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Lecture 18

History 1810E The Vietnam War - Lecture 18.docx

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History 1810E
Margaret Mc Glynn

History 1810E The Vietnam War Wednesday March 12 Lecture 18 Outline: I. Propping up the first Domino II. Walt Rostow a. Modernization Theory III. Strategic Hamlets IV. The Buddhist Crisis, 1963 V. Choosing War a. Le Duan and the South-Firsters b. Lyndon Johnson and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident From last class: • The NLF was challenging the Diem regime Propping up the first Domino • Domino Theory o If one country in Southeast Asia fell to communism, all of the other countries would fall like dominos (and communists would be walking down the streets in the U.S.) o This was the real concern in the United States o Given the fear of global communism, the U.S. couldn’t allow southern Vietnam to fall • This fear of communism gave Vietnam significance in the minds of American policy makers (they knew the reality of the situation in Vietnam and this civil war was an issue of global importance) • The United States supported Ngo Dinh Diem’s regime since 1955 o Life magazine referred to Diem as the “miracle man”, put South Vietnam on the right track o In 1959/1960 when the NLF emerged and Diem was being challenged, that view in Washington began to change • Since Eisenhower came into power, the Americans sent advisors to Vietnam to train Diem’s military on how to fight o They were anticipating an invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnam o The reality was that this was a guerilla war within South Vietnam (similar to what the Americans faced in the Philippines at the beginning of the century) o The Americans weren’t training the Vietnamese on how to fight effectively • Southern revolutionaries were supported by Vietminh who were living in the north and coming back south along the Ho Chi Minh Trail (it wasn’t a conventional invasion – it was an insurgency) • The issue in Vietnam was a question of national self-determination o The Vietnamese were fighting to determine what political system would run their country (Communism or Diem’s system) o Even though it was about self-determination, the Cold War environment didn’t permit Americans to allow the Vietnamese to decide their future (they couldn’t allow them to choose a Communist way of life) o This went against Woodrow Wilson’s ideas, which are based on liberal capitalism • Modernity is based on several assumptions: o 1) The liberal international order is based on American ideals  The assumption is that the Americans are best positioned to lead a world based on American ideals (the President of the U.S. is taking on a global leadership role) o 2) These ideals are exceptional and unique (a superior world order) o 3) These ideals are universal (they can be applied anywhere and everywhere, regardless of the realities on the ground)  Everyone is capable of embracing these ideals, and they should embrace them (what is good for America is good for the world)  If everyone embraced these ideals, the world would be a more peaceful place  The Americans had a duty (a mission) to spread these ideals around the world  Manifest Destiny – when the Americans moved westward across the continent, it was their duty to uplift the Native Americans  In Southeast Asia, the Americans believed that had to go help the Diem regime and prevent international communism from seeping into Southeast Asia  Because the Americans felt so right in their cause, it left little room for alternative visions (their way or the highway) • This did little to help the Americans’ relationship with the Vietnamese government • This meant that the Americans weren’t willing to entertain alternative visions Walt Rostow • An advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson • Modernization Theory o Americans believed that all societies developed along the same path to modernity • This was a time of instability, and modernization theorists believed that in these times of instability, communist could hijack the developing societies • The Americans had to help these societies so that they didn’t get hijacked by communist (according to their beliefs) • Americans didn’t understand personalism, community development (Diem’s programs) • Diem didn’t like having the Americans coming in and telling them what to do (created a lot of tension between Diem’s government and the Americans) • This meant the Americans there to help Diem were very critical of his programs and policies Strategic Hamlets • This is how Diem was going to try to defeat the insurgency • The strategic hamlet program was run by Diem’s brother (unpopular among the South Vietnamese) • The program was designed to separate the peasantry from the insurgents o The peasants would be kept behind walls to keep them away from the NLF o People could leave during the day, but had to return in the evening • The villagers were supposed to provide their own security (Diem’s idea of having volunteers for the betterment of the nation) • Diem also hoped to promote the community development plan to develop their own nation • The strategic hamlet program was unpopular with the peasantry o They didn’t like being locked up, forced to work for the hamlet, and taken away from their ho
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