Policies In Vietnam Lyndon B. Johnson had a vision of A Great Society for the American people and fellow men everywhere. In his first years of office, he obtained one of the most extensive legislative programs in the history of the Nation. Maintaining collective security, he carried on the increasing struggle to fight Communist encroachment in Vietnam. During President Johnson’s term, two crises had been gaining momentum since 1965. The first was the unrest and rioting in black ghettos that troubled the nation. The second crisis was trying to prevent North Vietnam from taking over South Vietnam, preventing the spread of communism.
The United States and Vietnam have had relationships (not always direct, but through the French) since the early 1940’s. A brief background of US involvement in Vietnam will be given in order to understand how Johnson got involved in Vietnam, but first a look at the geography of Vietnam. Geography Vietnam covers an area of 329, 600 square kilometers and stretches around 100,000 square kilometers from North to South. The Annamite Mountain Range connects the North and South. To the north of Vietnam is China; to the west is Cambodia and Laos.
The location made the United States be very careful when using military because it did not want to start a World War III with China who was supporting the North Vietnamese. Vietnam is a little smaller than the newly united Germany. History of United States Involvement The French used to have a colony rule over Indochina, which consisted of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. During World War II, France fell to the Germans and in return, the Asian French colony was turned over to Japan. At this time, the Vietnamese turned from being anti-French to anti-Japan.
The United States started aiding various groups in Vietnam, so that they could battle the Japanese. The United States even aided the nationalist group, led by communist Ho Chi Minh. After World War II, the French returned to take over its colony, but in December 1946, found itself battling the Vietminh. France requested aid from the United States, so that it could win the battle against the Vietminh. The United States was not too sure at first, until Intelligence proved that the Communist Ho Chi Minh was becoming very popular.
The United States immediately increased its aid to France to try to prevent the communist from spreading. The French were to set up a regime with Bao Dei, from the Vietnamese royal family. The United States sided with Bao Dei’s claim as the regime, especially after the fall of China. Around 1954, the United States was paying 80% of the French military cost in Vietnam. The French decided to use a fortress to try and get the communist to use a large number of it’s troops to attack the fortress, but it was easily over come by the communist and the French surrendered. May 1954 was the end of the French role in Indochina. May-June 1954 was the Geneva Accords where the major powers were to come to an agreement on Indochina. The agreement was a temporary one that divided Vietnam at the seventeenth parallel with a demilitarized zone between the two areas.
The North would be the Vietminh or the communist and the South would be the Bao Dei regime. No side could come to agreements involving foreign policy nor accept foreign troops on their soil, until after two years when elections were to be held, scheduled for July 1956. At this time, the permanent government of Vietnam would be determined. Ngo Dinh Diem became a political leader in the South and was pro-Western. Diem announced that the division of Vietnam into two nations would remain and there would be no elections.
In rigged elections, Diem emerged victorious over Bao Dei. The United States backed Diem because he promised to make reforms. Diem in the end had no plans of ever having free elections again. Although Diem never made any of his promised reforms, President Eisenhower backed Diem’s regime. Eisenhower sent 1,500 advisors to South Vietnam by the end of his administration in order to help make sure South Vietnam was safe.
At this time, Ho Chi Minh came to an economic agreement with the communist China. President Kennedy who was already occupied with the Cuba crisis going on followed in the footsteps of Eisenhower. After, an overthrow attempt on the Diem regime made by the communists and others, Kennedy sent two men ( Robert Taylor and Walt Rostow) to Vietnam to find at what was going on. When the men returned they reported that the North was vulnerable to conventional bombing and those American combat troops should be introduced to South Vietnam. Kennedy decided to intervene in Vietnam by increasing the US presence in Vietnam between 1961-1962. Once the Cuban Missile Crisis was over Kennedy turned his attention towards Vietnam.
Kennedy learned that Diem was a serious liability to South Vietnam and that something had to be done with his regime. In the early 1960’s, President Kennedy’s support for Vietnam grew to 16,000 American advisors. In October 1963, a military coup, aided by the CIA , overthrew Diem who was murdered. Despite this not being Kennedy’s decision before he could respond he was assassinated in November 1963. After the assassination of Kennedy, Vice President Johnson took over the Presidency in late 1963 President Johnson and Vietnam President Johnson was a man determined not to lose Vietnam to the communist. Johnson always kept an optimistic look at Vietnam. When Johnson took over in 1963, he had only a couple of months until elections and he was very careful not to make any risky moves or costly advances.
Johnson won the 1964 election by a landslide, which allowed him to turn his attention to two crises: the rioting and unrest in the black ghettos and Vietnam. In 1955, the Senate ratified the SEATO (Southeast Asian Treaty Organization), which promised that in case of aggression against its members and protocol states, the US would meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes. The protocol states were: Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam. Johnson was afraid that if he did not help South Vietnam that he would be seen as a joke all over the world. Johnson also felt that he would lose a lot of his presidential power and his legislative program for a Great Society.
Unfortunately, when Johnson took over the Presidential power the communist were starting to move slowly into South Vietnam. There was no doubt in President Johnson’s mind that the United States had to help the South Vietnamese, but the question was how to help the South. In moving slowly toward direct engagement in Vietnam, President Johnson displayed a policymaking style markedly different from that of his predecessor. Whereas Kennedy had sought the views of a wide spectrum of foreign policy makers, Johnson listened principally to those who agreed with him. Johnson, seemed to have a blind mind-set which made him pay attention to people who said that he was right.1 When Johnson was Vice President for Kennedy he felt that Americans did not need to get militarily involved in Vietnam, but when Johnson became President, Vietnam started deteriorating and he realized that he needs to do something.
The Presidents prime movers were the Joint Chiefs of Staff member who felt that the US must go into combat in order to save the South. Johnson’s main policy aids, Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, were all essential figures in Johnson’s decision making. All of these members came from the Kennedy administration. The first decision of Johnson came when he rejected the idea of the Joint Chiefs of Staff plan to initiate an air and ground attack against the North Vietnam. Johnson hoped that just sending support to the South would build it up and the US would not have to get involved in combat. The deterioration of the South ruined his idea that the South would improve without combat help from the US. In 1964 shortly after the elections a US ship was attacked by North Vietnamese boats, this made Johnson ask Congress for a resolution.
This resolution became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which enabled the President to use military power to promote international peace and security in Southeast Asia. After countless tries to build the South, President Johnson came to embrace the assumption that South Vietnam could be saved by systematically bombing the North and committing US troops to combat in the South. At this time the Central Intelligence Agency Director, McCone was warning the President that this type of action was not going to stop the Vietcong. Johnson most of the time ignored the Central Intelligence Agency and went on with his plans. The following is a quote from the Central …