Although authorities in both Vietnams tried to assert themselves and resist superpower control, the Cold War power struggle between the U.S., the Soviet Union, and China was key in shaping the Vietnam War. In the context of the Cold War power struggle, and in the context of U. efforts to court allies in the decolonizing world, Americans had to prove that their pronouncements about containing communism, supporting non-communist governments, and aiding democracy building were credible. did not act aggressively to protect free nations, especially in Asia, China would come in and dominate the region.
President Eisenhower had considered authorizing a U. military action, including a possible nuclear strike, to help the French at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954, but Congress refused to approve the use of military force unless it was part of an international coalition. After the Geneva Accords created South Vietnam, Eisenhower offered U. His model was the Philippines, where Colonel Edward Lansdale had groomed Ramon Magsaysay to be president.  Denise Bostdorff and Steven Goldzwig, “Idealism and Pragmatism in American Foreign Policy Rhetoric: The Case of John F.
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles failed to convince any major U. In 1956, Kennedy announced: “Vietnam represents the cornerstone of the Free World in Southeast Asia.” This ideology informed his foreign policy worldview as president, beginning with his inaugural address, in which he declared: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Kennedy employed the rhetoric of idealism to try to convince the American public that the U. had a moral responsibility to help governments and political movements that were trying to resist communist insurgencies.
At the same time that we must investigate Vietnamese and Southeast Asian agency regarding the conflict, we also must acknowledge the significance of Cold War superpower rivalries and decision making to how the war played out. The context of decolonization helps explain regional Southeast Asian perspectives on communism.
One of the main reasons it remains a source of argument is that it is difficult to say when the U. S., the Soviet Union, and China also shaped events related to the Vietnam War. policymakers to commit advisors, money, materiel, and troops to Vietnam, lest allies lose faith in American resolve to build a global democratic bulwark against communism and adversaries hear threats ring hollow.
His successor, Richard Nixon, entered the presidency in a world that looked much different than it had in 1964. should cast aside ideological differences in order to build alliances—as long as they were in America’s best interests. intervention was a gradual process that included economic aid, diplomacy, politics, presidential personalities, and military force.
Americans across the political spectrum opposed the Vietnam War, the U. and the Soviet Union entered a period of détente, and Nixon’s visit to China opened a new era in Sino-American relations. Additionally, Nixon was more pragmatic than idealistic in his foreign policy worldview. America’s decision to go to war in Vietnam did not involve a Pearl Harbor or Franz Ferdinand moment. Regional alliances in Southeast Asia and superpower tensions between the U. In 1954, Chiang Kai-shek of Taiwan and South Korea’s Syngman Rhee founded the Asian People’s Anticommunist League (APACL) as part of their efforts to resist communist insurgencies.Beginning in 1964, the central subject of the organization’s annual meetings was South Vietnam and how members of the APACL could offer political and military assistance.Historians still debate what Kennedy would have done regarding Vietnam had he lived beyond November 1963. Some close to Kennedy and members of his administration believe he would have escalated as Johnson did. He believed the South Vietnamese should fight for themselves with American aid and advice. While publicly he seemed staunchly committed to containing communism in Asia, he expressed doubt privately about South Vietnam’s chances for survival and whether it was worth a U. Others have maintained that he would not have escalated. The problem for Johnson was that deep down he didn’t necessarily want to commit U. Publicly, though, he and members of his administration, especially Secretary of Defense Robert Mc Namara, emphasized the strategic importance of South Vietnam. An APACL youth conference featured attendees from the U.S., including Tom Charles Huston and David Keene representing Young Americans for Freedom. Southeast Asia was so important in the minds of America policymakers and their allies that the U. gave economic and military aid to South Vietnam, while the Soviet Union and China offered similar assistance to North Vietnam.Other Southeast Asian nations also transitioned from colonial to independent status in the years after World War II, and tensions and conflicts between communist and non-communist movements existed not just in Vietnam but also in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.Regional non-communist governments supported the Republic of Vietnam, the southern half of the divided country, believing its existence was a crucial bulwark against the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. escalated its war in Vietnam, starting with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in which Congress authorized Johnson to use military force without declaring war. A regional approach to the Vietnam War is important because U. Understanding the role of communism requires placing Vietnam in a regional context and examining Southeast Asian concerns about communism.