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Kennedy and Lyndon B. In March , U. Marines landed at Danang.


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Rather than identifying one starting point, it is more accurate to understand U. It involved economic aid, political and military advisors, and boots on the ground. All of the key moments in the process emerged from different contexts and the thinking of various players, but there were three threads that unified them: communism, the Cold War, and credibility. Understanding the role of communism requires placing Vietnam in a regional context and examining Southeast Asian concerns about communism.

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A regional approach to the Vietnam War is important because U. The global context is also important because Cold War tensions between the U. 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.

Concerns about credibility motivated U. The context of decolonization helps explain regional Southeast Asian perspectives on communism. It mattered whether the new countries established communist or non-communist governments.

The Korean War (1950–53)

After the Viet Minh won a decisive victory at Dien Bien Phu in May , France surrendered, and the Geneva Accords that summer called for dividing Vietnam in half at the seventeenth parallel. 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. Southeast Asia was so important in the minds of America policymakers and their allies that the U. This designation provided a justification for U. Just as regional concerns about communism influenced support for South Vietnam, the Vietnam conflict also played into Cold War superpower rivalries, which, in turn, shaped superpower decision making.

As the U. The U. Hanoi leaders understood that they walked a tightrope between their two contentious benefactors, as North Vietnam received significant support from both countries. North Vietnam also benefitted from trade with Eastern Europe through its inclusion in the Soviet sphere.


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  • Although authorities in both Vietnams tried to assert themselves and resist superpower control, the Cold War power struggle between the U. In the context of the Cold War power struggle, and in the context of U. Presidents from Truman through Johnson worried about American credibility. President Eisenhower had considered authorizing a U.

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    Eisenhower considered the partition of Vietnam a victory for the U. Like Korea, Vietnam was now only half communist, and the division of the country maintained the balance of power between the two spheres. Kennedy argued that if the U. That type of approach would just play into the hands of the communists, and in any case, Kennedy believed that the U.


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    • Kennedy employed the rhetoric of idealism to try to convince the American public that the U. Historians still debate what Kennedy would have done regarding Vietnam had he lived beyond November Some close to Kennedy and members of his administration believe he would have escalated as Johnson did. Others have maintained that he would not have escalated.

      President Lyndon B. Johnson ascribed to the domino theory, and he believed that South Vietnam was the victim of communist aggression from and directed by North Vietnam. Add to folder [? Find out how you can intelligently organize your Flashcards. You have created 2 folders.

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