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The Vietnam War

Overview

The Vietnam War was a prolonged military conflict that started as an anticolonial war against the French and evolved into a Cold War confrontation between international communism and free-market democracy.

The Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in the north was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist countries, while the United States and its anticommunist allies backed the Republic of Vietnam (ROV) in the south.

Origins of the war in Vietnam

American involvement in Vietnam began at the end of the Second World War, when the Vietnamese were struggling against the French colonial presence in their country. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Viet Minh (Vietnamese Independence League) and the founder of Vietnam’s Communist Party, successfully blended nationalist, anti-French sentiment and Marxist-Leninist revolutionary ideology. In 1954, the Viet Minh decisively routed the French.

In peace negotiations at Geneva, the decision was reached to divide Vietnam into northern and southern halves. The communists, headed by Ho Chi Minh, would govern the northern half with its capital at Hanoi. They were supported by the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. South Vietnam, with its capital at Saigon, was supported by the United States, which was determined to maintain an independent, non-communist country.

In December 1960,a civil war erupted for control of South Vietnam, while the National Liberation Front (commonly called the Viet Cong) in Hanoi sought to unite the country under its own communist leadership. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy expanded US support to prevent the communists from overrunning South Vietnam. Support included US military advisers, additional military assistance, and authorization of the use of napalm, herbicides, and defoliants.

US involvement in Southeast Asia was driven by the logic of the domino theory, which believed that if one country fell to communism, other surrounding countries would fall as well, much as one toppled domino will knock down others in a row. The United States adopted a containment strategy to prevent the spread of communism.


Source: The Vietnam War
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