stay because in Asia-and around the world-are countries whose independence rests, in large measure, on confidence in America”s word and protection” (C).
However, the political involvement in Vietnam was about much more than just promised aid to a weak country in order to prevent the spread of communism. It was about money. After all, wars require equipment, guns, tools and machinery. Most of which was produced in the United States. “We intervened with money, “advisors”, bombers, and weapons at a time when even our own government did not claim that North Vietnam was sending forces south” (G). It was about proving America”s commitment to stop communism. Or rather to confine communism in its present boundaries.
Most of all it was about politics. The military involvement in Vietnam is directly related to the political management of the military throughout the war. The military controlled by the politicians. The management of the military by the White House for political gain is the primary reason for both the length and cost, both monetary and human, of the Vietnam War. One of the largest problems was the lack of a clear objective in the war and the support to accomplish it. “So-how do we end the war in Vietnam?… We must revise our objective.
Instead of negotiation, our objective must be to make the war so costly for the Communists that they will end it… We must fight the war from our strength, not theirs” (F). The politicians dictated the war in Vietnam. It was a limited war; the military was never allowed to fight the war in the manner that they thought that they needed to in order to win it. To conclude on the Vietnam War, the political management of the war made it unwinnable. The military was at the mercy of politicians, especially Johnson, who knew very little about what needed to be done militarily in order to win the war.
And it is the failure of that regime to come to the bargaining table that has thus far frustrated every effort to move the problem of South Vietnam from a military to a political solution” (E). Therefore, the U. S. Military should be allowed to conduct any war, conflict, or police action that it has been committed to without political interference or control because of the problems and hidden interests which are always present when dealing with politics. There is an enormous difference between political judgment and military judgment. This difference is the primary reason for the outcome of the Vietnam War.
Vietcong knew they could beat us by wearing the United States down until they surrendered (H). It was the policy of military escalation in Vietnam, however, that proved to be Johnson’s undoing as president. It deflected attention from domestic concerns, resulted in sharp inflation, and prompted rising criticism, especially among young, draft-aged people. “… mood of Congress changed, a reflection of public attitudes strongly influenced by the news media, particularly television” (I). Although society originally supported Johnson”s policy, he lost a large amount of support due to his mistakes.
Escalation also failed to win the war. The drawn-out struggle made Johnson even more secretive, dogmatic, and highly sensitive to criticism. His usually sure political instincts were failing. On March 31, 1968, President Johnson was faced with increasing antiwar sentiment. He announced a halt in all bombing north of the 20th parallel and offered to negotiate for peace with North Vietnam. Peace talks began in Paris in May, but were quickly deadlocked. After the United States stopped bombing North Vietnam in early November, the North Vietnamese agreed not to escalate the war.
In January 1969 South Vietnam and the NLF joined the talks. (History of the United States) Americans judge the Vietnam War to have been a “mistake. ” Unfortunately, few claim to know what the U. S. should have done differently. President Johnson made various unfavorable decisions, and his ignorance led to the demise of our military and political policies. Through the corruption and misuse of power, the strategically wrong military setup, and the high cost, the Vietnam War was doomed to fail from the beginning. It is inevitable that Johnson received the blame.
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