Asian Studies: The Vietnam War’s Key Points

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Topic: History
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Vietnam War is amongst other grim reminders about people’s cruelty, fears, and disrespect towards fellow human beings. All recent wars have the same thing in common, those who are being colonized and the colonizers. The excuses are also the same, as those with more power and weapons believe themselves superior to others, the bringers of civilization, but in reality, it is the other way around. It is important to consider the two pivotal moments in the Vietnam War.

One is the pre-war time where politics and mass media played a great role in the way the conflict and purpose of the war were viewed. It is crucial to learn that the perspective taken was much one sided and far from reality. The second moment was the beginning of the full-scale war and a pointless loss of lives.

Vietnamese losses were much greater, as the technology was on the American side and the lesson that must be learned is clearly stated by one of the monks in the film titled “Hearts and Minds”, when he says that: “…we fight against the invaders, but it is not we, who are the savages” (Hearts and Minds).

Before the Vietnam War, there was a mass scare that the world was turning to communism and the United States will be “sunk” by the communist masses. It was said that it is the duty of all Americans to prevent this from happening, protect the world from being taken over by communism, as the US was the only nation capable of preventing such thing from happening. The war had a significant effect on both societies, Vietnamese and American, and had many opposers willing to take a differential stance.

The time before the start of the war is being recalled by Mrs. Nguyen Thi Dinh, who was the Deputy Commander of the NLF Armed Forces. She was one of the “freedom fighters” and was a great example to the soldiers being trained. She visited the training sites and encouraged everyone with support and hope.

The Vietnamese realized that the war is much unequal, as the Americans had enormous firepower and technological advancements. Guerilla tactics were the only choice the Vietnamese forces had against the enemy (Dinh 3). The fact that these two forces were so different in the preparation for the war and tactics, explicitly illustrates the reasons for the war. Vietnamese people were defending themselves from the new enemy, which was starting the war to root out communism.

The American mass media showed the possible future of the world where people would be taken from their homes by communists for disbelief in the common goal and refusal to join the communists. This made everyone, including the citizens and young population of American men, to believe that they must leave school and take up arms for the greater good of all humanity.

“In 1959, the ‘Denunciation of Communists’ campaign reached its peak with the issuance of Law 10/59 and then in July of the same year; the Oroville program was initiated to meet the growing threat of the insurgency” (Dinh 15). The explanations that communist Vietnam would spread its influence around, causing other countries to join with the communists were exaggerated.

These fears came mostly from an example of the Soviet Union and communism there. Until the very beginning of the Vietnam War, it was thought that there would be a “peaceful coexistence” between Vietnamese and Americans, but “the first ‘concerted uprising’…took place in Ben Tre province in January 1960, under the leadership of Mrs. Nguyen Thi Dinh” (Dinh 16).

When the full-scale war began, it became evident that none of the sides expected such a violent and cruel turnout. Vietnamese people were being treated like animals by the American soldiers. They were degraded as if they were nothing, and many soldiers considered it fun to kill and pillage. As one of the soldiers said, some people do it because “it is a job and some simply enjoy it…I enjoy it” (Hearts and Minds).

The way Vietnamese villages were bombed and burned for no apparent reason strikes as “an invasion by the crusaders.” The gas that was used to kill men, women, and children targeted one thing only, to kill as many Vietnamese people as possible, as they were considered lower than human. Even Lt. George Coker, a prisoner of War from 1966 to 1973, who was met by an enormous cheering crowd, clearly states what they thought of Vietnamese people.

While giving a speech to little school children, one of the girls asks: “What did Vietnam look like?” he responds: “Well if it wasn’t for the people, it was very pretty…the people there are very primitive; they just make a mess out of everything…” (Hearts and Minds). The fact that a decorated pilot, a soldier and a “hero” said these words, shows which side was the real “savage” in the Vietnam War.

One of the quick interviews with an American soldier centers on the question of whether he thinks they are doing the right thing, to which he confusedly responds, “yes, maybe, I don’t know” (Hearts and Minds).

It is rather clear that many soldiers were unaware of the true reasons for the war and thought it to be pointless, dying for some unknown principles, pushed forward by people far away, who were peacefully sitting in their offices, drinking coffee. People were slowly starting to realize that the war was causing pointless casualties and that Americans had no place in Vietnam. It was the conflict that Vietnamese people had to resolve for themselves, in the building of a better and more liberal future.

One of the paradoxical concepts is that “Communist doctrine correctly identified the fact that the critical element in victory is a superiority of forces, i.e., people willing to take risks to influence the actions of others” (Race 644). The United States was doing the same thing, using a superior advantage in military strength, technology, and power. It is a rather unfortunate fact that all this evidence and documentaries are being presented today with a much lesser effect, than during and after the Vietnam War.

People, who saw the images of the war and what was happening there, began to oppose it in great numbers. Not all Americans were supportive of the war, and this became evident during an increase in the development of technology, more particularly television and videotaping. It has played a key role in the transference of information.

The events that took place so far away were not understood and “felt” by many people, but televised coverage brought the war to people’s homes. The casualties, horror of aimless bombing and lack of reasoning were viewed by many, and so, the outrage increased drastically. The graphic nature and content of the televised footage were experienced by the public, and citizens were able to realize what their government and soldiers were doing to a culture that has been fighting for its freedom.

People have started to realize how far the actions of Americans and the United States’ government have gone and that this needs to be stopped. The atmosphere within American society became extremely heated, and it was clear that some changes had to be made. The United States has become divided—one side was the minority that has kept their uneducated and blind hopes in the outcome of the war and the need for military presence and action.

It is as if the only reason they were supporting violence was the momentum they have gained in the beginning years of the war. The other side, the majority, have now understood that a great mistake was made and that it was very much an echo of the brutality and horrors that the world has already experienced during the two World Wars.

Even today, there are people who believe that the Vietnam War made sense and that the United States’ government has made the right decision. But it is crystal clear that the Vietnam War was a pointless slaughter of innocent people, and the United States had no authority or permission to go there and kill.

There is no doubt that there were several key points in the Vietnam War that have decided its course and the way people thought about the events taking place. The decisions that were made were a collective of steps that could not be viewed from a distance.

The anti-war movement that Americans have demonstrated about the Vietnam War illustrates an optimistic hope that it is people, their majority that believes in peace and goodness. Even though there are wars and armed conflicts, people will always voice their opinions against it, while governments follow a wrong path.

Works Cited

Dinh, Nguyen. No Other Road to Take. Ithaca, NY: Cornwell University, 1976. Print.

“Hearts and Minds”. YouTube. 22 Aug 2012. Web. 29 Aug 2013.

Race, Jeffrey. “How They Won. Vietnam: Politics, Land Reform and Development in the Countryside”. University of California Press 10.8 (1970): 628-650. Print.