S., along with Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Thailand, established the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in September 1954. involvement in Vietnam because SEATO members pledged to act to prevent the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. 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. S., the Soviet Union, and China vied for alliances with newly independent countries, Vietnam became one of the proving grounds on which all three countries tried to make their mark. Hanoi leaders understood that they walked a tightrope between their two contentious benefactors, as North Vietnam received significant support from both countries.
SEATO’s purpose was to prevent communism from gaining ground in the region, and although South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos couldn’t join because the Geneva Accords prevented them from joining international military alliances, they were included as SEATO protectorates. North Vietnam also benefitted from trade with Eastern Europe through its inclusion in the Soviet sphere.
Should we trace it back to the 1940s when President Harry Truman authorized U. Eisenhower’s “domino theory,” the idea that if one country in Southeast Asia fell to the communists, the entire region would fall, and the ripple effects would be felt throughout the Asia-Pacific world, informed not only his thinking about U. relations with the region but the policymaking of his successors, John F. The global context is also important because Cold War tensions between the U.
Did it begin in the 1950s when the Geneva Accords divided Vietnam in two and President Dwight Eisenhower offered U. aid to help establish a non-communist nation in the southern half to counter the communist north? Kennedy asserted that Americans would “pay any price, bear any burden” to support democratic nation building as a way to counter communist advances in Asia. S.-Vietnam relations and the Vietnam War did not occur in a vacuum.
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. 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. S., the Soviet Union, and China saw these new nations as potential allies and hoped to draw as many as possible into their respective orbits. As local activists and political leaders established newly independent countries out of Europe’s former colonial empires, the U.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.Rhetoric scholars who have studied Kennedy’s speeches have argued that what Kennedy actually thought about Vietnam was almost irrelevant because his ideological public language would have made it very difficult for him to make a policy reversal on Vietnam. When Johnson took the oath of office in the wake of Kennedy’s shocking death, he brought his own concerns about American credibility. failed to step in and help South Vietnam, it would send a message to the rest of Southeast Asia and the world that the U. Mc Namara pointed to Southeast Asia’s central location between India and Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines as evidence of the region’s significance. Johnson ascribed to the domino theory, and he believed that South Vietnam was the victim of communist aggression from and directed by North Vietnam. A Hanoi victory in the war, Mc Namara argued, would place Vietnam that much closer to Chinese control, and then all of Southeast Asia would be in danger. 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.