Do you think that the US aggressively preventing Vietnam reunification justified?

Is it justified?

  • Yes

    Votes: 3 18.8%
  • No

    Votes: 13 81.3%

  • Total voters
    16

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,754
SoCal
Have the US not created South Vietnam in 1955 and prevented the expected general election in 1956, the Vietnam War would have never happened. Do you think that it is better if 58000 Americans and 1 millions Vietnamese are still alive?
For what it's worth, I think that the Vietnam War wasn't worth it for the U.S. due to its massive casualties, the incompetence of the South Vietnamese government, and the non-strategic position of South Vietnam. However, I could see why one would have believed that it was legitimate for the U.S. to prop up South Vietnam. True, the Vietnamese Communists might have won a free and fair election in Vietnam, but would they have subsequently allowed future elections or would they have still monopolized power for themselves? If the latter is the correct answer, then one could view the U.S.'s prevention of elections in Vietnam in 1956 as being similar to the Algerian government preventing an election in 1991-1992 so that forces hostile to democracy (in Vietnam's case, Communists; in Algeria's case, Islamists) would not win this election and would not be able to subsequently monopolize power. While South Vietnam was a dictatorship (at least to my knowledge), it does appear to have had more potential to democratize than North Vietnam did. After all, South Korea and Taiwan both democratized after a period of dictatorial non-Communist rule.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,754
SoCal
Best described as a good idea at the time. With the benefit of hindsight we can see that the 'domino theory' was rather flawed but the spread of communism was a real, if overrated, concern of the US and the West in general in the 50s and 60s.
Yeah, it's a shame that the Vietnamese freedom fighters were both Communists and dictatorial.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,754
SoCal
Also, I want to make a point about the Vietnamese boat people as well as about the Vietnamese who fled from North Vietnam to South Vietnam in 1954. Basically, what this shows is that a significant number of Vietnamese people did not want to live under Communist rule and thus one could argue from a humanitarian perspective that it was better for the U.S. to prop up a non-Communist government in South Vietnam. Of course, one could have extended this logic to invading North Vietnam in order to liberate it from Communism, but that would have been risky since China would have likely militarily intervened in such a scenario.
 
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Oct 2018
5
Vietnam
For what it's worth, I think that the Vietnam War wasn't worth it for the U.S. due to its massive casualties, the incompetence of the South Vietnamese government, and the non-strategic position of South Vietnam. However, I could see why one would have believed that it was legitimate for the U.S. to prop up South Vietnam. True, the Vietnamese Communists might have won a free and fair election in Vietnam, but would they have subsequently allowed future elections or would they have still monopolized power for themselves? If the latter is the correct answer, then one could view the U.S.'s prevention of elections in Vietnam in 1956 as being similar to the Algerian government preventing an election in 1991-1992 so that forces hostile to democracy (in Vietnam's case, Communists; in Algeria's case, Islamists) would not win this election and would not be able to subsequently monopolize power. While South Vietnam was a dictatorship (at least to my knowledge), it does appear to have had more potential to democratize than North Vietnam did. After all, South Korea and Taiwan both democratized after a period of dictatorial non-Communist rule.
So, when will Saudi Arabia, a stategic ally of the US to whom it is selling $110 billion worth of weapon, democratize?
 

Viperlord

Ad Honorem
Aug 2010
8,109
VA
So, when will Saudi Arabia, a stategic ally of the US to whom it is selling $110 billion worth of weapon, democratize?
I agree with the overall point, but, FYI, that number is a gross exaggeration no matter how many times the orange man says it.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,463
Dispargum
Is there any basis to believe that a majority of the Vietnamese people circa 1955 wanted to be Communist? Yes, in the 1960s and '70s the Saigon government lost popular support, but how much of that was from a love of Communism vs a hatred of the southern regime which did little to inspire love from the people? In the 1950s and '60s, US policy was an attempt to give the people of Vietnam an alternative to Communism. That attempt ultimately failed, but it was impossible to know this in 1955.
 
Oct 2018
5
Vietnam
Is there any basis to believe that a majority of the Vietnamese people circa 1955 wanted to be Communist? Yes, in the 1960s and '70s the Saigon government lost popular support, but how much of that was from a love of Communism vs a hatred of the southern regime which did little to inspire love from the people? In the 1950s and '60s, US policy was an attempt to give the people of Vietnam an alternative to Communism. That attempt ultimately failed, but it was impossible to know this in 1955.
How about president Eisenhower himself: "possibly 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader ".
 

Viperlord

Ad Honorem
Aug 2010
8,109
VA
And Eisenhower was drawing from the CIA"s own estimates. There is no doubt whatsoever that Ho Chi Minh, the national hero of the anti-colonial struggle against the French would have won a fair election in a united Vietnam. The government of what would become South Vietnam had largely been quislings and were seen as such; while this was largely not true of Diem himself, the government he inherited was still largely dominated by French influence at the time.

Chlodio said:
Is there any basis to believe that a majority of the Vietnamese people circa 1955 wanted to be Communist?
If this is your framework for Vietnam, and not understanding that for the Vietnamese people, it was an anti-colonial struggle against the French and then us for stepping into their place, I don't think you understand the Vietnam War from anything other than Cold War propaganda.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,463
Dispargum
If this is your framework for Vietnam, and not understanding that for the Vietnamese people, it was an anti-colonial struggle against the French and then us for stepping into their place, I don't think you understand the Vietnam War from anything other than Cold War propaganda.
No, I'm trying to understand the problem through the eyes of the US government at the time. You bring up exactly my point. From the Vietnamese perspective, was the Vietnam War about Communism or was it about national liberation and unification? Or was it a war against the corruption and abuses of the Saigon regime? Would it have been possible for Vietnam to gain unified independence without becoming Communist? Surely the Communists did not have a monopoly on anti-imperialism. Many countries gained independence after WW2 without becoming Communist. Was Ho Chi Minh popular because he was a Communist or because he was the leader of the national independence movement? Americans had a hard time understanding why anyone would freely choose to become a Communist and spent 30 years trying to give Vietnam a viable alternative to Communism. If Ho Chi Minh was more like Ghandi, a leader of the independence movement but not a Communist, the US would not have cared about Vietnamese independence.


How about president Eisenhower himself: "possibly 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader ".
Were they voting for Communism, or were they voting for Ho Chi Minh? I think the US would have been quite satisfied to let a non-Communist Ho Chi Minh become leader of the newly independent Vietnam.


In the context of the OP, 'Was the US justified in opposing reunification?' I would say no, but it was very difficult for the US to separate reunification from Communism.
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,463
Dispargum
Thinking about it a little more.. How do we reconcile the US imposing an unwanted regime upon the South Vietnamese with the principle of national self-determination?

By 1955 the US understood that the vast majority of Vietnamese did not want to be ruled by the French. Ho Chi Minh was a popular leader, but he was the only viable leader. Is it possible for a country to democratically express their self-determination if there is only one viable choice? We see all the time some petty Third World dictator running unopposed for reelection and getting 99% of the vote. No one calls this democracy. If Ho Chi Minh had won 80% of the vote in 1955, would that have been a democratic expression of national self-determination? Is it democracy if there's no viable choice? How many Vietnamese would have still voted for Ho Chi Minh if there was a viable alternative candidate with a viable alternative political philosophy?

South Vietnam was never intended to be permanent. It was always understood that Vietnam would eventually reunify. The creation of South Vietnam and the US's propping up of that regime was an attempt to give Vietnam an alternative to Communism. That no viable alternative emerged even 20 years later was the result of failed US policies as well as the failure of the South Vietnamese ruling class to concieve of a government based on the loyalty of large segments of Vietnamese society. Instead, the South Vietnamese ruling class persisted in seeing government as a means to exploit the masses.

Was the US morally justified in 1955 or in 1965 in trying to give the Vietnamese a viable alternative to Communism? At some point it became clear to anyone watching that the South Vietnamese government was never going to become viable. I think this point was sometime after 1965.

I'm also aware there were many other motives behind US policy in Vietnam that have little, if any, basis in morality or law. This viable alternative argument is the only argument I can find that is morally justifiable and even then I think it's a weak argument. At some point you have to let people live with their choices even if you think they've made the wrong choice. We probably should have let the Vietnamese live with the choice they would have made in 1955 - national unity under a Communist government.
 
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