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The Battle of the Unwinnable War

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Though the battle and bloodshed of the War was mostly held within the approximate one-hundred-thousand square mile Eastern Asia nation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the comprehensive nature of the Vietnam War could be seen across the world. Indeed, the true implications of the battles waged were far greater than bombs and rifles. Instead, the war truly lied within the two fundamentally dueling ideologies of governance that divided the nation--Communism against Western Democracy. Ultimately, history lends proof to the fact that the blind yet undeterred allegiance of the people of Vietnam to national hero Ho Chi Minh--coupled by the ineptitude and corruption of the non-communist South Vietnamese Government--the United States' militant approach to thwart the spread of communism in Indochina was severely compromised long before their first attack. The roots of the Vietnam War seeds back to the WWII era, dating back to the 19th century when Vietnam fell under the colonization of French rule. Amidst French instability following WWII, a movement in North Vietnam spearheaded by the ambitious Ho Chi Minh infused the nation with a sense of hope. Pursuing his own interest, Ho established a Vietnamese Communist Party, attracting even those were not even Communists by seducing them with the intrigue of national independence. By employing guerilla tactics and with military aid coming from Communist China and the Soviet Union, the passionate Vietminh outlasted the French in the drawn out battle of attrition in 1954. In doing so, Ho successfully established a powerful and resiliently unified Communist party. All the while the communist Vietminh were engaged in a bloody struggle with France, the Cold War pinned Communist USSR against Democratic America dating back to the fall of Germany in the late 1940s. While previous US presidents Roosevelt and Truman showed remote interest in Indochina, after taking office in 1953, Eisenhower feared the "domino effect". Subscribing to this theory, Eisenhower believed that if Vietnam were to fall into the hands of Communists--just as China had--an epidemic of Communism throughout the world would threaten Western democracy. Under such threatening circumstances, the Eisenhower administration felt it necessary to intervene in the War to prevent Ho's rise to power. Following the French defeat to Vietminh in the First Indochina War, the provisions from the subsequent Geneva Convention sought to first draw lines at the 17th parallel to geographically distinguish the two main conflict parties. In the North, Ho's widely popular Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) --holding its capital in Hanoi--gained recognition and support from both the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. Recognizing it to be the strongest opponent to communism in Vietnam, America supported the Government of the Republic of Vietnam (GVN) in the South as the national government--which was transitioning from French rule to its new leader Ngo Dinh Diem. Composed of mostly of the of Catholic French refugees remaining after the first Indochina War, the supporters of the GVN shared the same ground with a powerful dueling faction--namely, the Vietcong. Holding strong ties to Hanoi, the Vietcong (also known as the National Liberal Front or NLF) was a popular movement known for its ruthless guerilla warfare tactics and its hatred towards US occupancy. Originally, the Geneva Accords intended to reunify the nation through a common election the following year. However, amid reports that nationwide elections would result in a landslide victory for Ho, Washington set out to sabotage the elections to prevent a complete Communist takeover in order to "support a friendly noncommunist Vietnam" (Cuddy 354). As Eisenhower's ambassador to South Vietnam, Elbridge Durbrow was the main outlet to Washington in regards to the progress of the Diem regime. Durbrow recognized that Diem failed to supply his people with adequate security with his allocated US funding. However, despite his pleas towards Diem for reform, Durbrow maintained his support for Diem as Eisenhower continued to feed him an abundance of resources. Already, logic would reason that the efforts in South Vietnam seemed like a forced and lost cause. John F. Kennedy relieved Eisenhower in 1961, quickly reassuring America's commitment to Diem, for "he's all we've got out there" (Halberstam 42). Upon visiting Vietnam, newly appointed South Vietnam Ambassador Frederick Nolting was "greatly impressed with Diem's dedication, sincerity, honest, purpose" (Adamson 248). Convinced Diem was competent to manage his own domestic affairs, Nolting took a hands off approach while the Kennedy administration continued to feed him with money and military supplies. In the meantime, many strategic attempts to win over the hearts of the southerners such as the "hamlet program" miserably failed as the NLF repeatedly outwitted Washington (Halberstam 108). Such outcomes reinforced the underlying truth that the allegiances of the people truly had lain within the Viet Cong and its national hero, Ho Chi Minh, all along. As the strategic hamlet plan continued to fail miserably, Diem's corrupted government caused a growing discontent amongst the Southern peasants. Amid reports that Diem was exploring a possible political compromise with Ho, jeopardizing the US hopes for a Democratic South, Diem met his demise as the ARVN coordinated a coup with the support of Kennedy in 1963 (Adamson 253). Before achieving any significant progress in Vietnam, Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, leaving the fate in Vietnam in Johnson's hand Inheriting the presidency in 1963 after serving as Vice President under Kennedy, Johnson was faced with the pressure of fulfilling Kennedy's legacy. Supported by many men in his cabinet such as Taylor, McNamara, and Komer, Johnson made clear that he will not become the first US President to lose a war. Following several "North Vietnam" coordinated attacks on US war ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, in August of 1964 Congress granted Johnson the power to use "any means necessary" to protect US interests in Southeast Asia (although it was widely believed that the attacks were fabricated by the Government). Despite holding reservations, Johnson believed that bombing and sending troops would show a position of strength that would force Hanoi to be serious at negotiating table (Yurakliver 473). In March 1965 Johnson had officially gone on the offensive through ordering US airstrikes in the North, thus "Americanizing" the war. Throughout his three year bombing campaign, Johnson received mixed messages from his counterparts. On one hand, Undersecretary of State George Ball had warned Johnson in July 1965 of the grim future of



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