"The Gulf of Tonkin: The United States and the Escalation in the Vietnam War analyzes the events that lead to the e
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Table of contents :
Table of Contents
1 The Road to Vietnam: the United States Foreign Policy After World War II
American Foreign Policy After World War II
The Beginning of the Cold War
From Western Europe to East Asia
2 Setup: The United States and Vietnam (1954–1963)
The Geneva Convention
Enter the United States
Kennedy Administration and Vietnam
Washington Changes Sides
3 from Dallas to Tonkin: The Critical Moment
Before Tonkin (November 1963 to August 1964)
Tonkin: Crossing the Rubicon (November 1964 to November 1965)
4 the White House vs. Capitol Hill: the War Powers Act
Powers: A Historical Review Up to 1941
The Disenchantment of Congress
Document 1 Declaration Of independence Of the Democratic Republic Of vietnam (September 2, 1945)
Document 2 The Truman Doctrine (March 12, 1947)
Document 3 President Eisenhower’s News Conference (April 7, 1954): the Domino Theory
Document 4 Radio and Television Report To the American People Following Renewed Aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin (August 4, 1964)
Document 5 Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Special Message to the Congress on U.S. Policy in Southeast Asia” (august 5, 1964)
Document 6 Joint Resolution of Congress H.J. Res 1145 (August 7, 1964)
Document 7 Remarks At syracuse University on the Communist Challenge in southeast Asia (August 5, 1964)
Document 8 Joint Resolution (August 10, 1964)
Document 9 Department of State, “Aggression From the North” (February 27, 1965)
Document 10 Address at Johns Hopkins University, “Peace Without Conquest” (April 7, 1965)
Document 11 Un Charter, Chapter 7, Article 51
Document 12 Nato Treaty, Article 5
Document 13 Richard Nixon’s Veto of the War Powers Resolution (October 24, 1973)
Document 14 War Powers Resolution (November 7, 1973)
Books and Articles
The Gulf of Tonkin
The Gulf of Tonkin: The United States and the Escalation in the Vietnam War analyzes the events that led to the escalation of the conflict in Vietnam and increased American involvement. On August 4, 1964, the captains of two American destroyers, the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy, reported that their ships were being attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. This report came on top of a previous report by the captain of the USS Maddox, indicating that he had been attacked by torpedo boats two nights earlier. The text introduces readers to the historiography of these incidents and how the perception of the events changed over time. The attacks, which were collectively called the Gulf of Tonkin incident, are presented in the context not only of the Vietnam War but also of the Cold War and U.S. government powers, enabling students to understand the events’ full ramifications. Using essential primary documents, Tal Tovy provides an accessible introduction to a vital turning point in U.S. and international affairs. This book will be useful to all students of the Vietnam War, American military history, and foreign policy history. Tal Tovy is Senior Lecturer in History at Bar Ilan University, Israel.
Critical Moments in American History
Edited by William Thomas Allison, Georgia Southern University
The Marshall Plan A New Deal for Europe Michael Holm The Espionage and Sedition Acts World War I and the Image of Civil Liberties Mitchell C. Newton-Matza McCarthyism The Realities, Delusions and Politics Behind the 1950s Red Scare Jonathan Michaels Three Mile Island The Meltdown Crisis and Nuclear Power in American Popular Culture Grace Halden The 1916 Preparedness Day Bombing Anarchy and Terrorism in Progressive-Era America Jeffrey A. Johnson America Enters the Cold War The Road to Global Commitment, 1945–1950 Kevin Grimm Title IX The Transformation of Sex Discrimination in Education Elizabeth Kaufer Busch & William E. Thro The “Silent Majority” Speech Richard Nixon, the Vietnam War, and the Origins of the New Right Scott Laderman When Women Won the Vote The Final Decade, 1910–1920 Sandra Opdycke The Gulf of Tonkin The United States and the Escalation in the Vietnam War Tal Tovy
The Gulf of Tonkin The United States and the Escalation in the Vietnam War
First published 2021 by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2021 Taylor & Francis The right of Tal Tovy to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Tovy, Tal, author. Title: The Gulf of Tonkin: the United States and the escalation in the Vietnam War/Tal Tovy. Other titles: United States and the escalation in the Vietnam War Description: New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2021. | Series: Critical moments in American history | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2020048623 (print) | LCCN 2020048624 (ebook) | ISBN 9781138912199 (paperback) | ISBN 9781138912182 (hardback) | ISBN 9781315692067 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Tonkin Gulf Incidents, 1964. | Vietnam War, 1961–1975. | United States–Foreign relations–1953–1961. | War and emergency powers–United States. | Operation Rolling Thunder, 1965–1968. | Vietnam War, 1961–1975–Historiography. Classification: LCC DS557.8.T6 T68 2021 (print) | LCC DS557.8.T6 (ebook) | DDC 959.704/310973–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020048623 LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020048624 ISBN: 978-1-138-91218-2 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-138-91219-9 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-69206-7 (ebk) Typeset in Bembo by Newgen Publishing UK
To my late father Joseph Tovy (1942–2017) and my uncle Haim Bechor (1936–2018)
Series Introduction List of Illustrations Timeline
viii ix xi
1 The Road to Vietnam: The United States Foreign Policy after World War II
2 Setup: The United States and Vietnam (1954–1963)
3 From Dallas to Tonkin: The Critical Moment
4 The White House vs. Capitol Hill: The War Powers Act
Documents Bibliography Index
115 171 178
Welcome to the Routledge Critical Moments in American History series.The purpose of this new series is to give students a window into the historian’s craft through concise, readable books by leading scholars, who bring together the best scholarship and engaging primary sources to explore a critical moment in the American past. In discovering the principal points of the story in these books, gaining a sense of historiography, following a fresh trail of primary documents, and exploring suggested readings, students can then set out on their own journey, to debate the ideas presented, interpret primary sources, and reach their own conclusions—just like the historian. A critical moment in history can be a range of things—a pivotal year, the pinnacle of a movement or trend, or an important event such as the passage of a piece of legislation, an election, a court decision, a battle. It can be social, cultural, political, or economic. It can be heroic or tragic. Whatever they are, such moments are by definition “game changers,” momentous changes in the pattern of the American fabric, paradigm shifts in the American experience. Many of the critical moments explored in this series are familiar; some less so. There is no ultimate list of critical moments in American history— any group of students, historians, or other scholars may come up with a different catalog of topics. These differences of view, however, are what make history itself and the study of history so important and so fascinating.Therein can be found the utility of historical inquiry—to explore, to challenge, to understand, and to realize the legacy of the past through its influence on the present. It is the hope of this series to help students realize this intrinsic value of our past and of studying our past. William Thomas Allison Georgia Southern University
FIGURES 2.1 Map of Vietnam 3.1 USS Maddox (DD-731) 3.2 Photograph taken from USS Maddox during the engagement with three North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin, August 2, 1964. The view shows all three of the boats speeding toward the Maddox 3.3 A North Vietnamese P-4 engaging USS Maddox 3.4 President Lyndon Johnson signing the Gulf of Tonkin resolution on August 10, 1964 3.5 The Gulf of Tonkin resolution
63 64 67 68
SIDEBARS 1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 4.1 4.2
Proxy War The Loss of China Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) MAAG General William C. Westmoreland (1914–2005) Search and Destroy War Power Clauses Veto
11 19 29 33 59 82 92 104
List of Illustrations
DOCUMENTS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (September 2, 1945) The Truman Doctrine (March 12, 1947) President Eisenhower’s News Conference (April 7, 1954) Radio and Television Report to the American People Following Renewed Aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin (August 4, 1964) Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Special Message to the Congress on U.S. Policy in Southeast Asia” (August 5, 1964) Joint Resolution of Congress H.J. RES 1145 (August 7, 1964) Remarks at Syracuse University on the Communist Challenge in Southeast Asia (August 5, 1964) Joint Resolution (August 10, 1964) Department of State, “Aggression from the North” (February 27, 1965) Address at Johns Hopkins University, “Peace without Conquest” (April 7, 1965) UN Charter, Chapter 7, Article 51 NATO Treaty, Article 5 Richard Nixon’s Veto of the War Powers Resolution (October 24, 1973) War Powers Resolution (November 7, 1973)
117 120 127 130 133 137 139 143 145 149 157 159 160 164
United States entered World War II (December). Japan surrender (August); Ho Chi Minh declares Vietnam independence (September; see Document 1 in the appendix).
The beginning of the Indochina War (December).
Truman speech before Congress: the Truman Doctrine (March).
The victory of Communism in China (October).
The outbreak of the Korean War (June). Ended in July 1953.
Eisenhower’s domino theory (April); the French surrender at Dien Bien Phu (May); Geneva Accords (July).
The beginning of Ngo Dinh Diem presidency in Vietnam (October).
First combat actions of the Viet Cong.
Kennedy is appointed president (January). In South Vietnam there are 900 U.S. soldiers.
The Battle of Ap Bac (January). The assassinations of Diem (November 2) and Kennedy (November 22). In South Vietnam there are 16,000 U.S. soldiers.
August 2: Gulf of Tonkin incident; August 4: second alleged attack; August 10: Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Johnson wins the elections (November). In South Vietnam there are 23,000 U.S. soldiers.
Operation Rolling Thunder begins (March); two U.S. Marine Corps Battalions arrive in South Vietnam (May); Battle of Ia Drang (November). In South Vietnam there are 184,000 U.S. soldiers.
even American presidents, starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt and ending with Gerald R. Ford, were involved with Vietnam, albeit not all at the same level of intensity. Over 30 years of political and military involvement in the region have left deep scars in the culture and history of the United States. Hundreds of studies have been written about the American involvement in Vietnam, with fascinating discussions about the causes that drove the American superpower to get entangled in this war and lose its way, and some would say also its moral compass, in the jungles and the rice paddies of Southeast Asia.1 Although the United States did not suffer a military defeat on the battlefields of South Vietnam, it failed to overpower the enemy facing it. This failure is one of the main roots of the American national trauma. Reading the vast literature written about the war, mostly from the American point of view, one can learn that the crucial turning point in the American involvement in this part of the world took place during the first week of August 1964. On August 4, 1964, the captains of two American destroyers, the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy, reported to the Pacific Fleet Command that, during the night, their ships were attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats.2 This report came on top of a previous report by Captain Harris, the captain of the USS Maddox, indicating that he had been attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats two nights earlier (August 2, 1964).3 When these reports reached Washington, they caused President Lyndon Johnson to ask Congress to authorize him to take military action in order to respond to and even to end the North Vietnamese aggression toward the American allies in Southeast Asia, and especially toward South Vietnam. These attacks, which were collectively called the Gulf of Tonkin incident, caused the American Congress to approve the President’s request
in a joint resolution known as the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which was passed by an overwhelming majority both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. Following this resolution, President Johnson ordered a series of aerial attacks on North Vietnamese targets. In response, North Vietnam, in conjunction with the guerrilla movement in South Vietnam— the Viet Cong—started attacking American targets in South Vietnam. This chain of events caused the intensification of the American involvement, the escalation of the war, and in March 1965, with the arrival of two U.S. Marine Corps Battalions in South Vietnam, the beginning of direct American intervention toward a full Americanization of the war. Although the American military intervention was not preceded by a declaration of war, there are many people, even today, who consider the Gulf of Tonkin resolution as a kind of declaration of war, where Congress approved of the President’s policy calling for the exertion of political and military pressure on North Vietnam in order to force it to end its aggression. Thus, there is no doubt that the first days of August 1964 were a critical moment in the American involvement in Southeast Asia. This involvement, which had started in the 1950s, gradually intensified during the years before the Tonkin incident and reached its peak in the years 1967–1969. During this period, hundreds of thousands of American troops were deployed to South Vietnam, fighting hundreds of battles against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. This book attempts to analyze the political processes which brought about the dramatic events of August 1964. These events led the United States into the Vietnam War, thus causing one of the most severe traumas in the history of the United States. In order to show that the events that took place in the Gulf of Tonkin were indeed a critical moment and a dramatic turning point in the American involvement in Vietnam, this book deals with two topics.The first one concerns how the congressional resolution brought about the escalation of the American involvement in Vietnam, up to the full Americanization of the war. The second topic is the constitutional struggle between the legislative branch (Congress) and the executive branch (the Presidency) on the subject of War Powers, i.e. the struggle by Congress to restore its constitutional right to declare war, which seems to have been eroded during the three decades following World War II. The first chapter describes all the processes which had a direct impact on the American involvement in Vietnam. Thus, it discusses the formulation of American foreign policy in the post-World War II era, as a backdrop for understanding the intensification of the American involvement in Vietnam during the 1950s and especially after 1954. The chapter also discusses the change in the American attitude toward the French war in
Vietnam from neutral to support of the French military effort.The second chapter deals with the deterioration of the political and military situation in Vietnam during the second half of the 1950s, helping the reader to understand the intensification of the American involvement in Vietnam during the presidencies of Eisenhower and Kennedy. The third and the central chapter of the book examines the events that took place during the months preceding the Gulf of Tonkin incident. This chapter analyzes the policy of President Johnson, who entered the White House following the assassination of President Kennedy (November 22, 1963). Additionally, the chapter also delves into the historical argument about whether the attacks on the American destroyers actually took place or were just a conspiracy meant to convince Congress, and through it also the American public, to support Johnson’s aggressive policy toward North Vietnam. This policy was targeted at countering Republican propaganda during an election year, which criticized the incompetence of the Democratic administration in stopping the expansion of global Communism. The rest of the chapter examines the events and processes following the Gulf of Tonkin incident and leading to the escalation of the war and its Americanization. The historical endpoints of the chapter are the two decisions made at the beginning of 1965. The first one was the start of Operation Rolling Thunder, a campaign of strategic bombardments of North Vietnam, and the second was the decision to deploy American ground troops to Vietnam. These two decisions mark the beginning of the Americanization of the war, i.e. the direct military involvement of the United States in the war in Southeast Asia. Thus, we can understand how the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the Congress resolution which immediately followed it constitute a critical moment in American history, the Vietnam War having produced a national trauma in American society and politics, whose effects are still felt today. The last chapter of the book outlines why the book is in a series dealing with critical moments in American history.This chapter deals with the constitutional struggle between the President and Congress on the subject of War Powers. The chapter starts with a brief historical review of the constitutional dimension of War Powers, illustrating how congressional authority on War Powers was eroded during the decades following World War II. The second half of the chapter demonstrates how the Vietnam War in general and the Gulf of Tonkin incident in particular drove Congress into a constitutional struggle to restore its War Powers, as mandated by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution. This struggle ended in November 1973, when a new law was passed with the purpose of precisely defining the interaction between the executive branch and the legislative branch,
limiting the President’s authority to deploy troops outside the borders of the United States. The writing of historical texts about the wars of the United States by American historians usually follows a regular historiographical path. The first phase consists of official historical texts published during the war or immediately afterward. During the second phase, revisionist writing tends to challenge the first phase, severely criticizing not just the publications of the first phase but also the policy that caused the United States to enter the war, and also its management both at the political and the strategic levels. During the third phase we can discern a vivacious argument between the two schools of thought, conducted by people who directly witnessed the events, and thus were influenced by them. Subsequently, with the coalescence of a historical perspective, mostly through the opening of the archives and the passage of time, we can discern two trends developing in parallel. The first trend is the appearance of studies continuing the argument between the two schools, most often written by students of the historians who had participated in the first two phases. In spite of the fact that a historical perspective is already beginning to emerge, these researchers use new archival material to support the arguments of their mentors. The second trend is writing by historians who did not witness the events; their research does not seek to lay the blame on one of the parties, but rather to critically analyze the total system of decision-making before and during the war, while attempting to maintain objectivity.4 This approach views the event as a link in a long historical process, while embedding it within a larger context and treating it not merely as an American event. These historical arguments tend to enrich the research, gradually leading to a certain agreement among historians about some of the central issues. This agreement, in their turn, fosters research about new issues related to the war, such as women in the war and the soldiers’ experience, and even American writing about the character and actions of the enemy. In the historical writing about the Vietnam War, we can identify the various phases of historiographical writing, albeit in a slightly different pattern from the one described above.5 During the war, as well as in the following decade, many studies were published that were severely critical of the management of the war, as well as of the American involvement in Southeast Asia. These studies accused the political apparatus of involving the United States in an unnecessary and immoral war. On the other side, studies whose writers were identified with the American right wing defended the legitimacy and morality of the war as defending the world against Communist aggression. However, these studies tended to criticize the political and senior military officials for “pulling their punches,”
implying that if the military might of the United States had been properly applied, the war could have been won. The discussion of and research into the factors which brought about the American involvement in Vietnam constitute one of the main issues in the academic argument between the warring historiography factions. The orthodox school accepts the Cold War as a historic phenomenon which exerted a strong influence over American decision-makers. In their opinion, the United States identified Communism as a powerful threat to the national security of the United States and its worldwide allies, and this Communist aggression left the United States no other choice but to escalate its involvement in Vietnam. On the other side, revisionist researchers challenge the “Cold War thesis.” Various studies present evidence as to the influence of specific persons over the decision-making process, such as Truman’s determination to fend off Stalin’s aggression, which was hardened by the pressure which Britain and France exerted on him; the influence of cultural and religious factors on President Eisenhower in his unmitigated support of the South Vietnamese president;6 interdepartmental power struggles (involving the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the CIA), as well as President Johnson’s will to improve his public stature and win the 1964 election in order to promote his economic and social agenda.7 It is easy to see that most of the studies about the Vietnam War, both those that have been published and those being written today, examine the war from an American point of view. However, since the end of the Cold War, we can discern a trend of looking at the war from the Communist states’ point of view, including that of North Vietnam. These studies provide new and important insights not only about the support which the Soviet Union and China provided to North Vietnam, but also about the complexity of Soviet–Chinese relations, as well as the relations between the Communist powers and the United States. Thus, these studies add important tiers to the research on the Cold War. However, the most important development in the research on the Vietnam War is its “Vietnamization,” as described by George Herring in an article. He is referring to studies based on Vietnamese archives, and those that critically review the policies of North Vietnam, but also deal with South Vietnam.8 However, studies in this category are few, and are also written by American historians.9 Their importance lies in their critical approach, which certainly cannot be said of the official (translated) documents issued by the Vietnamese government.10 The importance of researching the war from a Vietnamese point of view is derived from the argument about the nature of the Vietnam War. Was it a national war, a civil war where Vietnamese fought against Vietnamese in order to decide
their fate, with each side obtaining outside help, or was the confrontation an integral part of the inter-bloc struggle, i.e. the Cold War?11 These “Vietnamese studies” provide additional insights for understanding the nature of the war. Even if there currently is no consensus, and even if there may never be one, these studies provide a Vietnamese point of view, rather than an American interpretation of the events.12 Over four decades after the end of the American involvement in Vietnam, the war continues to be an open wound and a trauma within the American society and political system. The confrontations in Afghanistan and Iraq and the continuing war against global terrorism keep alive issues concerning the necessity of American military intervention around the globe, especially where fighting against irregular forces or insurgency is involved.13 Current military involvements also have a strong influence on the continuing research into the Vietnam War. Thus, this war continues to engage, in particular the American academy, where new studies and new research trends about the war are directly influenced by the political and military events in which the United States has been involved during the first two decades of the 21st century. The events of August 1964 are discussed, at a varying level of detail, in every study which encompasses the entire history of the Vietnam War, let alone those that examine the factors which caused the direct military intervention by the United States in Vietnam. This fact attests to the importance of these events. Even if there are repeated claims that the attack on the American destroyers never occurred, it is important to discuss the Gulf of Tonkin incident because it was the trigger for the direct military intervention by the United States.Thus, this book intends, to the best of its ability, to present a complete and comprehensive discussion of this turning point in the American involvement in Vietnam. Unlike other cases, where there is a distinct point in time designating the outbreak of war, there is no such “start date” for the Vietnam War. There are many who consider Congress’s Gulf of Tonkin resolution as the possible start date, although (and this can never be emphasized strongly enough) there has never been a formal declaration of war. As mentioned above, there is an argument as to whether the attacks actually took place, and there are those who accuse the Johnson administration of hiding information and even of lying to Congress, and through it to the American public.14 These accusations are based on the fact that Johnson was just a few months before the presidential election and had to counter Republican propaganda which accused the Democratic Party of not presenting an aggressive enough policy against the spread of the
Communist threat. In this context, it is important to mention the meticulous and comprehensive study by Edwin Moise.15 Following an analysis of a wide selection of primary sources, Moise’s conclusion was that the initial attack on the Maddox did indeed happen, but the second attack on the two destroyers did not, the reports of the two captains stemming from an error caused by the malfunction of the ship’s electronic systems because of a strong tropical storm. However, this book has no intention of either taking a side or examining the claims of those who speak of hiding of information. These claims probably belong in the realm of conspiracy theories. Moreover, we can recall the quote by Nicholas Katzenbach, Johnson’s Deputy Attorney General, as brought to us by Marilyn Young in her comprehensive study of the Vietnam War: the Tonkin Gulf incident in itself was an absolute nothing. If it hadn’t been that incident, something else would have come around. I [Katzenbach] don’t think it made one iota of difference in any congressman’s or senator’s vote as to what happened or didn’t happen in the Tonkin Gulf.16
Thus, it is irrelevant to discuss the question of whether there really was an attack, but it is important to understand the underlying process of escalation on the American side. The purpose of this book is to analyze the complex historical processes which led to the incident, and how the 1964 events brought about the intensification of the American involvement in Vietnam, up to a full Americanization of the war less than a year afterward. Thus, this book will be frugal in discussing the events from the Communist side, and especially North Vietnam, although they will occasionally enter the discussion. In other words, the book aspires to be in line with the title of the series: Critical Moments in American History.
NOTES 1 For a thorough overview of the decision-making system that led to the involvement in Vietnam, see: Bernard Greiner, War without Fronts: The USA in Vietnam (London: Bodley Head, 2009), 41–54. 2 I have chosen to use the terms North and South Vietnam both because we can still find new studies using these terms and because these terms were commonly used during the period. 3 A complete and exhaustive review of the events can be found in: Robert D. Schulzinger, A Time for War:The United States and Vietnam, 1941–1975 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997), 150–153.
4 It is important to note that revisionist writing, dealing mostly with the sources and the reasons for the Cold War, i.e. studies belonging to the second generation, accuses the United States of formulating an aggressive policy which was the cause of all the wars (including the Vietnam War). For a summary of the historiographical approaches to the Cold War, see: Odd A. Westad, “The Cold War and the International History of the Twentieth Century,” in: Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd A. Westad (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War (vol. 1): Origins (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011), 1–19. 5 This historiography review does not presume to review all the vast literature that has been and is still being written about the Vietnam War.The mere purpose of this paragraph is to point out the main trends and to locate the events of the Gulf of Tonkin within the wider historiographical framework of the Vietnam War. For a historiographical discussion of the war, see: Gary R. Hess, “The Unending War: Historians and the Vietnam War,” Diplomatic History 18 (2) 1994, 239–264. Although this article provides a partial review only, having been published in 1994, the trends of research as described by Hess persist in the following decades. 6 About the American foreign policy being motivated by a moral mission, see: Steven W. Hook and John Spanier, American Foreign Policy since World War II (Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2016), 10–12, 14–18. 7 An important study dealing with the power struggles within the Johnson administration is the book by Andrew Preston, The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC, and Vietnam (Cambridge, MA, Harvard UP, 2006). 8 George C. Herring, “The Vietnam War, 1945–1975: A Historiography,” in: Antonio S. Thompson and Christos G. Frentzos (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History, 1865 to the Present (New York: Routledge, 2013), 239–240. 9 Among the important studies published in recent years, it’s worth mentioning Lien- Hang T. Nguyen, Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam (Chapel Hill: North Carolina UP, 2012); Pierre Asselin, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War 1954–1965 (Berkley: California UP, 2013). 10 A typical example of such a document is: Military History Institute of Vietnam, Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People’s Army of Vietnam, 1954–1975, translated by Merle L. Pribbenow (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 2002). 11 For a discussion of the nature of the Vietnam War, see: George R. Vickers, “U.S. Strategy and the Vietnam War,” in: Jayne S. Werner and Luu Doan Huynh (eds.), The Vietnam War: Vietnamese and American Perspectives (Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 1993), 113–126; George C. Herring, “What Kind of War Was the Vietnam War,” in: David L. Anderson (ed.), Facing My Lai: Moving Beyond the Massacre (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 1998), 95–105; James R. Ward, “Vietnam=Insurgency or War?,” Military Review 69 (1) 1989, 15–23. 12 In my opinion, the Vietnam War, just like the Korean War, combined three elements. Both Korea and Vietnam had been artificially divided by the superpowers that had not been able to reach an agreement about their political destiny (just like Germany). Thus, the two wars started in an attempt to decide this destiny and rapidly turned into a civil war. With the support of the superpowers, the United States directly and the Soviet Union and China indirectly (China was directly involved in Korea, even if it has never admitted the fact), the two wars became part of the Cold War.
13 In the military context, there is a renaissance in the analysis of the American military activity in Vietnam, especially in the area of counterinsurgency (COIN). These new studies not only add new tiers to the research of the military history of the war, but also serve as historical and theoretical platforms for those who have been and are still active in the COIN domain. 14 An important piece dealing with this aspect is an article by Robert J. Hanyok, “Skunk, Bogies, Silent Hounds, and the Flying Fish: The Gulf of Tonkin Mystery, 2–4 August 1964,” Cryptologic Quarterly 19 (4) –20 (1) 2000–2001, 1–55. This article was initially published under a top-secret classification in the National Security Agency periodical. It was later published almost in its entirety on the NSA website in November 2005, together with a large collection of documents about the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The article can be found at: http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/ NSAEBB132/relea00012.pdf 15 Edwin E. Moise, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War (Chapel Hill: North Carolina UP, 1996). 16 Marilyn B. Young, The Vietnam Wars 1945–1990 (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 120.
The Road to Vietnam The United States Foreign Policy after World War II
n order to understand the events that took place in the summer of 1964, one must have an understanding of two historical frameworks. The first—external (macro)—is that of American foreign policy during the post- World-War-II era, and the second—internal (micro)—is the U.S. policy toward Vietnam as influenced by the external historical framework. This chapter focuses on outlining the connecting lines between the global events and the roots of the American involvement in Vietnam. Thus, we can outline the framework which will help us understand the development and progression of the American policy toward the evolving conflict in Vietnam. This chapter does not analyze the complexity of the political history of the beginning of the Cold War, and neither will it look for the guilty parties responsible for its outbreak; rather, it will discuss the central processes and events which characterized this era, and which had a direct impact on the gradual development of the American involvement in Vietnam. In other words, the factors that drove the United States into Vietnam require a general discussion of the position and role of the United States within the international system, as shaped by the aftermath of World War II.
AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY AFTER WORLD WAR II The defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, combined with the decline of the political power of European states, especially Britain and France, after the war, created a political vacuum in the post-war world. Gradually the United States and the Soviet Union started to enter this space, attempting to bring parts of it into their spheres of influence.1 The designers of American foreign policy entered the new era carrying a unique cultural legacy, especially when compared to the American view of
THE ROAD TO VIETNAM
the political culture of the other Western democracies.2 This new era posed new and unfamiliar challenges for the United States, which suddenly faced a powerful political and ideological adversary—the Soviet Union. In a gradual process, spanning several years after the end of the war, the United States accepted (and some might say took upon itself) the powers and roles previously held by its Western allies and the defeated Axis powers. During this era, the United States employed its economic, military, and technological resources, fully developed as a result of the war, in an attempt to rebuild the post-war world and establish a new international order.3 It would be a mistake to state that the Cold War immediately followed the end of World War II, or that American or Soviet political activism was the cause of the inter-power confrontation.4 Moreover, from examining President Truman’s policy during the first year of his presidency, it is clear that he was trying to follow in President Roosevelt’s footsteps. However, the idea of inter-bloc cooperation in the post-war world gradually waned during 1946.5 It is important to remember that while the Cold War was the predominant phenomenon in shaping the post-World-War-II world, it should be treated as a historical event that did not take place in a void but was rather one of the most important consequences of the war. Throughout history, and particularly in the history of the New Era, we can identify a struggle between two or more powers for regional or global hegemony. The struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union is, thus, just another manifestation of this historical paradigm. The uniqueness of the post-World-War-II world superpower struggle lies in the immense military might of the two powers, and the formation of a military balance of terror, which prevented a direct military confrontation but did not prevent the continuation of the military aspect of the struggle via a long series of proxy wars.
Sidebar 1.1: Proxy War A proxy war is an armed conflict between two states or non-state actors which act at the instigation of or on behalf of other parties that are not directly involved in the hostilities. In order for a conflict to be considered a proxy war, there must be a direct, long-term relationship between the external actors and the belligerents involved. The aforementioned relationship usually takes the form of funding, military training, arms, or other forms of material assistance which assist a belligerent party in sustaining its war effort.
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The Cold War did not erupt because of a single event creating a chain reaction, but rather as the result of an ongoing process, which gradually escalated between 1945 and 1949 and which involved many issues.6 We can state that during the post-war era an atmosphere of mutual apprehension developed between the two superpowers.7 The death of President Roosevelt (April 12, 1945) and the transfer of the presidency to Harry Truman did not bring about a dramatic change in the United States’ attitude toward the Soviet Union. Moreover, Truman, who had inherited the framework of the Yalta accords signed by his predecessor, together with Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, and Winston Churchill, the British prime minister, did not deviate from this framework, in spite of the Soviet breach of the articles dealing with the political future of Poland.8 Despite Truman’s rough and aggressive style, compared to Roosevelt’s mild and peaceful tone, we can state that, at least during 1945, Truman remained loyal to Roosevelt’s legacy. This legacy aspired to create a new world order, where the role of the United States and the Soviet Union would be to prevent another global conflict of the magnitude of World War II. A clear expression of the continuity in American foreign policy and of the will to realize the vision of collaboration with the Soviet Union can be found in the agreements reached between Truman and Stalin during the Potsdam conference (July 17–August 2, 1945) on the issues crucial to the national security needs of the Soviet Union,9 in spite of the worrying signals concerning Stalin’s intentions toward Eastern Europe.10 In contrast to the spirit of cooperation that prevailed in Potsdam and the various understandings reached by the powers, toward the end of 1945 and at the beginning of 1946 the one-sidedness of Stalin’s policies, especially those concerning Eastern Europe, started to become apparent to the Truman administration.11 These states, which had been liberated by the Red Army from the yoke of the Nazi occupation, were rapidly undergoing a process of “Sovietization” that was gradually turning the Eastern European states into satellites of the Soviet Union.12 Additionally, in respect to East Germany, it soon became clear that Stalin had no intention of fulfilling his commitment, given in Potsdam, to regard Germany as one political-economic unit, thus cementing the understanding within the American administration that the Soviet Union was laying the foundations for the establishment of East Germany as a separate political entity.13 The United States also perceived signs of Soviet aggression in several locations on the southern and southeastern fringes of Europe. Thus, for example, the Soviet Union was applying heavy pressure on Turkey, demanding that it allow a Soviet military presence in the Bosphorus and Dardanelle straits, and in addition refusing to pull its military forces out of the northern part of Iran.14 This must be viewed in conjunction with the
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impasse and paralysis prevailing in the forum of foreign ministers of the victorious allies, which was operating in parallel to the United Nations Security Council. This forum was supposed to become the political infrastructure of the new world order, and aid in the resolution of international crises.
THE BEGINNING OF THE COLD WAR At the beginning of 1946, two speeches were made which reflect the increasing tension between the Soviet Union and the West.15 The first speech was delivered by Stalin (February 9, 1946), in which he emphasized the unbridgeable chasm between Communism and Capitalism, and outlined the path to the ultimate victory of Communism:16 Marxists have more than once stated that the capitalist system of world economy contains the elements of a general crisis and military conflicts, that, in view of that, the development of world capitalism in our times does not proceed smoothly and evenly, but through crises and catastrophic wars. The point is that the uneven development of capitalist countries usually leads, in the course of time, to a sharp disturbance of the equilibrium within the world system of capitalism, and that group of capitalist countries [that] regards itself as being less securely provides [sic] with raw materials and markets usually attempts to change the situation and to redistribute “spheres of influence” in its own favor by employing armed force. As a result of this, the capitalist world is split into two hostile camps, and war breaks out between them.
The second speech (March 5, 1946), known as the “Fulton Speech” or “Iron Curtain” speech, was delivered by the ousted British prime minister Winston Churchill at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, with President Truman in attendance:17 A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organization intend to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytizing tendencies…From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe…all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet
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sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow…The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far…there is no true democracy.18
In his speech Churchill drew a geographical-ideological line, which he named the “Iron Curtain,” dividing Europe into two blocs:19 the Eastern Bloc, ruled by the Soviet Union, and the Western Bloc, under the leadership of the United States. These two speeches can be viewed as the final shattering of Roosevelt’s vision of cooperation between the two superpowers of the post-war world. Both speeches underline the ideological dimension as having a decisive influence on the development and conduct of the Cold War. However, we cannot ignore the other political, geopolitical, and economic factors which also had a significant influence on the Cold War.20 On February 22, 1946, George Kennan, the American chargé d’affaires in Moscow, sent an 8,000-word telegram to Secretary of State George Marshall.21 The telegram, which became known as the “Long Telegram,” was published a year later as an article in the prestigious Foreign Affairs journal.22 In his telegram, Kennan made a central argument which became one of the underpinnings of American foreign policy throughout the Cold War. His main proposition was that the origins of the Soviet/Russian foreign policy were deeply rooted in Russia’s historical and ideological heritage, and that the Communist revolution and the establishment of the Soviet Union had not brought about a dramatic change in the underlying principles of Russian foreign policy. Since the hostility toward the West is so deeply ingrained in the Russian/Soviet ideology, no external force can change or influence it, either by reconciliation or by violence. Kennan believed that the Soviet worldview is dichotomist, conceiving of two adversaries—Socialism and Capitalism—that will continue to fight until the absolute collapse of the Capitalist system due to the contradictions built into Capitalism, which will come apart under continuous and systematic Soviet pressure. In the face of this deterministic hostility, Kennan suggested a policy of systematic containment of the Soviet Union, which should attempt to thwart any future Communist attempt at expansion beyond what the Soviet Union had already gained by the end of World War II.23 His suggestions implied that the optimal course of action for the United States was the establishment of a series of regional defense treaties, encircling
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the Soviet Union and preventing it from violating the status quo and disrupting the stability of the various regions, thus maintaining global stability. Meanwhile, the United States should await the collapse of the Soviet Union due to the weaknesses inherent in its economic system and to internal insurgencies, brought about by its reign of terror and oppression. The impact of the Long Telegram can be attributed not just to Kennan’s realistic analysis, but also to the timing of the telegram’s arrival in Washington. This coincided with a series of Soviet actions in Eastern Europe, Iran, Turkey, and Greece, which the United States considered one-sided, at a time when there was a need to redefine American foreign policy.24 President Truman, lacking any experience in foreign policy, asked his advisors to form a plan of action in the face of Soviet political aggression. Kennan’s telegram arrived at the right moment, imprinting on the consciousness of the most senior officials in the administration a line of reasoning that explained the events of the end of 1945 and the beginning of 1946, and gave them a logical significance based on historical analysis. Thus, Kennan laid down the theoretical basis for the formulation of a comprehensive policy, which provided a context for the wide range of Soviet activities within the global framework.25 The telegram soon became an idea that would eventually give birth to the “containment policy,” which would become the cornerstone of American international policy during the first two decades of the Cold War, and a significant factor in the American involvement in Vietnam. About a year after the Long Telegram, the containment policy was moving from theory to reality, due to events which took place in the European theater. During 1946, the civil war in Greece was escalating, and the political pressure, accompanied by military threat, which the Soviet Union was applying in Turkey increased. The aid which Britain was providing to the two states was rapidly becoming a heavy burden on the British economy, and the British Treasury was vehemently demanding a cut in expenses, in a desperate attempt to rebuild the British economy after the damages sustained during the war.26 Ernest Bevin, the British foreign minister, informed the American administration that Britain would have to pull its military forces out of Greece and could no longer guarantee Turkey’s defense. He then expressed the hope that the United States would assume the burden. This announcement by the British foreign minister caused Truman, on March 12, 1947, to ask Congress for emergency aid to Greece and Turkey (see Document 2 in the appendix): it must be the policy of United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure.27
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The American Congress approved the policy embodied in this speech, including the emergency aid to Greece and Turkey. The speech, which later became known as the Truman Doctrine, had significance beyond the matter at hand. Truman actually declared that the United States would not revert to its traditional isolationist policy and that it would employ a policy of containment against any attempts by Communism to advance out of the areas which it had conquered in World War II.28 A short time afterward, the American administration realized that providing aid to Greece and Turkey would not suffice, and that many other European states were in need of massive economic aid, due to shortages of food, unstable currencies, high unemployment, and the need to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by the war. The economic crises caused the Communist parties to grow stronger, especially in Belgium, France, and Italy. Consequently, in June 1947, American Secretary of State George Marshall, in a speech at Harvard University, called for a conference which would review Europe’s economic needs and formulate a European Recovery Program, in order to help Europe recover from the devastation of World War II. Marshall intentionally omitted any ideological dimension from his speech and emphasized that his call was addressed to the Eastern European states as well.29 The Soviet Union objected to Marshall’s idea and started a political campaign against its implementation. However, the Soviet pressure did not stop the American economic aid program to Western Europe, later known as the Marshall Plan.30 In the summer of 1948, the conference took place in Paris, with the participation of sixteen European states, resulting in the establishment of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), which coordinated the economic aid provided by the United States. Gradually, Western Europe recovered from the economic crisis that had followed the war. Production was growing, the volume of trade increased, and in some states unemployment all but disappeared. These trends brought about a gradual increase in the standard of living and, in parallel, weakened the influence of the Communist parties in the Western European states, and in France and Italy they were even outlawed. The economic recovery of Western Europe actually deepened the gap between East and West. The Marshall Plan defined the economic dimension of the Cold War, dividing Europe in the economic sense as well as the political. The economic divide became more marked with the establishment of COMECON, an economic organization which was seemingly meant to combat the OEEC but, in reality, served only to strengthen Soviet political control over the Eastern European states.31 During 1948, whatever cooperation still existed between the four powers that governed occupied Germany rapidly dwindled. On March
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20, 1948, the Soviets withdrew from the discussions of the German supervisory council, thus ending the last remnants of cooperation between the Soviet Union and the West, without having resolved the German problem.32 Three months later, on June 24, Stalin ordered the closing of all land routes leading from West Germany to Berlin, enforcing a blockade of the city. Since the agreement signed at the end of the war guaranteed three aerial corridors to Berlin, the American and British air forces established the “Berlin Airlift,” which provided food, coal, and medications to the beleaguered city. The Berlin blockade was the most acute political and military challenge which the United States had faced vis-à-vis the Soviet Union in the first years after World War II. Stalin’s goal was to force the United States to abandon West Berlin, a Western stronghold in the middle of Communist territory. The United States realized that attempting to break the blockade by force could cause a war between the two superpowers, although the legal side of the blockade was vague, to say the least. However, attacking the aircraft of the Air Lift would have meant that the Soviet Union would be the first side to use force.33 The result was a political stalemate, which became a test of the determination of the two adversaries. On May 12, 1949, the land blockade was lifted. During the 321 days of the blockade, the United States and Britain had proven their tenacity in facing their old- time war ally. The chain of events leading During the Berlin Airlift the planes and pilots to the Berlin blockade brought of the United States and England which about the establishment of brought supplies to the besieged city were the North Atlantic Treaty the same ones that had bombed Berlin a Organization (NATO). On April few years earlier. 4, 1949, the representatives of ten European states signed an agreement establishing a mutual defense treaty for the duration of 20 years. The ten states were: Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Britain, France,34 Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Portugal, later joined by the United States and Canada. Turkey and Greece joined the alliance in 1952 and West Germany in 1955.35 The establishment of NATO defined the military dimension of the Cold War, but it also had some political, economic, and even ideological aspects, i.e. the will to defend liberty and democracy. Article 5 of the treaty asserted that, in case of an attack on any NATO member, the other members would come to its aid. This article was unprecedented for the United States. Ever since the foundation of the republic, the United States established defense treaties only in times of war, and with a specific military goal.36 Now, for the first time, the United States was part of a
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long-term defense alliance established in peacetime.This was the symbolic end of the age of American isolationism.37 Thus, a political status quo developed in Europe. Both sides realized that any incursion on the other side’s sphere of influence would require the use of military force. Stalin had become resigned to the idea that, with the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia and the establishment of East Germany, the era of expansion of the Soviet Union in Europe and the extension of its indirect rule in the continent had come to an end. Additionally, the influence of the Communist parties in Western Europe was on the decline. If we add the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the assertive stance during the Berlin crisis, and the establishment of NATO to the picture, we can clearly state that the West had abandoned Roosevelt’s aspirations for a new world order based on cooperation with the Soviet Union. Toward the end of 1949, it became clear that the West was willing to fight in order to defend its liberty. On the other side, the Soviet Union made it clear that it intended to keep, without compromise, its territorial holdings in Eastern Europe and to repel any attempt to unsettle its position. In fact, 1949 saw the crystallization of the political status quo which was maintained (including by the nuclear balance of terror) throughout the Cold War. Thus, we can see how, toward the end of the 1940s, the political tensions in Europe were gradually ebbing, at the same time that tensions were mounting in East Asia.
FROM WESTERN EUROPE TO EAST ASIA As mentioned above, during the first years following World War II, American attention was focused on the turn of events in Europe and the rehabilitation of the European states. However, at the end of 1949, American foreign and security policy sustained two hard blows. The first was the discovery that the Soviet Union had detonated a nuclear device, thus depriving the United States of its atomic monopoly, which it had hoped to maintain for some time.38 The self-confidence of the American public was severely shaken, and rumors of espionage within the Manhattan Project and even within the high ranks of government abounded. The second blow was the astounding victory of Mao Zedong and the Communist Party in the Chinese civil war, turning China into a Communist state. These two events created a severe trauma in American public opinion, the U.S. having suddenly found itself to be in a dangerous political and security reality. The Republican Party blamed the Truman administration for the “loss of China,” claiming that pro-Communist
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elements within the State Department had caused half a billion Chinese citizens to fall under Communist rule. Inside the United States, suspicion and fear of Communist subversive elements increased, resulting in a campaign of invasive inquests into the past, lifestyle, and opinions of public figures suspected of supporting Communism or having Communist affiliations. This campaign of “uncovering the internal enemy” reached its apex in the inquests conducted by the Republican senator Joseph McCarthy. In February 1950, McCarthy officially announced that he was in possession of a list of over 200 persons employed by the State Department who, according to his accusations, were active Communists. The fear of Communist expansion further intensified after North Korea invaded the south in June 1950.39 Several days after the Communist invasion of South Korea, the United States started sending troops into the peninsula. By its immediate military response, the U.S. clearly signaled that it would not suffer any violation of the post-World-War-II status quo and that it was willing to do whatever was necessary in order to restore it. In other words, the Korean War was the first expression of the implementation of the containment policy, as derived from the Truman Doctrine.40 In June 1950, the North
Sidebar 1.2: The Loss of China The “loss of China” refers, in U.S. political discourse, to the unexpected Communist Party takeover of mainland China from the American-backed Nationalists in 1949, and therefore the “loss of China to Communism.” The “loss of China” was portrayed by critics of the Truman administration as an “avoidable catastrophe.” It led to a “rancorous and divisive debate” and the issue was exploited by the Republicans at the polls in 1952. It also played a large role in the rise of Joseph McCarthy, who, with his allies, sought scapegoats for that “loss,” notably targeting Owen Lattimore, an influential scholar of Central Asia. In his speech on February 7, 1950, McCarthy blamed Secretary of State Dean Acheson, whom he called “this pompous diplomat in striped pants,” for the “loss of China,” making the sensationalist claim: “While I cannot take the time to name all of the men in the State Department who have been named as members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring, I have here in my hand a list of 205…a list of names that were known to the Secretary of State and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.” The speech, which McCarthy delivered again shortly afterward in Salt Lake City, made him into a national figure.
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Korean aggression was interpreted by the United States as a Soviet offensive move against the United States and its Asian allies, and as proof that the Soviet Union was, in reality, fighting a proxy war through North Korea and China.41 As we shall see, the Korean War brought about a dramatic change in American foreign policy in East Asia, extending far beyond its direct involvement in the war. The end of World War II created a political vacuum in the region which had previously been under European rule, mostly by Britain and France. This vacuum was beginning to be filled by national liberation movements, many of which were led by persons having a Communist orientation and aspiring to take over the government of their nations, or at least to become a senior partner in government. Many of these movements had fought the Japanese occupation after the Western powers were driven out of their countries. After the end of the war and the gradual return of the imperialistic powers to their former colonies, military confrontations with these liberation movements erupted, such as in Malaya and the Philippines.42 This chain of events caused a dramatic change in the attitude of the United States toward the French war in Vietnam, which had started in 1946. The United States also started supporting France in its war against the Communist forces in Indochina.43 American support consisted of arms shipments initially, without sending American troops. However, in May 1954, following the French predicament in Dien Bien Phu described below, the Eisenhower administration had to consider direct military involvement. Toward the end of 1953, the French high command in Vietnam decided to force the Communist forces, led by Ho Chi Minh and Giap, into fighting a battle around the Vietnamese village of Dien Bien Phu.The village is located near the border with Laos and was adjacent to a main road used for the transportation of weapons and military supplies from China to the Viet Minh. The fighting started during March 1954 and the Viet Minh forces gradually conquered the satellite posts protecting the main French post. The battle of Dien Bien Phu was an important step in the development of the American involvement in Vietnam, and during the fighting there were intense discussions between the French high command and the top officials in the American military establishment. The French chief of staff, General Paul- Henri Ely, asked the United States to consider direct intervention (Operation Vulture) in order to save Dien Bien Phu and restore the French military initiative.44 Vice President Richard Nixon supported the French request, claiming that American soldiers should be sent to Vietnam to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the French soldiers. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Arthur Radford presented
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Operation Vulture to President Eisenhower. According to the proposed plan, B-29 (Superfortress) heavy bombers taking off from bases in the Philippines and attack planes taking off from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers would bomb the Vietnamese forces around Dien Bien Phu. Radford even proposed the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Research undertaken by the Pentagon stated that three bombs should do the job.45 President Eisenhower, as we might remember, was committed to the containment policy launched by his predecessor in the White House, President Harry Truman. This policy stated that the United States, using all the means at its disposal including military power, should contain any attempt by Communism to spread outside the areas which it controlled at the end of World War II. The practical aspect of this policy was fully demonstrated during the Korean War. In an interview in April 1954, President Eisenhower stated that should Vietnam fall into Communist hands, the other states of Southeast Asia would fall over like dominoes, opening the way for Communism to spread toward Australia and Japan (see Document 3 in the appendix).46 The “domino theory” drove the American policy on Vietnam and was one of the main causes for the increased American involvement in Vietnam, until the complete Americanization of the war during 1965. President Eisenhower, an advocate of direct American involvement, wanted the United Kingdom to participate in the effort too. However, Britain declined the offer and suggested that a political solution should be sought within the framework of the Geneva Convention (as discussed later in the text). Significantly, the Army Chief of Staff General Matthew Ridgeway, the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Robert Carney, and the Commandant of the Marines General Lemuel Shephard vehemently opposed any American intervention. Their opinion was that aerial power would not do the job and that the United States would have to put boots on the ground. Air Force Chief of Staff General Nathan Twining supported an American bombardment, but only as a one-time operation.47 In April 1954, the United States was still under the shadow of the “Korean Trauma.” There was a fear that the United States would find itself again entangled in a bloody war in Asia, near the Chinese border. The senior military command warned the decision-makers in the White House, as well as the State and Defense departments, against an Americanization of the war. This may be one of the rare occasions where the military command was against going to war. At the end of some very intensive deliberations, the United States decided to increase the military aid to France, but not to intervene directly. Thus, President Eisenhower became the first president who had to decide about a possible intervention by the United States in Vietnam. However, his decision
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against sending American troops to Vietnam only delayed intervention by a decade.48 The last phase of the fighting started on April 29 around the airfield. By May 4, the French high command realized that there was no hope for victory. The last attack took place on May 6, and the surviving French troops surrendered on the following day. During the siege, France lost 1,600 KIA (killed in action), a similar number of MIA (missing in action), and about 4,800 wounded. Some 8,000 were captured, and more than half did not survive captivity. The Viet Minh lost about 7,900 KIA and nearly 15,000 wounded. Even after the defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the French continued to control the cities, as well as the deltas of the Red River and the Mekong.Their control of the southern provinces of Vietnam, as well as Laos and Cambodia, remained intact.49 However, the defeat at Dien Bien Phu marks the death knell for French colonialism in Southeast Asia. Even before the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, an international conference had been convened in Geneva. This convention, organized by France, hosted delegates from Western states, including the United States, as well as from the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The official purpose of the convention was to end the confrontation in Vietnam, but additional issues, such as the partitioning of Korea, were also on the table. On June 21, 1954, the Geneva Accords were signed, and the war came to an end. The decisions made in Geneva opened a new era in the American involvement in Vietnam, as described in the following chapter.
NOTES 1 Joseph Smith, The Cold War, 1945–1991 (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998), 1–8. On the change in the global power balance which evolved from the military and political actions during World War II, see: Richard Crockett, The Fifty Years War: The United States and the Soviet Union in World Politics, 1941–1991 (London: Routledge, 1995), 39–42, and also Steven W. Hook and John Spanier, American Foreign Policy since World War II (Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2016), 7–8. It is important to remember that one of the most important outcomes of the war was the process of decolonization, accelerated by the decline of the power of the imperialist European powers, together with the vanquishing of Japanese imperialism. Actually, decolonization was a central process in the international dynamic of the post-war era, in parallel with the Cold War. See: Woodruff D. Smith, European Imperialism in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall, 1982), 237–239; Dietmar Rothermund, Decolonization (New York: Routledge, 2006), 43–44. For an extensive discussion of the transfer of power from Europe to the United States and the Soviet Union, see: Donald W. White, The American Century: The Rise and Decline of the United States as a World Power (Yale, CT:Yale UP, 1996), 28–46.
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2 On the uniqueness of the American perception of the political system of the United States, see: Tony Smith, “Making the World Safe for Democracy,” in: Michael J. Hogan (ed.), The Ambiguous Legacy: U.S. Foreign Relations in the “American Century” (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999), 30–51; White, The American Century, 65–85. On the forming of a new world order in American foreign policy during the transition from Roosevelt to Truman, see: Warren I. Cohen (ed.), The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations (vol. 4): America in the Age of Soviet Power, 1945–1991 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993), 3–20. 3 For a discussion of American strengths, its geopolitical advantage and economic power, as having a decisive influence on the forming of foreign policy in the post- WWII era, see: White, The American Century, 47–64. The most significant document representing this idea is probably the Atlantic Charter, which Roosevelt and Churchill signed in August 1941, prior to the United States’ entry into the war. In the conference at the end of which the charter was issued, the two leaders discussed the shape of the post-war world: objection to any conquest or annexation against the wishes of the people concerned; honoring the right of nations to self-determination; global disarmament; the guarantee of worldwide freedom of navigation; economic cooperation between states and, above all, working for “a world free of want and fear.” Since the document implies an American commitment to mold the post-war world, we can deduce that the charter constituted a declaration of intent or a moral obligation by President Roosevelt to abandon the separatist policies of the United States. On Roosevelt’s wish for a new world order based on cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union, see: Ronald E. Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union 1917–1991 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998), 39–43. For the text of the Atlantic Charter, see: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/wwii/atlantic.asp 4 Günter Bischof, “The Origins of the Cold War at Home and Abroad,” in: Antonio S. Thompson and Christos G. Frentzos (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History, 1865 to the Present (New York: Routledge, 2013), 169–174. 5 On the gradual change in President Truman’s political line of thought, see: Simon Serfaty, American Foreign Policy in a Hostile World: Dangerous Years (New York: Praeger, 1984), 43–55; Powaski, The Cold War, 65–71. 6 For an extensive review of the events which took place between 1945 and 1949, see: Cohen (ed.), The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations (vol. 4), 21–57. 7 John W. Mason, The Cold War, 1945–1991 (London: Routledge, 1997), 2–8; David S. Painter, The Cold War: An International History (London: Routledge, 1999), 4–14. 8 During the Yalta conference, the Soviet Union made a commitment to conduct democratic elections in Poland, based on wide representation. 9 On Potsdam, see: John W. Young, Cold War and Détente, 1941–91 (London: Longman, 1993), 161. 10 About President Truman as following in Roosevelt’s footsteps and his change of mind following the Potsdam conference, see: G. Fraser and Donette Murray, America and the World since 1945 (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 15–17; Cohen (ed.), The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations (vol. 4), 17–20. 11 J.P.D. Dunbabin, The Cold War: The Great Powers and Their Allies (London: Longman, 1994), 58–63. 12 On this subject, see: Norman Naimark, “The Sovietization of Eastern Europe, 1944– 1953,” in: Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd A. Westad (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War (vol. 1): Origins (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011), 175–197.
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13 We must remember that from the Soviet point of view the United States had also taken some aggressive steps, such as the abrupt discontinuation of the Lend-Lease shipments; however, since this book deals with the United States, we will continue to focus on the American point of view. 14 In 1942, the Soviet Union signed an agreement with Britain, according to which all foreign military forces were to leave Iran six months after the end of World War II. This military presence had been crucial during the war, in order to secure the supply route to the Soviet Union. 15 Fraser and Murray, America and the World since 1945, 17–19. 16 The text of the speech can be viewed at: www.marx2mao.com/Stalin/SS46.html 17 The original speech is available for listening at: www.youtube.com/watch?v= FoRwqKGIk9M 18 For the full text of the speech, see: www.historyplace.com/speeches/ironcurtain.htm 19 It is worth mentioning that Churchill was not the first to use the term “iron curtain” to describe a boundary separating two warring ideologies. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, wrote in May 1943 in his weekly newspaper Das Reich that if the Nazis should lose the war, an iron curtain would fall over enormous territory controlled by the Soviet Union, behind which nations would be slaughtered. However, it was Churchill’s speech which was identified with the term, making it the defining phrase describing the global struggle between the two superpowers, i.e. the Cold War. See: Fraser and Murray, America and the World since 1945, 21–22. 20 In this context, see the discussion in: Mark Kramer, “Ideology and the Cold War,” Review of International Studies 25 (4) 1999, 539–541. 21 The full text of the Long Telegram can be found at: www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/coldwar/documents/pdf/6-6.pdf 22 The article was published under the pseudonym Mr. X: “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” Foreign Affairs 35 (4) 1947, 566–582. Kennan’s name was not mentioned because the Secretary of State did not want the article to be interpreted as an expression of the formal policy of the United States since Kennan continued to serve as a senior official of the State Department. 23 Dunbabin, The Cold War, 80–81; Hook and Spanier, American Foreign Policy since World War II, 36–38; Fraser and Murray, America and the World since 1945, 19–21. 24 Hook and Spanier, American Foreign Policy since World War II, 8–10. 25 See also the discussion in: John L. Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1982), 25–53. 26 Dunbabin, The Cold War, 82. 27 For the full text of Truman’s speech before Congress, see: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/ 20th_century/trudoc.asp 28 Young, Cold War, 280–281. For more about the Truman Doctrine, see: Crockett, The Fifty Years War, 72–76; Fraser and Murray, America and the World since 1945, 22–25; Hook and Spanier, American Foreign Policy since World War II, 41-44. On Truman’s view of Communism as an imperialist entity, see: Tony Smith, America’s Mission: The United States and Worldwide Struggle for Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2012), 128–139. 29 Mark A. Stoler, George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century (Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers, 1989), 162–168. 30 Dunbabin, The Cold War, 90–95; Fraser and Murray, America and the World since 1945, 25– 27. For more information on the Marshall Plan, see: Crockett, The FiftyYears War, 76–80.
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31 On the economic dimension of the Cold War, see: Jan F. Triska and David D. Finley, Soviet Foreign Policy (London: Macmillan, 1968), 205–208. On the difference in the economic power of the superpowers, see: Crockett, The Fifty Years War, 114–117. 32 On this subject, see: Hans-Peter Schwartz, “The Division of Germany,” in: Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd A. Westad (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War (vol. 1): Origins (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011), 137–149. 33 Young, Cold War, 111–112. 34 In 1966, France withdrew its forces from NATO, but did not renounce its commitment to come to the aid of the alliance in the case of war against the Soviet Union. 35 By joining NATO, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg chose a pro- American orientation. In fact, by joining NATO they abandoned their long-standing Neutralist tradition, which had not helped them during World War II. Spain, being a Fascist state, was not invited to join the treaty. However, during the 1950s, it signed several agreements with the United States, allowing, in return for economic aid from the United States, the United States to establish aerial and naval bases within its territory. Spain officially joined NATO in May 1982. 36 This was the legacy of President Washington, which he described in his farewell speech in 1796. 37 Crockett, The Fifty Years War, 80–82. See also: Fraser and Murray, America and the World since 1945, 41–43. 38 See: Marc Trachtenberg, “American Policy and the Shifting Nuclear Balance,” in: Melvyn P. Leffler and David S. Painter (eds.), Origins of the Cold War: An International History (New York: Routledge, 1994), 108–117. 39 See: Regin Schmidt, Red Scare: FBI and the Origins of Anticommunism in the United States (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2000), 365–368. 40 For a general review of the Korean War and its implications for American foreign policy, see: Cohen (ed.), The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations (vol. 4), 58–80. 41 On the influence of the Korean War on Europe and East Asia, see: Mason, The Cold War, 1945–1991, 19–23. 42 Michael H. Hunt and Steven I. Levine, “Revolutionary Movement in Asia and the Cold War,” in: Melvyn P. Leffler and David S. Painter (eds.), Origins of the Cold War: An International History (New York: Routledge, 1994), 258–272. 43 On the influence of the Korean War on the American policy toward the French war in Indochina, see: John Prados, Vietnam:The Unwinnable War, 1945–1975 (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 2009), 22–23; Robert D. Schulzinger, A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941–1975 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997), 44–50; Larry H. Addington, America’s War in Vietnam (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2000), 38–39; Spencer C. Tucker, Vietnam (Lexington: Kentucky UP, 1999), 56–57. 44 See: John R. Nordell, The Undetected Enemy: French and American Miscalculations at Dien Bien Phu (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1995), 71–89. 45 Pentagon Papers (vol. 1), 97–98. 46 www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/ps11.htm See also: Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower (vol. 2): The President (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984), 179–180. About the domino theory as a factor in increasing the American Commitment to Vietnam, see: John W. Young, Cold War and Détente 1941–91 (London: Longman, 1993), 126, 284–285.
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47 For a review of the attitude of the American military establishment toward the French war, see: Robert Buzzanco, Masters of War: Military Dissent and Politics in the Vietnam Era (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996), 25–35. 48 About decision-making processes and the discussions within the Eisenhower administration during the fighting in Dien Bien Phu, see: Ronald H. Spector, Advice and Support: The Early Years of the U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1941–1960 (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1983), 191–214. 49 John Prados, “Assessing Dien Bien Phu,” in: Mark A. Lawrence and Fredrik Logevall (eds.), The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2007), 221–224.
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resident Eisenhower’s years in the White House clearly show that his administration continued the foreign policy of his predecessor, President Harry Truman. Although Republican propaganda during the 1952 election campaign strongly attacked President Truman’s containment policy, claiming that it preserved the status quo and abandoned hundreds of millions to life under totalitarian rule, the foreign policy of the Eisenhower administration demonstrates adherence to the policies initiated during the Truman era. In fact, President Eisenhower’s time in the White House brought about a continuation of the containment policy while expanding the geopolitical domain of the Cold War to new regions, namely the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. Thus, we can see that, during the 1950s, the Cold War became global, a trend which became even more prominent under the Kennedy administration. Both President Eisenhower and President Kennedy who followed him believed that in order to guarantee the national security of the United States it was essential to prevent Communism from spreading all over the world. Thus, there is hardly any doubt that both presidents believed in the continuation of the containment policy, i.e. a policy which would prevent Communism from taking over new areas or establishing states with pro- Communist regimes. The focus of this book is the expansion of the Cold War into Southeast Asia, and the increased involvement of the United States in the region during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. This chapter starts with a review of the resolutions of the Geneva Convention, and their influence on the actions taken by the Eisenhower administration in order to stop Communist expansion in Southeast Asia. The rest of the chapter deals with the political and military moves during the Kennedy administration. Thus, the chapter sets the scene for the
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events of the summer of 1964, events that were, indeed, a critical moment in American history, marking the end of one era and the beginning of another.
THE GENEVA CONVENTION The Geneva Convention opened on April 26, 1954, about two weeks before the surrender of the French garrison in Dien Bien Phu. This would be the place for discussions and decisions concerning Indochina, although the conference also discussed other East- Asia- related issues, including Korea. The American delegate to the talks, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, soon decided to pull the United States out of the talks. The reasons were twofold. First, Dulles understood, right from the start, that any agreement reached by the conference would not be acceptable to the United States. Second, he refused to sit at the same table with the representatives of Communist China, since at that time the United States had not yet recognized Communist China as a legitimate political entity representing the Chinese people. Thus, the United States was represented at the conference by low-level officials who served as observers, reporting the developments in the talks to the State Department.1 The Vietnamese delegation demanded the establishment of a unified state of Vietnam, in an attempt to leverage their military victory into a political gain. However, both the Chinese and the Soviet delegates supported the French proposal for the temporary division of Vietnam at the 17th parallel. The USSR and China feared that demands for unification would encourage similar demands in Korea and Germany, thus causing the Communists to lose control of these countries. At the end of long discussions, the Geneva Agreement was signed on July 21, restructuring Indochina’s political system. Laos and Cambodia were established as independent states, but the most important decision was the partition of Vietnam into two states, with a six-kilometer-wide demilitarized zone (DMZ) between them, whose purpose was to prevent any military incidents that might rekindle the war. Additionally, it was decided that the future of Vietnam as a unified, independent state would be determined by a referendum, to be conducted in July 1956. At that time, the Vietnamese people should decide if they wanted to live under a Communist regime or under the rule of Emperor Bao Dai. The political agreements further mandated that within three hundred days the French army would withdraw its forces from the North, while the Viet Minh units had to move north of the border (the 17th parallel). Within this time frame, any Vietnamese who so wished could move to the
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Sidebar 2.1: Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) A DMZ is an area defined in treaties or agreements between nations, military powers, or contending groups where military installations, activities, or personnel are forbidden. A DMZ often lies along an established frontier or boundary between two or more military powers or alliances. A DMZ may sometimes form a de facto international border, such as the 38th parallel between North and South Korea. Many demilitarized zones are considered neutral territory because neither side is allowed to exert control, even for non-combat administration. Some zones remain demilitarized after an agreement has awarded control to a state which (under the DMZ terms) had originally ceded its right to maintain military forces in the disputed territory. It is also possible for powers to agree on the demilitarization of a zone without formally settling their respective territorial claims, enabling the dispute to be resolved by peaceful means such as diplomatic dialogue or an international court. The Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone divided Vietnam into two countries (North Vietnam and South Vietnam) from July 21, 1954 to July 2, 1976.
North or to the South. About a million Catholics took advantage of this clause and moved from the Red River delta to South Vietnam.2 The anti- Communists in South Vietnam later turned this voluntary emigration into a propaganda weapon used against the Communist system. The supervision of the agreement was entrusted to a committee consisting of three states: a Western state—Canada, a Communist state— Poland, and a non-aligned state—India. The Viet Minh delegation left Geneva disappointed, having failed to translate the North’s military victory into a political dividend.3 This fact may support the claim that, in spite of the significant military victory at Dien Bien Phu, the Viet Minh did not won a decisive victory, and that the political settlement, which was actually forced upon it, expressed France’s will to end the war rather than its total military defeat. The mere fact that France still controlled the cities, as well as the South, prevented the Viet Minh from achieving total victory and helped France establish a political system which actually reflected the strategic reality of the summer of 1954. The future of Vietnam was to be decided in 1956, and thus the chessboard had been set anew for the next confrontation—the Second Vietnam War, or simply the Vietnam War. North Vietnam would need an additional colossal event in order to continue its efforts to bring about the political unification of Vietnam. This event would take place a full decade after Geneva.
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ENTER THE UNITED STATES Following the Geneva Accords, and the gradual evacuation of the French forces from Indochina, completed during 1955, the United States was concerned that the Communists would use the ensuing political vacuum in order to take control of the whole of Vietnam, if not beyond. President Eisenhower’s domino theory warned against such a scenario. Thus, the United States started getting more involved in the area by awarding extensive economic aid, especially to South Vietnam, and offering help with the rebuilding of the state.4 During the war between France and the Viet Minh two states were formed in Vietnam: the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam; see Figure 2.1). In June 1954, Emperor Bao Dai appointed Ngo Dinh Diem as Prime Minister of South Vietnam. Diem was an extreme nationalist, who had served as a provincial governor under French colonial rule. In 1933, he had resigned his post in protest at the cancellation of the reforms promised by the French government. In 1945, he refused to head a government under Emperor Bao Dai, whom he considered a puppet in the hands of the French government, but he simultaneously refused Ho Chi Minh’s invitation to join the Communist Party. At the beginning of the 1950s, Diem arrived in the United States, where he formed close relations with some senior members of the administration, including a young senator named John Kennedy, who introduced him to President Eisenhower. The United States was deeply impressed by Diem’s vision of Vietnam’s future, combining political independence with economic and social reforms. The White House considered Diem as a more suitable leader than Emperor Bao Dai, and as an attractive political alternative to Communism under Ho Chi Minh.5 As far as the United States was concerned, anti-Communist nationalism was the best way to defeat Ho Chi Minh. Although Diem had been granted wide powers, his popular support base was very slim. Being a Catholic, Diem based his regime on the Catholic minority, placing his family members in senior positions in the government and the military. His regime faced serious political challenges: the rehabilitation of the country, the stabilization of the economy, the absorption of nearly a million Catholic refugees from the North, and building up an army which would be capable of defending South Vietnam against aggression from the North, as well as protecting Diem’s regime from internal threats. A long line of opposition groups threatened Diem’s rule, including other nationalist movements opposed to Diem, the Francophile economic elite, and several Buddhist sects. All these factors endangering the internal stability of the regime came on top of the difficult economic
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Figure 2.1 Map of Vietnam. Source: Map courtesy of the United States Military Academy Department of History.
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situation, and the fact that Ho Chi Minh considered himself to be the only legitimate ruler of all of Vietnam.6 Western observers were expecting Diem’s regime to collapse rapidly in the face of all these challenges and dangers, both internal and external. However, a series of political manipulations, as well as the United States’ massive economic and military support, helped Diem survive in power. Eisenhower’s administration was attempting to establish a stable anti- Communist regime which would prevent the serial collapse of the dominoes in Southeast Asia and beyond. Thus, Diem’s regime became, in the eyes of the United States, an Asian model for the war against the spread of Communism.The unreserved support of Diem’s regime by the Eisenhower administration helped thwart several military coups targeted at toppling Diem. The American support was accompanied by a series of public declarations by the American administration, including by the President, stating that the United States would only collaborate with Diem, and that the American aid would be transferred directly to the South Vietnamese government, which would decide on the priorities for its use.7 Over the years, the United States gradually increased its economic aid, as well as the military aid. The administration instructed the military to send several hundred advisors to build a military system capable of repulsing any future attack by the North, thus avoiding the need to send American troops to fight yet another land war in Asia. In the era following the Korean War, the American military did not want to be involved in another war in East Asia, and the only alternative seemed to be the establishment of a strong South Vietnamese army. The increase in the United States’ presence in Southeast Asia was also the result of the establishment of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in September 1954, with the United States, Britain, France, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Pakistan, and the Philippines comprising its membership. Unlike NATO, SEATO was not a defense pact. The member states made a commitment to consult among themselves in case of crisis or aggression against one of the member states. An additional addendum extended the treaty to Cambodia, Laos, and all the territories under the rule of South Vietnam.8 This implies that SEATO did not recognize North Vietnam as an independent political entity with the legitimacy to represent the Vietnamese people, or at least a part thereof. General Collins, the senior American military representative, started developing plans for the reorganization of the Vietnamese army. In July 1955, he published his plan, which called for the building up of forces capable of repulsing an invasion by North Vietnam. The plan proposed the establishment of several small, mobile divisions serving as reserves for the larger divisions, which in times of peace would help to maintain internal security. Facing an increase in the size of the North Vietnamese
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army, and its arming with advanced Soviet weapons, Lieutenant General John O’Daniel, the Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) commander, recommended that the South Vietnamese army have 150,000 soldiers, organized in four field divisions and six light divisions, in addition to the establishment of 13 regional brigades tasked with maintaining internal security, which, in times of war, could regroup into three light divisions. Both O’Daniel and his successors estimated that North Vietnamese aggression would come in the form of a conventional attack through the border between the two states. In such a case, the South Vietnamese army would retreat to Da Nang, while two field divisions and one light division would conduct an amphibious landing behind the invasion force, severing its supply lines. No doubt, the moves of the first months of the Korean War had a strong influence over the strategic plan made by the Americans for South Vietnam.9 In October 1955, Lieutenant General Samuel Williams was appointed as commander of MAAG, replacing O’Daniel. Williams succeeded in developing close relations with Diem, helping him stay in the role until October 1960. To a large extent, Williams continued his predecessor’s line of thinking, also believing that the main military threat to South Vietnam was a conventional attack by North Vietnam. However, where O’Daniel planned for the light divisions to protect internal security in peacetime, Williams wanted to establish a semi-military police force for that purpose. Both O’Daniel and Williams thought of guerrillas as a military organization
Sidebar 2.2: MAAG Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) is a designation for United States military advisors sent to other countries to assist in the training of conventional armed forces and facilitate military aid. Although numerous MAAGs operated around the world throughout the 1940s to 1970s, the most famous MAAGs were those active in Southeast Asia before and during the Vietnam War. Typically, the personnel of MAAGs were considered to be technical staff attached to, and enjoying the privileges of, the U.S. diplomatic mission in a country. At the same time, President Diem agreed to the assignment of advisors to battalion level, significantly increasing the number of advisors from 900 in 1961 to over 3,400 before MAAG Vietnam was placed under U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) and renamed the Field Advisory Element, Vietnam. At the peak of the war in 1968, 9,430 U.S. Army personnel acted as advisors down to the district and battalion level and trained and mentored the armed forces of South Vietnam.
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operating under the auspices of regular army units, and which, at a certain stage, would become the spearhead of the North Vietnamese general offensive. Again, one can see the influence of the Korean model on the military thinking of the American officers, since the massive North Korean invasion in June 1950 was preceded by raids by North Korean guerrilla units into the South. Both generals dismissed guerrillas as a potential strategic threat and suggested that the responsibility for suppressing the guerrillas should be assigned to internal police forces.10 In spite of the massive American investment in the rebuilding of the Vietnamese army, it remained an ineffective organization. There was an insufficient number of qualified officers, especially in the high ranks. Many of the officers who had previously served in the French army, some of whom held French citizenship, were dismissed from the new army. The military system was severely damaged by the corruption of high-ranking officers. Many officers sold arms and equipment on the black market and were involved in drug smuggling and trade. Moreover, the army was riddled with Communist infiltrators. There were also problems on the American side. Lack of understanding of the Vietnamese culture, mentality, and language inhibited effective collaboration between the American advisors and their Vietnamese counterparts. Another problem in the building of the Vietnamese army as a fighting force was the fact that, during the 1950s, the battalions were engaged in internal security-related tasks and thus had hardly ever trained regularly. The economic and military aid that Diem received from the United States strongly influenced the development of political processes both between the two Vietnamese states and within South Vietnam itself. In the first place, the aid was crucial for Diem’s political survival, both internally and externally. It was mostly used for the development of the cities, where most of the Catholic population resided, which was the base of support for Diem’s regime. Meager sums were allocated to the improvement of the lives of the rural population. In fact, rural society was clearly neglected in terms of education, health, agriculture, and industrial development.11 Secondly, U.S. military aid, which made up most of the aid to South Vietnam, allowed Diem to evade negotiations with North Vietnam, and actually to ignore the Geneva resolution concerning the referendum which was supposed to be held in 1956. Additionally, as a lesson from the Korean War, the United States was sending offensive weapons to Vietnam, in contrast to its refusal to send such weapons before the Korean War. It is possible that this refusal by the United States was an important factor in the timing of the North Korean attack, i.e. the attack was launched to overpower the weak South before its possible rearming by the United States. The Americans also concluded that the lack of such weapons brought
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about the dramatic success of the North Korean forces in the first weeks of the war, and thus led to the deep involvement of the United States in the war. Arming South Vietnam with advanced weapons was meant to prevent a repeat of the Korean case and to build up a South Vietnamese army which would be able to stop and repulse a North Vietnamese invasion, and possibly also launch a counter-attack. In 1956, Diem launched “Operation to Cong—the Denunciation of Communism.” The purpose of the operation was to identify and arrest Viet Minh operatives who had stayed in the South after the partition of Vietnam.The persecution of the Viet Minh went hand in hand with Diem’s refusal to conduct the referendum as mandated by the Geneva Accords. Diem claimed that his government had never signed the agreement and was therefore not bound by its stipulations. Additionally, both Saigon and Washington demanded that a democratic government be appointed in North Vietnam as a condition for the referendum. This demand was not part of the Geneva Accords and, as it was clear that Ho Chi Minh would not change the composition of his government, it meant that the possibility of conducting the referendum in 1956 was reduced to zero. Diem’s religious policy, which expressed itself in the persecution of ethnic and religious opposition, became more extreme during the second half of the 1950s. This was in line with Diem’s centralistic regime. Most of the provincial governors were army officers loyal to Diem. The senior officials were mostly Catholics, some of whom had emigrated to the South during 1955 and therefore had little knowledge of the problems of the Southern population. In the bureaucracy, just like in the army, political loyalty was much more important than administrative skills.12 In spite of the Communist threat from within (the Viet Minh) and from without (North Vietnam), the immediate danger to Diem’s regime came from military militias belonging to religious sects and various political groups operating in the South.13 Until 1957, Diem was successful in suppressing this opposition, but by doing so he was destroying forces which were self-avowed anti-Communists. The resulting devastation helped the Viet Minh reestablish its strength in South Vietnam. In spite of frequent arrests, the veteran Viet Minh operatives succeeded in recruiting new volunteers, many of whom came from the ranks of the religious sects. The year 1957 saw the beginning of a terror and subversion campaign against Diem’s regime, which was in line with the general atmosphere of protest in South Vietnam, where opposition to Diem’s rule was rising.The reasons were many and included the loss of rural autonomy and the appointment of foreign, often corrupt officials who were mostly Catholic and lacked the skills required for effective management of the rural regions. It is noteworthy that most of the Communist activity in South Vietnam took place
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in the southern provinces, near the Cambodian border, in areas that were formerly under the control of the militias. Also noteworthy is the fact that at this time the Communists operated without any guidance or support from North Vietnam.14 Meanwhile, North Vietnam was occupied with the economic rehabilitation of the state and the attempt to solve problems such as guaranteeing the food supply to the population. The economic difficulties drove North Vietnam to become more dependent on the Communist powers. Additionally, with Chinese and Soviet support, North Vietnam was nurturing initial industrialization efforts. It is important to remember that, notwithstanding the effort put into economic rehabilitation and industrialization, the focus of Ho Chi Minh’s policy remained the unification of Vietnam under his rule. Although it is impossible to determine the point in time when North Vietnam started supporting the Communist subversion in the South, there is no doubt that toward the end of 1958 the intervention of the North in the activities taking place in the South was clearly visible. In 1958, Ho Chi Minh sent one of his deputies, Le Duan, to the South to evaluate ways of helping the Communists in the South and also bringing them under Hanoi’s control and guidance.15 By this time, Ho Chi Minh realized that neither South Vietnam nor the United States had any intention of complying with the Geneva resolutions relating to the conducting of a referendum. Le Duan’s recommendations were that the North should take control of the subversive movements in the South and provide them with leadership as well as military support. He maintained that the military struggle was secondary to the political one, i.e. recruiting the support of the villagers in the South for the Communist struggle. These recommendations were approved as policy in May 1959, in a decision signifying the final withdrawal of North Vietnam from attempts to achieve Vietnam’s unification via political means.16 Thus, 1959 can be considered as the starting point of the second Vietnam War. In the same month that the new policy was announced, Giap established Transportation Group No. 559.This unit’s mission was to transport supplies to the South via Laos. In July, Transportation Group No. 759 was established, tasked with transporting supplies by sea. However, since the United States Navy had total control of the South China Sea, the land route became more important.The road system, which was expanded and improved over the years, was known as the Ho Chi Minh trail.17 The trail, which was in fact an extensive network of roads, started in North Vietnam, near the border with the South, and traversed the eastern parts of Laos. At various points, side roads were built, through which Communist forces could penetrate South Vietnam. Gradually, the trail was expanded to
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Cambodia, allowing Communist The Ho Chi Minh trail can be regarded as one soldiers to reach the southern of the greatest engineering achievements provinces near Saigon and the of the 20th century, considering it was Mekong River delta. At many constructed primarily by hand under a points on the trail, bases were deluge of bombs. On average a U.S. airconstructed, providing food, plane dropped its bombs on the trail once shelter, and medical treatment to every eight minutes, 24/7, for nine years. groups traveling along the trail. At the third Communist Party congress, which took place in Hanoi in September 1960, it was decided to establish a unified front for managing the fight against South Vietnam and Diem’s regime, with two main missions: the solidification of the Socialist revolution in the North and the liberation of the South leading to the unification of Vietnam. As part of the liberation effort, the Southern Command (Nam Bo), which was responsible for the Viet Minh operations in Cochinchina (the southern part of Vietnam) during the war against the French, was reestablished under a new name, the Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN). On December 20, 1960, the National Liberation Front was founded. The Front served as an umbrella organization for all the anti-Diem political groups, although from the start it was dominated by the Communists and was controlled by the Communist Party of North Vietnam. In fact, the National Liberation Front served as the shadow government of the North Vietnamese government in the South.18 The subversive activity in the South increased very rapidly, far beyond the early expectations of North Vietnam. The reasons were the weakness of the Diem regime and Diem’s refusal to understand and respond to the needs of farmers. This is where Mao Zedong’s political theory found fertile ground. The theory stated that, in order to be a successful revolutionary, one must control the rural population. The National Liberation Front’s efforts were focused on gaining control of the rural population, which comprised about 80 percent of South Vietnam’s population. Control of the rural population guaranteed support for the military effort and for the guerrilla forces, and—in the second stage—success in the political domain. The first step in the military struggle was a series of terror attacks against government officials, teachers, and medical staff who were operating in the rural areas on behalf of Diem’s regime. Between the years 1958 and 1961 about 8,000 government officials were murdered. In parallel, attacks on the forces of the South Vietnamese army also started. On September 26, 1959, the 2nd Liberation Battalion ambushed units of the 23rd Division of the South Vietnamese army. Twelve South Vietnamese
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soldiers were killed, and a large number of weapons as well as other military equipment fell into the hands of the Communist fighters. After this attack, both the South Vietnamese and the Americans started to use the term Viet Cong—Vietnamese Communists—to describe the insurgents operating in South Vietnam.19 The Viet Cong’s attacks intensified during 1960, demonstrating the depth of support that they were receiving from the local population. Many villagers joined the Viet Cong, participating in raids against military posts and attacking government officials. With every raid, the villagers accumulated more weapons and military supplies, so that their attacks on regular military units increased both in numbers and in intensity. These successful attacks increased the power of the Viet Cong in the rural areas and improved the quality of weapons and combat equipment available to its units. With a bit of black humor, one can state (and the Americans did) that the military supplies and weapons depots of the South Vietnamese army were, in fact, serving the Viet Cong, and that Diem had become the Communists’ chief supply officer.20 Most of the attacks took place in the Ben Tre province, located in the Mekong River delta, about 150 km from Saigon. The insurgency in Ben Tre proved two points. The first was the efficacy of a rural insurgency, guided by an effective leadership. The second, and probably the more important point, was the operational independence of the Viet Cong units. The Ben Tre insurrection was, in fact, a local initiative and was not guided by North Vietnam. Thus, this insurrection demonstrates that many Communist groups operating in South Vietnam did not see themselves as politically bound to North Vietnam. The phenomenon of local initiatives, which would continue throughout the entire war, raises the question: was the Viet Cong a clandestine military arm of North Vietnam or did the Viet Cong leaders, at the local level, cultivate political hopes for independence, and especially for the restoration of the traditional rural autonomy, which had been lost during the administrative reforms of 1956? At the military level, the Viet Cong employed classic guerrilla tactics, with a preference for ambushes and attacks on secluded posts. With the help of the local population, the Viet Cong laid mines and booby traps.21 However, the most crucial aspect of the Viet Cong activity was the intense political activity among the rural population, in accordance with the principles of revolutionary war as laid out by Mao during the 1930s.22 Saigon’s response was military rather than political. Oppression of the rural provinces increased, helping to intensify the opposition to Diem and adding strength to the Viet Cong. In May 1959, the National Assembly published a series of measures meant to boost internal security. These measures included the establishment of military tribunals that had the
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authority to sentence villagers suspected of terrorist acts to death. Diem failed to understand the roots and essence of the problem, the notion that the military struggle came out of the aspiration to improve the economic and social living conditions. Neither did General Williams understand the reality within which the Viet Cong was successfully operating, because he ignored the economic and social aspects of the insurrection.23 Williams believed that the hard core of the Viet Cong consisted of political activists who had infiltrated from North Vietnam, thus implying that the struggle in South Vietnam could be explained as a manifestation of the Cold War, i.e. an attempt by Communism to increase its sphere of influence.Williams also ignored the underlying causes behind the low operational level of the South Vietnamese army: corruption, low morale, and the low quality of the commanders. In Williams’ opinion, improving the training regime would suffice to correct all these defects and improve the operational performance of the army units. Against Williams’ opinion, Diem decided on the establishment of special forces units, according to the American model. Although the American Special Forces were well trained for guerrilla war, they were focused on conventional war, i.e. commando forces operating behind enemy lines, as they did in World War II. Until the establishment of the Green Berets, during President Kennedy’s administration, the United States Army had neither the experience nor the doctrine for fighting under the conditions of a revolutionary guerrilla war, whose essence was socio-political rather than military. Moreover, the Vietnamese Special Forces, based on American financing and training, which became operational in May 1960 suffered from the same illnesses that afflicted the regular units. Generally speaking, the South Vietnamese army failed to gain control over the areas in which the Viet Cong operated, and also failed to pose a threat to the training and home bases of the Communist guerrillas. In 1960, opposition to Diem’s regime spread to the cities, which had until then been considered as Diem’s power base. The opposition reached its apex on November 11, 1960. On that day, three paratrooper battalions of the South Vietnamese army laid siege to the presidential palace and demanded reforms, the establishment of a new government, and better management of the war. This military coup caught the Americans by surprise. Diem succeeded in placating the leaders of the coup, promising reforms, a coalition government, freedom of the press, and new elections, while waiting for loyal forces to reach Saigon. Even now, Diem refused to recognize the need for social and political reforms.24 The coup was suppressed on the following day, causing Diem to harden his political stance and to concentrate even more power in his hands and the hands of his family members. On February 27, 1962, Diem
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was saved from an attempt on his life as well as his brother’s. In the aftermath, dozens of his opponents disappeared, and thousands were jailed. The internal events in South Vietnam in the years 1955– 1960, together with North Vietnam’s attempt to force unification by military means, gave birth, among some researchers of the Vietnam War, to the proposition that it was in reality a civil war. Albeit Ho Chi Minh was a Communist, his political personality as well as his acts were the results of his will to establish a unified, independent Vietnamese state. Thus, the holders of this opinion believe that the civil war turned into one of the most violent confrontations of the Cold War only because of the United States’ actions, and the conceptual system that it was using to describe the events in Vietnam, especially the actions of North Vietnam. In attempting to summarize the level of American involvement under the Eisenhower administration, we can state that it was limited to military consulting to the most senior ranks, at the general staff level. The American advisory system also built the training bases and the military schools for the various units. Within this framework, South Vietnam came to possess an air force, a navy, a marine force, special forces, and combat-support systems. The American administration publicly expressed unreserved support for Diem’s regime. All this would change drastically during President Kennedy’s administration, although toward the end of Eisenhower’s era there were already voices in the administration calling for Diem’s replacement.25
THE KENNEDY ADMINISTRATION AND VIETNAM Kennedy’s entry into the White House marks the intensification of the American involvement in South Vietnam. Toward the end of Eisenhower’s administration there were 900 American military advisors in South Vietnam, who did not participate in the fighting against the Viet Cong. Three years later, around 16,000 “advisors” were serving in Vietnam. Several reasons contributed to the expansion of the American involvement in Vietnam. These reasons are connected to the global events of the Cold War, as well as to events and processes which were the result of the political deterioration in Southeast Asia, and especially the continuing political instability in Laos. In the conversations held between the outgoing president and the president-elect, Eisenhower identified Laos as the key to Southeast Asia, stating that if it fell into Communist hands, it would become the first domino and topple all the others.Thus, in spite of the dire situation in South Vietnam, the first actions of Kennedy’s administration were an attempt to stabilize the situation in Laos and repel the expansion of Communism in that part of Southeast Asia.
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During 1960, the civil war in Laos rekindled.26 A military coup took place against the right-wing government ruling the state. North Vietnam and the Soviet Union took advantage of the political disorder and intervened on the side of the Laotian Communist Party (Pathet Lao). The civil war continued well into Kennedy’s presidency. However, in spite of the Soviet intervention, Kennedy refrained from sending American soldiers to Laos. Unlike Eisenhower, who had tried to come to an understanding with the Communist states on Laos’ neutrality, Kennedy opted for the creation of a government with the participation of the three major parties in Laos.27 Unfortunately, North Vietnam had other intentions. The possibility of a renewal of the war in South Vietnam required that Laos remain under North Vietnam’s influence in order to guarantee the continued operation of the Ho Chi Minh trail, which was essential for the struggle for the unification of Vietnam.The breach of the signed agreement for the establishment of a coalition government brought Kennedy to harden his stance toward North Vietnam, and to intensify the American involvement in South Vietnam. An additional cause for the increased involvement was the United States’ long-term commitment to fighting the expansion of Communism, as mandated by the Truman Doctrine. In fact, President Kennedy and many of his advisors considered the Vietnam conflict as a civil war stemming from Communist aggression, in other words a civil war whose origin was Communist pressure aimed at expanding the Communist sphere of control and influence. Dean Rusk, the American Secretary of State, compared the North Vietnamese pressure to Nazi Germany’s aggression on the eve of World War II. He stated that the United States should not abandon South Vietnam to its fate, just as the European powers had abandoned Czechoslovakia by signing the Munich agreement (1938). The Munich agreement is extensively used in American terminology as a model describing a situation whereby making concessions to a dictator in order to avoid a war becomes the underlying cause of a much larger war.28 The Kennedy administration also adopted Eisenhower’s domino theory, with the additional claim that the abandonment of South Vietnam would hurt the United States’ international prestige as the leader of the free world. According to this claim, if the United States failed in Vietnam, other states would lose confidence in obtaining American protection in case of need. Still another argument stated that the new Communist strategy was to support national liberation wars. This claim stemmed from a statement by Nikita Khrushchev in January 1961 on supporting third-world organizations conducting liberation wars against the imperialistic powers. Thus, a direct link was established connecting the Cold War, the inter-bloc struggle, and the expansion attempts of the Soviet bloc to various conflicts in Asia and Africa in general and Vietnam in particular.29
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American internal politics also had a significant influence on the decision- making process of the Kennedy administration on Vietnam. Kennedy was aware of the intense criticism by the Republican Party of his own Democratic Party, claiming that, because of its appeasing policy toward Communism, it had “lost” China to the Chinese Communist Party in 1949.The events behind this claim were the following. In October 1949, the Chinese civil war ended in the decisive victory of the Communist Party, headed by Mao. China became the largest Communist state in the world in terms of population, and in the United States there was an abounding belief that the United States was responsible for the “loss” of China. The Communist victory in China brought about an unbridled attack by Senator Joseph McCarthy, accusing State Department officials of treason, which had pushed China into the arms of Communism.30 The Kennedy administration was also severely criticized for the failure of the attempted invasion of Cuba in 1961 (Bay of Pigs), and for the construction of the Berlin Wall, which soon became one of the most prominent symbols of the Cold War. Kennedy was well aware of the fact that another failure in the fight against Communism would mean a death blow to his presidency as well as his party. In fact, we can state a little simplistically that, in terms of foreign policy, Kennedy continued the political line of the two preceding administrations. The Truman Doctrine and the domino theory continued to lie at the basis of the American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union, causing the United States to take an active stance against the continued Communist expansion attempts throughout the world.31 In May 1961, Vice President Lyndon Johnson visited Vietnam. In a private conversation with political and military officials in South Vietnam, Johnson severely criticized Diem; however, in public, he called him “the Winston Churchill of Southeast Asia.” In the same month, President Kennedy agreed to increase military aid and to expand the size of the South Vietnamese army from 170,000 to 270,000 soldiers. However, the South Vietnamese army was still plagued by the same basic problems: inadequate training, lack of military efficacy, and low standards of command. The dismal situation of the South Vietnamese army would be one of the main causes for the intensification of the American military involvement in Vietnam. Kennedy sent his most senior advisors to Vietnam in order to learn about and assess the problems of the state and recommend effective solutions. The first advisory mission was headed by economist Eugene Staley, who arrived in Vietnam in June 1961. His recommendations to the President were that Vietnam had to undergo far-reaching economic and social reforms, as military activity by itself could not end the Communist insurgency in the South. Staley stated that the key to controlling South
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Vietnam was assuring the safety of the rural population. Thus, his additional recommendation was to establish a civil guard and local militias with suitable military training and advanced weapons. The third recommendation was the continuation of the Strategic Hamlet Program. The idea of building a network of secure villages was conceived in 1959 by Diem and was, in fact, the extension of a previous program named Agroville. The program was rejuvenated following the nomination of Robert Thompson as senior advisor to MAAG.Thompson had been responsible for the operation of a similar program in Malaya, which brought about the complete eradication of the Communist insurgency in that state.32 The program had some success in impeding the Viet Cong’s ability to operate within the villages, but the South Vietnamese administration, which was beset with corruption and incompetence, failed to achieve the program’s goals in terms of fighting the Viet Cong. Many hamlets were located in areas unsuitable for agriculture. The program also suffered as a result of corruption, with American financial aid intended for rural development finding its way into the pockets of corrupt officials or onto the black market.The program also failed because of the villagers’ resistance. As far as they were concerned, they were being evicted from lands that they had cultivated for centuries. They were also suffering from heavy taxation and restrictions on movement. In general, the promises to improve their standard of living were not kept. Thus, in spite of the terror attacks by the Viet Cong, the South Vietnamese army, which implemented the program, was also perceived as the villagers’ enemy. Meanwhile, the Viet Cong was moderating some of its pressure on the rural population. Gradually, the Viet Cong succeeded in penetrating the secure-villages system, building an alternative governmental apparatus which imposed more equitable taxes. These moves drove many villagers to believe that it was the Viet Cong, rather than the government, that could improve their everyday life, and that the Viet Cong really understood their needs and was trying to provide for them. The second delegation, arriving in Vietnam in October 1961, consisted of General Maxwell Taylor, President Kennedy’s senior advisor, and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Walt Rostow. The two officials examined the situation mostly from a military viewpoint. Their recommendation included a change to the American involvement in South Vietnam, from an advisory role to limited military involvement in the fighting alongside the South Vietnamese army. They also recommended the increase of military support, including that provided by aerial forces. In a secret (at the time of the report) addendum, Taylor and Rostow recommended that 8,000 American troops be sent to Vietnam to fight alongside the South Vietnamese units. Taylor stated that, as a
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war arena, Vietnam did not pose special problems to the American military. Additionally, he emphasized the fact that North Vietnam was totally exposed to strategic aerial bombing.33 Generally, we can argue that the Taylor-Rostow report was the first recommendation in favor of the escalation of the American involvement in the South. However, within the American administration there were individual voices demanding an end to the escalation of the war.The chief proponent of this opinion was Undersecretary of State George Ball, who persisted in his opposition until his resignation from the State Department in September 1966. In a meeting with President Kennedy, Ball predicted that should the administration adopt the Taylor-Rostow recommendations, within five years there would be about 300,000 American troops in Vietnam, leading to a full Americanization of the war.34 Ball was ultimately proven right. By the summer of 1965, there were about 285,000 American troops on the ground in South Vietnam, fighting daily against the North Vietnamese army and the Viet Cong. However, at the time, Kennedy dismissed Ball’s argument, stating that such an imaginary scenario could never materialize.35 Kennedy accepted most of the Taylor- Rostow recommendations, except for the recommendation to send a significant number of American troops to South Vietnam. The reason for that was Diem’s refusal; he feared that the Viet Cong would use the augmented presence of American troops as a point of propaganda, exposing Diem’s political weakness and presenting him as a puppet ruler in the hands of the United States. In order to coordinate the continued U.S. support, a new military command was formed in February 1962—the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), whose first commanding officer was General Paul Harkins. The need for the new command also arose because of the increase in the number of American troops in South Vietnam. Moreover, there was a need to coordinate the increasing participation of American soldiers and pilots in land battles alongside the South Vietnamese units. In 1960, there were 875 American troops in South Vietnam. In 1961 their number reached 3,164, and in 1962 more than 11,000.36 On February 4, 1962, the first American helicopter was shot down by Viet Cong fire from the ground. During the years 1961–1962, the South Vietnamese army continued to suffer heavy blows from Viet Cong operations, but the intensification of the American involvement during 1962 prevented its total collapse. From a historical perspective, we can categorically state that as long as there were American troops in South Vietnam, the Viet Cong, and later the North Vietnamese army, could not defeat South Vietnam. On the other hand, the
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United States failed to achieve a decisive military victory, i.e. stopping the Communist aggression against the South. By the end of 1962 a kind of strategic stalemate had been reached that the gradual escalation by both sides could not break. In researching the history of both short and long wars, it is customary to try to identify a phenomenon called the “Turning-Point Battle.” These battles have a tactical result which has far-reaching strategic, political, and psychological consequences. In the research on the Vietnam War, three such battles stand out: the battle at Ap Bac, which took place on January 2, 1963, the battle of Ia Drang Valley in October–November 1965, and the Tet offensive, January–April 1968. Each one of these battles had an impact on the strategic reality in South Vietnam, as well as far-reaching implications in the political domain. Within the historical context of the current chapter, the Ap Bac battle is especially significant. The MACV military intelligence had discovered that a Viet Cong radio station was operating near the village of Ap Bac, about 60 kilometers southwest of Saigon. The radio station was protected by a company comprising, according to intelligence estimates, about 120 soldiers. Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann, the senior American advisor to the 7th South Vietnamese Division planned a flanking operation against the base. One battalion belonging to the division would be transported by air and land north of the base, while two additional battalions would advance from the south, riding armored personnel carriers (APCs). Militarily, the operation could be described as a hammer (the battalions moving from the south) and anvil (the battalion dropping from the north). It was a simple, classic plan, and in theory the prospects were good, but in reality the execution was abortive. The commanders of the battalions arriving from the south were awaiting artillery and therefore refused to attack the base. The northern battalion was met with machine-gun fire, which also shot down several helicopters, but the southern battalions did nothing to help their comrades under attack. It took until the middle of the night for reinforcements to arrive, but by then the Viet Cong units had successfully retreated. Although it was later discovered that the Viet Cong force amounted to a regular battalion, with 320 soldiers, still the South Vietnamese forces enjoyed a considerable numerical as well as firepower superiority. In the battle, the Viet Cong lost 18 fighters, while the South Vietnamese force incurred 80 KIA and over 100 wounded.37 General Harkins called the operation a success, because the base was taken and the radio station destroyed. However, the division’s American advisors severely criticized the combat efficacy level of the South Vietnamese soldiers and commanders. The Ap Bac battle pinpointed the
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fundamental problems afflicting the South Vietnamese army: low morale, inadequate operational training, and unfit command. At this time, MACV reevaluated the efficacy of the advisory system, reaching the conclusion that the model whereby every senior commander had an American counterpart had, in fact, collapsed. Within the American military system, there were voices, rising in volume, expressing the view that it was only the American soldier who could meet the Viet Cong on the field of battle and win. In other words, the prevailing trend supported not only the escalation of the war but also its Americanization. And indeed, following this battle, one can see that the number of American troops in Vietnam was rapidly increasing. By the end of 1963, there were 16,000 troops in Vietnam, a large number of whom started taking part in fighting the Viet Cong. Military failure and the dismal situation of the army added to a long line of critical problems facing Diem. During 1963, the Buddhist protest rekindled.38 On May 8, Buddha’s birthday, there was a large demonstration at Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam. The demonstrators protested the Catholic oppression, but the demonstration was not violent; rather, it was a mass march during which many multi-colored flags symbolizing world Buddhism were raised. These marches were held annually, and there was nothing new about them. During the march, a hand grenade was thrown, killing eight of the demonstrators. This event triggered a wave of protests and demonstrations throughout South Vietnam. On June 11, a Buddhist monk named Thích Quảng Đức set himself on fire and burned to death as a protest against oppression. The famous photo taken by Malcolm Brown circulated around the world, inflaming minds and souls and winning him the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. By November 1963, six more monks had followed in Thích Quảng Đức’s footsteps, as part of the growing protest against Diem’s oppressive policies. In defiance of international criticism, Diem refused to acknowledge the fact that his oppressive policies were fueling the threat of the Viet Cong. He insisted that the suppression of the Communist insurgency had to be completed before any political, economic, and social reforms could be enacted. Although many Buddhists opposed Communism, they reached the conclusion that the Viet Cong was the only force which could end the corrupt, oppressive regime of Diem and his cronies. Diem’s response to the Buddhist protest was increased oppression. On August 22, 1963, military units, on the orders of Diem’s brother, stormed Buddhist temples throughout the country, destroying many of them.Thousands of Buddhists were arrested and, in order to prevent additional demonstrations, the government imposed a three-week general curfew in the cities. These events caused a dramatic change in the U.S. administration’s attitude toward Diem.39
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WASHINGTON CHANGES SIDES From its early days, the Kennedy administration considered the oppression of the Buddhists as a strategic threat to South Vietnam, since it was pushing people into the Viet Cong’s arms, increasing its strength to the point where it would be able to bring Diem’s regime down, thus toppling the first domino.40 Kennedy and his close advisors started looking for a political solution to the problem of stabilizing the internal political and social situation in South Vietnam. Such a solution would require the replacing of the current regime with a new one that would agree to a massive American military presence in South Vietnam.41 This was the backdrop for the discussions, which had started as early as 1961, about the possibility of replacing Diem between President Kennedy and senior officials in the Department of Defense, State Department, and the CIA.42 A dramatic change in the American attitude toward Diem took place in the summer of 1963, when CIA agents in Saigon identified a group of officers who were plotting to carry out a military coup and end Diem’s rule. At the end of August 1963, a meeting was held in the White House, attended by President Kennedy, Secretary of Defense McNamara, Undersecretary of State Ball, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence General Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Taylor, as well as other prominent persons who had extensive experience of the Vietnam issue, some of whom had served in South Vietnam in various roles.43 In the meeting, Kennedy asked for the opinion of the Department of Defense about possible ways of overthrowing Diem’s regime. The Department of Defense proposed that the United States support the generals’ conspiracy against Diem. The Secretary of Defense suggested, however, that the United States should only intervene after it had become certain that the coup would be successful.44 One can assume with a high degree of certainty that the picture that the policymakers of the White House had before their eyes was the failed attempt to topple Castro’s regime in Cuba two years earlier in the Bay of Pigs operation. In any case, the clear message of the meeting was that Diem must be removed from government, and that all necessary means must be employed in order to guarantee the success of the generals’ coup d’état.45 From the minutes of this meeting it is clear that the Vietnamese generals’ plans for a coup against Diem were known to the United States, and that no information about the impending coup was made available to Diem.46 In a televised speech at the end of August, President Kennedy condemned Diem’s oppressive rule, thus signaling to the conspirators that the United States would support the military coup. On September 2, in an interview on CBS, Kennedy stated that the key to victory in Vietnam was
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for the regime to obtain popular support and that, right now, the regime “has gotten out of touch with the people.”47 These public statements were accompanied by actions. At the beginning of October, the United States suspended the economic aid to South Vietnam and revoked the preferential trade status awarded to South Vietnamese exports to the United States. Additionally, loans for the execution of national projects were also suspended, and military and financial support for the South Vietnamese Special Forces, which were under the direct command of Diem’s brother, was revoked. These actions were a clear signal to the conspirators that the United States had cut off its support for Diem’s regime. On November 1, the military coup was carried out, and on the following day the bodies of the Diem brothers were found. It was obvious that the United States knew about the coup in advance and did nothing to stop it.There are those who claim that CIA agents were somehow involved in the plot against Diem, and even in his murder.48 Herring claims that Diem’s removal from the political scene brought about the massive entry of the United States into Vietnam, and that since that day it was the United States that ran South Vietnam, both politically and militarily.49 The military coup brought about political instability in South Vietnam. The American government could not find a suitable heir to Diem, as there was no candidate who had clear legitimacy or sweeping public support. Additionally, there was no leader who could articulate a national Vietnamese ideology to counter Ho Chi Minh’s Communist-oriented nationalism. As a result, the United States found itself directly involved in the war in South Vietnam.
WHY VIETNAM? On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated. The assassination became the kernel of a highly developed conspiracy culture, expressing itself in hundreds of books and movies.The best-known theory is that Kennedy was murdered as a result of a conspiracy hatched in the corridors of the CIA, the Department of Defense, and the armament industry, with the knowledge of Vice President Johnson. According to this theory, Kennedy was planning the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam and meant to end all American involvement in the war. Since the military as well as the arms manufacturers had an interest in the continuation of the war, they decided to get rid of the President, knowing that Johnson supported the continuation of the American involvement in Vietnam. According to the American constitution, if the President is unable to perform his duties (and especially if he has been murdered…),
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then the Vice President is immediately sworn in to take his place. The question is: did Kennedy really intend to withdraw the troops and end American involvement? There is no doubt that President Kennedy’s attitude toward American involvement was, to say the least, ambivalent. In the spring of 1963, he used the optimistic reports submitted by General Harkins and General Taylor (who had by then been nominated as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) to justify a total withdrawal of the American troops from Vietnam. However, he intended to take this course only after the 1964 elections. Kennedy knew that announcing his intention to withdraw in an election year would cause the Republicans to declare that once again a Democratic administration had failed to stop Communism in its tracks. We must remember that during Kennedy’s presidency the United States suffered many blows from the Soviet Union, such as the construction of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban missile crisis. Although the prevailing belief is that at the end of that crisis the United States came out victorious, since the Soviet Union had to give up its intention to deploy medium-range ballistic missiles within striking range of the United States, in fact the Soviet Union only made that concession after the United States had agreed to give up all efforts to topple Castro’s regime or to invade Cuba. Thus, a political reality emerged in which Communism had gained a foothold in the Western hemisphere, challenging the United States’ hegemony in the continent of America. During the following decades, Cuba was to become a magnet to Communist movements operating around South America. Moreover, Cuba continuously attempted to export its revolution, going as far as sending military forces to help Communist movements in Africa. Communist expansion attempts in Latin America entangled the United States in a long series of political and military crises. During the Kennedy era, it seemed that the United States was being defeated by Communism on every front. Thus, many in the American political system believed that a withdrawal from Vietnam without a settlement would mean total defeat on a global scale in the Cold War. On September 12, 1963, during a press conference, Kennedy outlined three goals in Vietnam: to win the war, to stop Communism, and to withdraw U.S. troops. Several weeks later, in another press conference, Kennedy stated a slightly different set of goals: to bring the troops home, to guarantee the independence of South Vietnam, and to allow the democratic forces within the state to act freely.50 By then, the principle of winning the war was no longer being mentioned. Immediately following Kennedy’s declaration, MACV announced a plan to repatriate about a thousand troops by the end of December. This announcement was made in spite of the fact that the President had received reports about the deterioration of the
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military situation in Vietnam. It is an illustration of the President’s ambivalent attitude toward the political and military reality in South Vietnam. The beginning and gradual intensification of the American involvement in Vietnam can be used as a test case for examining the implementation of the principles of the foreign policy of the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, and to a large extent also those of the Johnson administration, as he clearly continued the policy of his assassinated predecessor. Thus, the question of “why Vietnam?” (i.e. why did the United States allow itself to be dragged into a peripheral war in a secondary, relative to Europe, arena) is irrelevant. The American involvement in Vietnam, just like its involvement in Korea and in other parts of the world, was meant to demonstrate the fact that Communist aggression would not pay off, that the United States would not stand for any breach of the status quo, and that it would come to the defense of the free world against Communist totalitarianism. This was a continuation of the American foreign policy since the days of the Truman Doctrine: the determination to face off the Communist threat at any time and any place in the world. The differences between the center (Europe) and the periphery (the Third World) had lost their importance, with every region becoming important in its own right. Vietnam’s importance was reinforced both in the psychological and the material dimension of the containment policy, becoming a test case of the American ability to cope successfully with the inter-bloc struggle. As we have seen, after World War II the United States assumed the roles and the powers held by the European powers until the war. After the war, the focus of power moved from Europe to the United States in the west and to the Soviet Union in the east. The United States used its economic and military resources as well as its technological superiority in an attempt to rehabilitate the world following the unprecedented destruction caused by the war, and to establish a new world order.This policy was implemented through massive economic, technological, and military aid, through military, political, or economic pressure, and sometimes by military intervention (either overt or covert). The United States assumed this role after it had realized that if it did not, because of the weakness of the democratic West, the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc would gain world hegemony. This view stood at the basis of the intervention policy, and the aspiration to manage the world.51 The United States saw its involvement in global issues as a way of presenting an alternative to hostile ideologies which were incompatible with the American way of life in the political, social, or economic realms. The Second World War was perceived by the United States as a cosmic struggle between the totalitarian, militant imperialism of Germany, Japan, and Italy and the forces of democracy and the spirit of liberalism, under
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the leadership of the United States. The same terms were used to define the Cold War, except that by then Communism had replaced Fascism as the villain. Eisenhower’s entry into the White House did not cause a significant change to the underlying principles of American foreign policy, as coined by the Truman administration. Eisenhower’s political experience dated back to the Second World War, when, as the supreme commander of the Western allies in Europe, he gained first-hand experience of the political issues which would occupy the American political system in the post-war era. Among these issues were the rehabilitation of Europe and the future of Germany. During the years 1950–1952, Eisenhower commanded the NATO forces and again was exposed to political issues beyond his role as the man responsible for the defense of the West against Soviet invasion. Additionally, we must remember that Eisenhower filled very senior military roles under the Truman administration, and so had a part in the decision-making process on all Europe-related issues. Thus, if we maintain that the basic American foreign policy, as shaped by the Truman administration, was containment, then, when examining the underlying principles of Eisenhower’s administration, it would be easy to show that the new administration continued the policies of the preceding administration. These principles stated that the United States should continue to fulfill the leading role awarded to it by virtue of its status as a superpower. Thus, the United States should be responsible for enabling the free world to resist Communism, the main threat to world peace and the freedom of nations. In order to achieve this goal, the United States must undertake the responsibility and the commitment to participate in the defense of any state facing Communist aggression. Additionally, it must encourage the free world to rebuild its military power, and for that purpose the United States should offer economic and military aid to any states that were part of regional or bilateral alliances with the United States.52 Another such principle stated that only economic progress and improving the standard of living of states and nations can stop Communism. For this purpose, the United States should provide economic and technical aid even to states which are not connected to the United States by an alliance. During the 1950s, this mostly implied the non-aligned states such as Indonesia, India, and Egypt. At the same time, the Soviet Union was also trying to get a foothold in the non-aligned bloc, in order to expand its strategic presence and penetrate regions which had traditionally been under Western influence. The last principle was the increase in the United States’ military power, and its deployment in strategic locations around the Soviet Union.These principles defined American foreign policy during the 1950s but can also be discerned behind the intensification of the American
THE U.S. AND VIETNAM (1954–1963)
involvement in Vietnam during the Kennedy era, and the Americanization of the war at the beginning of the Johnson presidency. Kennedy’s final statement about the Vietnam situation was made on the morning of November 22, the day he was assassinated. This statement, more than any other, illustrates the dilemma which Kennedy was facing, as well as his ambivalent attitude toward the problems posed by Vietnam. Kennedy stated that, without American support, South Vietnam would collapse overnight.53 As Kennedy was assassinated on the very same day, we can never know how he would have acted, had he been elected for another term in 1964. Either way, the decision on whether to escalate the war fell on the shoulders of Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who, following the shooting in Dallas, Texas, became the thirty-sixth president of the United States. At this point in time, the United States was rapidly approaching one of the most critical moments in its history.
NOTES 1 About the conference, see: John Prados, Vietnam: The History of Unwinnable War, 1945–1975 (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 2009), 31–38. 2 Young, The Vietnam Wars, 45. 3 Tucker, Vietnam, 77–78; Schulzinger, A Time for War, 71–77. 4 Pentagon Papers (vol. 1), 213–214. 5 For the letter of congratulation sent by President Eisenhower after Diem’s nomination as the President of South Vietnam (July 6th, 1956), see: Arthur M. Schlesinger (ed.), The Dynamics of World Power: A Documentary History of United States Foreign Policy 1945–1973 (vol. 4) –The Far East (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1973), 478–479. See also: Young, The Vietnam Wars, 46–47. For more about the Eisenhower administration and Diem, see: Larry H. Addington, America’s War in Vietnam: A Short Narrative History (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2000), 50–52. 6 Tucker, Vietnam, 81–82. 7 Spector, Advice and Support, 221–224. 8 About SEATO, see: Schlesinger (ed.), The Dynamics of World Power, 473–477. 9 Spector, Advice and Support, 262–265, 268–274. 10 Tucker, Vietnam, 84–86. 11 For a review of Diem’s first years in government, see: Schulzinger, A Time for War, 77–79. 12 Addington, America’s War in Vietnam, 52–53. 13 Some of the bodies resisting Diem’s regime included: a number of religious sects, such as the Cao Dai; a political organization named the National Party for Greater Vietnam (Dai Viet), which promoted the people’s will for economic development; and a criminal organization named Binh Xuyen, which started to develop political aspirations. 14 Tucker, Vietnam, 87–88.
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1 5 Pentagon Papers (vol. 1), 242–250, 260–265. 16 For a discussion of the decision-making system in Hanoi, see: Pierre Asselin, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War, 1954–1965 (Berkeley: California UP, 2013), 36–43. 17 On the Ho Chi Minh trail and the fight over it during the years of the war, see: Tucker, Encyclopedia, 175–177. 18 Asselin, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War, 82–90. 19 Tucker, Vietnam, 90, 92–94. 20 David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest (New York: Random House, 1969), 183. 21 Spector, Advice and Support, 340–341. For an extensive review of the Viet Cong’s offensive tactics, see: George K. Tanham, Communist Revolutionary Warfare: From the Vietminh to the Viet Cong (New York: Praeger, 1961), 152–167. 22 For a review of Mao’s revolutionary war doctrine, see: Ian F.W. Beckett, Modern Insurgencies and Counter- Insurgencies: Guerrillas and Their Opponents since 1750 (New York: Routledge, 2001), 70–84. 23 Andrew F. Krepinevich, The Army and Vietnam (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1986), 44–46. 24 Tucker, Vietnam, 92–94; Schulzinger, A Time for War, 94–95. 25 Young, The Vietnam Wars, 74–75. For a summary of the American military involvement during the Eisenhower era, see: Buzzanco, Masters of War, 55–79. 26 Pentagon Papers (vol. 2), 22. 27 House, A Military History of the Cold War, 409, 411–414. 28 Interestingly enough, President George Bush (senior) used the same terminology in describing Saddam Hussein’s actions in August 1990, and as a way of legitimizing the American military intervention in the Persian Gulf for the saving of Kuwait and the ending of the Iraqi aggression, which, after Kuwait, could be directed at other states in the Persian Gulf. 29 For a discussion of President Kennedy’s foreign policy, see: Robert J. McMahon, “US National Security from Eisenhower to Kennedy,” in: Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd A. Westad (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War (vol. 1): Origins (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010), 303–309. 30 Tucker, Vietnam, 95–96. 31 Richard Crockett, The Fifty Years War: The United States and the Soviet Union in World Politics, 1941–1991 (London: Routledge, 1995), 131–137. 32 Tucker, Vietnam, 96; Schulzinger, A Time for War, 86–90. On the Strategic Hamlet Program, see: Tucker, Encyclopedia, 385. 33 Schulzinger, A Time for War, 107–110. 34 Addington, America’s War in Vietnam, 61–63. 35 George W. Ball, The Past Has Another Pattern: Memoirs (New York: Norton, 1982), 366. 36 Schulzinger, A Time for War, 91–92. 37 About the battle, see: Dave R. Palmer, Summons of the Trumpet: U.S.– Vietnam Perspective (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1978), 27–38. For those who would like to delve deeper into the battle, and especially its impact on the American involvement in Vietnam, see: David M. Toczek, The Battle of Ap Bac, Vietnam (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2007), 117–145. 38 Pentagon Papers (vol. 1), 250–260. 39 George C. Herring, America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam 1950–1975 (New York: Knopf, 1986), 93–94.
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4 0 Pentagon Papers (vol. 1), 265–269; Schulzinger, A Time for War, 113–117. 41 George C. Herring, “ ‘Peoples Quite Apart’: Americans, South Vietnamese, and the War in Vietnam,” Diplomatic History 14 (1) 1990, 1–2; John Ranelagh, The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986), 433–434. 42 This attitude is reflected in a report prepared for President Kennedy at the beginning of 1961. See: Pentagon Papers (vol. 2), 25–26. About the State Department’s view on the possibilities for replacing Diem, see: Memorandum of the Substance of Discussion at a Department of State–Joint Chief of Staff Meeting (15/6/62), FRUS, 1961– 1963, Vietnam 1962 (vol. 2), (Washington, D.C., 1990), 459– 460; Memorandum from the Former Political Counselor of Embassy in Vietnam to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (16/8/62), ibid., 597– 600; Contingency Plan Prepared by the Director of the Vietnam Working Group (undated), ibid., Vietnam 1963 (vol. 3), (Washington, D.C., 1991), 317–324. 43 Memorandum of a Conference with the President (28/11/63), FRUS, 1961–1963, Vietnam 1963 (vol. 4), (Washington, D.C., 1991), 1–6. 44 Ibid., 2–3. 45 See the explicit statement by Secretary of Treasury Dillon, ibid., 4. The expression “All necessary means must be employed” was a lesson from the Bay of Pigs operation, where Kennedy revoked the aerial support to the Cuban insurgents, practically guaranteeing the failure of the attempt to bring Castro down. 46 Quoted from the Attorney General, ibid., 5. 47 Schlesinger (ed.), The Dynamics of World Power, 484. 48 Christopher Andrew, For the President’s Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), 314; John Prados, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations since World War II (New York: W. Morrow, 1986), 245–247. Aficionados of conspiracy theories claim that it was CIA agents who assassinated Diem, but there is no proof supporting this claim. 49 Herring, “ ‘Peoples Quite Apart,’ ” 3. 50 Tucker, Vietnam, 101. 51 It is worth noting that the same elements can be found in the basic ideas of the post-Cold-War American foreign policy, except that radical Islam has now replaced Communism as the immediate danger to stability and world peace. 52 A distinct example was the rearmament of West Germany and its acceptance into NATO in 1955. Also, after the Korean War, the United States started sending massive arms shipments to South Korea, in order to build an offensive army capable of dealing with future North Korean aggression. A similar trend can be discerned in the U.S. policy on the building of South Vietnam’s armed forces after 1954. 53 John M. Newman, JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power (New York: Warner Books, 1992), 322–325.
From Dallas to Tonkin The Critical Moment
ith the swearing-in of President Lyndon Johnson, following the assassination of President Kennedy, a new and violent chapter in the American involvement in Vietnam started. Although Johnson, as Vice President, was considered hawkish in terms of foreign policy, his main goal was to promote economic and social issues. In other words, he was more interested in internal policy than in foreign policy. Johnson aspired to expand federal government help to deprived populations and focus on civil rights, especially for Afro-Americans. His plan, as presented during the election campaign of 1964, was dubbed the Great Society.1 The purpose of this comprehensive plan was to create immediate and dramatic improvement in the areas of employment, education, and healthcare, and it was supposed to overshadow Roosevelt’s New Deal. Although the Great Society plan was ambitious, it would have been achievable but for the Vietnam War, and its success would have made Johnson into one of the United States’ greatest presidents. Instead, the intensification of the war in Vietnam turned his presidency into one of the most tragic periods in the history of the United States; in the words of the historian Spencer Tucker: “his presidency was eaten away by the cancer of Vietnam.”2 This chapter reviews the events which preceded the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the American political and military response that followed the incident. The latter part of the chapter discusses the events that took place in Vietnam during the year following Tonkin, when both the United States and North Vietnam gradually escalated their military steps, up to the point where the United States chose to directly intervene in the confrontation. Thus, this chapter will serve to demonstrate how the events of the Gulf of Tonkin constitute a critical moment in the political and military history of the United States.
FROM DALLAS TO TONKIN: CRITICAL MOMENT
BEFORE TONKIN (NOVEMBER 1963 TO AUGUST 1964) Johnson entered the White House in an election year, and he knew that, in order to realize the Great Society plan, he had first to win the 1964 elections.3 To achieve victory he had to counter the harsh criticism from the Republican Party concerning the soft stand of the United States, under Democratic leadership, against the worldwide Communist expansion and aggression (in American eyes).4 Thus, Johnson had to make it clear that his administration was conducting a resolute struggle to stop Communism in its tracks, and the best place to demonstrate this aggressive policy was Vietnam. Although the tragic exit of presidents Kennedy and Diem from the stage of history created an opportunity for a reevaluation of the American policy in Southeast Asia and its commitment to South Vietnam, Johnson refused to be the first American president to pull American troops out of a region under direct Communist threat, a withdrawal that would have meant conceding military and political defeat to Communism.5 From Johnson’s discussions with his senior advisors, it became clear that should the United States decide to withdraw from South Vietnam, he would be certain to lose the elections.6 There is no doubt that the trauma involved with the “loss” of China was still playing a central role in the American decision-making process in the area of foreign policy. Johnson was afraid of being accused of having lost Vietnam by his actions or inaction, especially in light of Eisenhower’s domino theory, which had warned about the consequences of the fall of South Vietnam into Communist hands. On top of that, Johnson believed that the United States could carry out the Great Society plan in parallel with an uncompromising military struggle in Southeast Asia.7 Thus he believed that renewing the firm commitment of the United States to South Vietnam would not diminish the possibility of enacting social laws within the framework of the Great Society plan. On December 21, 1963, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara submitted a report about the strategic situation in Vietnam to President Johnson. The report ended with a recommendation to escalate the war, mainly through a campaign of strategic aerial bombardment.8 McNamara’s view was based on quantitative considerations. Since the material resources of the United States were superior to those of North Vietnam, the United States enjoyed an economic superiority which, when translated into military power, would eventually lead to the defeat of the North. In making these assumptions, McNamara completely ignored the ideological, or in other words the qualitative, aspect, which gave a clear advantage to North Vietnam. This advantage stemmed from the total will of the North
FROM DALLAS TO TONKIN: CRITICAL MOMENT
Vietnamese leaders, headed by Ho Chi Minh, to bring about the withdrawal of all foreign troops and the full unification of Vietnam, even at the price of severe damage to the economic system and a delay in the rehabilitation of the state. During his first visit to Vietnam in May 1962, McNamara stated that the United States was winning the war. However, in a report dated December 1963, he claimed that should the United States not step up its involvement, South Vietnam would fall into Communist hands within a matter of months. McNamara argued that the group that took over the government after Diem’s removal was incapable of managing the military confrontation. Additionally, he severely criticized the American senior personnel in Vietnam, and especially the failure of Ambassador Cabot-Lodge to cooperate with General Harkins, the commanding general of MACV.9 South Vietnam was ruled by a military junta led by Duong Van Minh. It was neither a Communist nor an anti-Communist regime. It was politically unstable and displayed a negative attitude toward the American military involvement. Since Minh was afraid of being perceived as an American puppet, he rejected any attempt to increase the number of American troops. He also limited the participation of American advisors in the South Vietnamese army to the brigade level and upward. The political instability ultimately brought about, on January 30, 1964, another military coup under the leadership of a young general named Nguyen Khan. This coup restored Catholic rule and therefore triggered the renewal of Buddhist protests against the government. The continuing instability brought about a series of military coups, and the rise and fall of new governments once every few months. The American fear was that one of these governments would try to strike a political agreement with North Vietnam.10 The months that preceded the events of the summer of 1964 showed a constant deterioration of the political and military situation in South Vietnam and of the entire region, including Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. The Viet Cong, armed and trained by North Vietnam, continued its operations against the South Vietnamese army, inflicting severe damage. This damage, in its turn, increased the political instability in South Vietnam as well as in the neighboring countries, especially Laos. Actually, we can perceive a change in the political and military moves made by North Vietnam in relation to the developing conflict, taking advantage of the political and social turbulence in the South. Toward the end of 1963, Hanoi decided that it was time to dramatically escalate the war in the South and to increase its military support of the Viet Cong.11 This was a significant evolution in the policy of North Vietnam, which gave birth to three important decisions. The first was to send North Vietnamese soldiers to fight in South Vietnam; the second was to authorize direct attacks on
FROM DALLAS TO TONKIN: CRITICAL MOMENT
American targets in the South; and the third decision was to arm the Viet Cong with the Soviet assault rifle AK-47 (“Kalashnikov”). Compared to all the political and strategic maneuvers, this techno- tactical decision seems marginal, but that is not the case. The Kalashnikov was the most effective and reliable infantry weapon at that period. Its high firepower gave the Viet Cong an advantage over the American small arms which the South Vietnamese army was using, some of which were surplus from World War II and the Korean War.12 The new weapons gave the Viet Cong tactical superiority over the South Vietnamese army, thus rendering the Communist attacks deadlier and more effective. The intensification of the attacks on South Vietnam, as well as the attacks on American targets, caused the United States to reevaluate its policy and its involvement in the region. It also caused some high- ranking officials in Washington, headed by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, to argue that the war should be expanded and that the source of the aggression, i.e. North Vietnam, should be targeted. This argument was also based on two additional visits by McNamara to South Vietnam during March 1964, when McNamara declared the United States’ unreserved support of Khan’s regime, describing him as “the best leader for South Vietnam.” After his return to the United States, the Secretary of Defense continued to issue public statements about the improvement in South Vietnam’s military position. However, at internal discussions with the President he said just the opposite. His opinion was that the military situation of South Vietnam had considerably deteriorated since his last visit and that the Viet Cong were controlling, to a certain extent, over 40 percent of the area of South Vietnam.13 The change in the strategic approach of the United States toward the Communist threat was also influenced by personnel changes in MACV. On June 20, 1964, General William Westmoreland replaced General Harkins as commander of MACV. His military experience as an artillery officer and as a commander of airborne troops had a significant influence on the strategy which he drafted for the American troops during the Vietnam War.14 This outstanding officer, with rich combat experience, who was well liked by his subordinates, turned, just like his Commander in Chief (President Johnson), into another tragic hero of the American Vietnamese tragedy.
U.S. and Western European countries frequently associate the AK- 47 with their enemies, both Cold War era and present- day. For example, Western works of fiction (movies, television, novels, and video games) often portray criminals, gang members, insurgents, and terrorists using AK-47s as the weapon of choice.
FROM DALLAS TO TONKIN: CRITICAL MOMENT
Sidebar 3.1: General William C. Westmoreland (1914–2005) Born in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, he graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1936 as an outstanding graduate. Following graduation, Westmoreland became an artillery officer and served in several assignments with the 18th Field Artillery at Fort Sill. During World War II he served in the Artillery Regiment in the 9th Infantry Division and in the 82nd Airborne Division. After the war, Westmoreland continued to command combat teams of the 82nd Airborne Division. He was promoted to Brigadier General in November 1952 at the age of 38, making him one of the youngest United States Army generals in the post-World War II era. In 1960, he was appointed commander of the 101st Airborne Division and later of the 18th Airborne Corps, the strategic reserve force of the U.S. Army. Prior to arriving in Vietnam as Harkins’ deputy, Westmoreland was the superintendent of West Point. He was the commander of MACV from June 1964 to June 1968 and Army Chief of Staff until his retirement from the army in 1972.
Westmoreland believed in the concept of “Big War” or “Big Units War,” i.e. defeating the enemy by relying on the superior maneuverability and firepower of the United States Army. This approach had, in Westmoreland’s opinion, brought the United States victory in World War II and to a large extent also in the Korean War. He never showed any interest in the “other war,” i.e. the pacification efforts and the civilian programs that the United States was running in Vietnam, and which came under his responsibility. He adopted a strategy of attrition, based on the assumption that the Communist forces could not sustain a long war because of their inadequate logistic infrastructure. Westmoreland objected to the idea of letting the U.S. Army deploy in small units in order to focus on the pacification activities.15 Both Westmoreland and Ambassador Cabot-Lodge, who were responsible for formulating the American policy in Vietnam, favored forceful action in order to bolster Khan’s regime. Washington agreed to increase its economic support, but although South Vietnam was receiving about $2 million a day, only a negligible amount was allocated to national projects or improving the standard of living of the farmers. Although Khan acknowledged the need to reinvigorate the military, little was done in that domain, mainly because of the objections of the middle classes, who were supposed to serve in the military. The operational inefficacy of the South Vietnamese army drove the United States into playing an ever-increasing part in the political and military reality of South Vietnam.16
FROM DALLAS TO TONKIN: CRITICAL MOMENT
In the American view, the most effective way of expanding its military activity was by using its aerial force. In this way, the United States would be able to match its military power and technological superiority against North Vietnam’s vulnerability to aerial attacks. In June 1964, following the North Vietnamese spring offensive in Laos, in which the Communist guerrillas of Laos (Pathet Lao) also took part, the United States initiated Operation Barrel Roll.17 This operation was meant to help the Royal Laotian army and the guerrilla forces of the Hmong tribes (run by the CIA) in their war against the Communists. Operation Barrel Roll ended in April 1973, after the United States had dropped over three million tons of explosives, making Laos the most bombed country in history. In order to complete the job, direct action against North Vietnam was needed, although an invasion was not possible, because of the limitations imposed on American actions by President Johnson.18 In January 1964, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell Taylor sent a memo to the Secretary of Defense in which he proposed opening covert operations against military and economic targets along the North Vietnamese coast.19 In Taylor’s eyes, such operations would obtain intelligence about North Vietnam’s offensive intentions, and the military raids would serve to show the South Vietnamese army as taking the initiative, thus creating support for the regime and helping to stabilize it.20 On January 16, President Johnson authorized the execution of these covert operations. Two months later, in March 1964, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended using the aerial power of the United States against North Vietnamese targets. The recommendations included mining the Haiphong harbor, bombing the main transportation routes, and attacking North Vietnam’s energy infrastructure. In fact, covert operations against North Vietnam were already begun during 1961 by the CIA, in a program whose code name was Operation Plan 34 Alpha (OPLAN 34A).21 The main activities within this plan were raids by South Vietnamese Special Forces on targets along the North Vietnamese coast, with American logistic support. This CIA-managed program was transferred to MACV’s responsibility in 1964.22 By the summer of 1964, there were two covert operations in progress against North Vietnam. The first program, the abovementioned OPLAN 34A, was part of the Johnson administration’s plan to increase the military pressure on the North, in order to force it to cease hostilities in the South. The operation used South Vietnamese torpedo boats and had American logistic support. There is also evidence that United States Navy SEAL teams took part in some of the raids.23 The second operation was named Operation DESOTO, which consisted of American destroyers sailing the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, near the North Vietnamese coast,
FROM DALLAS TO TONKIN: CRITICAL MOMENT
with the purpose of monitoring the frequencies of the North Vietnamese radar stations, in order to help American aerial forces penetrate the North Vietnamese airspace.This operation was an extension of similar activities by the U.S. Navy, whose ships were sailing in missions dedicated to collecting electronic intelligence (ELINT) near the coasts of other Communist states, such as the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea, mostly in international waters. Operation DESOTO was run directly by Pacific Fleet Command, without coordination with MACV.
TONKIN The two operations described above were run independently, without any operational coordination or cooperation. Operation DESOTO was run by the United States Navy, under the Pacific Fleet Command. Although General Westmoreland was under the Pacific Fleet Command, there was no coordination between the two commands as far as covert operations were concerned. In North Vietnam’s view, both programs violated its sovereignty, and the operational separation was immaterial. After the raids under OPLAN 34A started, North Vietnam launched a formal complaint with the International Control Commission, the committee established after the Geneva conference (1954), with Canada, India, and Poland as members, complaining that South Vietnam and the United States were breaking the ceasefire. The United States, however, denied any involvement. The proximity, in both time and space, of the American destroyers which participated in Operation DESOTO to the locations of the raids caused Hanoi to believe that the marauding commandos landed from the ships, which were patrolling not far from the North Vietnamese coastline.24 In late July and early August 1964, several covert operations were launched as part of OPLAN 34A, in addition to a naval raid by South Vietnamese forces. These operations included the parachuting of South Vietnamese agents into North Vietnamese territory and the bombing of targets in the northwest part of the country by aircraft flown by Laotian pilots. The intelligence assessment by North Vietnam was that it was facing an organized American attack, whose goal was to cause an escalation of the war. At the same time, the American destroyer USS Maddox (DD-731; see Figure 3.1) was patrolling the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, near the coast of North Vietnam. From the North Vietnamese point of view, the arrival of the destroyer and the raids which took place in the nights following its arrival were not coincidental; they believed that the Maddox served as a staging platform for these commando raids.25
FROM DALLAS TO TONKIN: CRITICAL MOMENT
On July 31, the Maddox started collecting electronic intelligence in the Gulf of Tonkin, as part of Operation DESOTO. The captain, John Herrick, was unaware of the commando raids which were taking place in the vicinity. Captain George Morrison, the commander of The Huey helicopter features prominently in the American naval force in the all the films about the Vietnam War, most sector, gave an explicit order to impressively in the movie Apocalypse Now the destroyer captain to keep a (1979). distance of at least eight nautical miles from the coast of North Vietnam, so as not to violate its territorial waters, and additionally to keep away from Hon Niey Island, since a commando raid was planned to hit the island under OPLAN 34A. On August 2, 1964, the Maddox was more than a hundred nautical miles away from the island.26 That evening, the Maddox sent a message that it was under attack from North Vietnamese P-4 torpedo boats (see Figures 3.2 and 3.3) and that its location was more than 30 nautical miles off the North Vietnamese coastline, i.e. in international waters. The report stated that the Maddox successfully evaded the torpedoes launched against it and that it opened fire on the attacking boats and hit them, sinking one of them.27 The report further stated that the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga had launched four F-8 Crusader aircraft, which confirmed the reports about the damage to the torpedo boats. The Maddox sustained light damage from machine gun fire. After the incident, it moved south, entering South Vietnam’s territorial waters, where it was joined by another destroyer, the USS Turner Joy (DD-951). In the wake of the incident, both sides accused each other of aggression. For example,Admiral Sharp, commander of the Pacific Command, charged that North Vietnamese radar stations had been tracking the Maddox since July 31 and that consequently they had no doubt that the destroyer was outside North Vietnam’s territorial waters, and therefore did not constitute any threat. He claimed that the government in Hanoi or possibly even local commanders ordered the attack on the Maddox. The official American position was that all the ships which were part of Operation DESOTO always sailed in international waters and that, by its actions, the A destroyer is a fast, maneuverable, long- endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy, or battle group and defend them against powerful short-range attackers.
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Figure 3.1 USS Maddox (DD-731). Source: Official U.S. Navy photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.
Figure 3.2 Photograph taken from USS Maddox during the engagement with three North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin, August 2, 1964. The view shows all three of the boats speeding toward the Maddox. Source: Official U.S. Navy photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.
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Figure 3.3 A North Vietnamese P-4 engaging USS Maddox. Source: Official U.S. Navy photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.
North Vietnamese government had violated the international laws relating to freedom of navigation.28 On August 3, another OPLAN 34A raid was conducted, and on August 4 the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy sailed out on another DESOTO mission. In addition, they were instructed to show the flag, i.e. to illustrate the fact that the United States was determined to continue patrolling off the coast of North Vietnam, albeit in international waters.29 The orders given to the two captains were to sail about 12 miles off the coast of North Vietnam, thus placing the ships, according to the American position, outside the territorial waters of North Vietnam. Additionally, the captains were authorized to return fire if attacked a second time.30 The weather that day was rough, and a strong tropical storm was developing in the area. The two boats started to receive signals from their electronic systems indicating that they were under attack. For four hours the ships’ radar-directed cannons engaged the targets while the ships performed evasive maneuvers. Following the incident the destroyers sent a report stating that they had hit the North Vietnamese boats, but on the following morning no physical evidence of the attack could be discerned, although the ships’ electronic systems had reported hits on the targets. Fighter planes launched for support and surveillance could not detect any shipwrecks either. Moreover, during the late hours of the morning, the North Vietnamese government rejected all the
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American allegations, stating that its navy did not launch any attacks on the night of August 4.31 In the official Vietnamese history of the Vietnam War, only the first attack on the Maddox is described, and there is no mention of the second attack.The claim in the official historical account is that the Maddox clearly violated North Vietnamese territorial waters, and even attacked some fishing boats.This American act of aggression forced the North Vietnamese navy to fight the aggressor and protect the sovereignty of the state.32 The conclusion drawn by Lien-Hang Nguyen,33 in her profound research based on a meticulous analysis of Vietnamese documents, was that the first attack did indeed happen. This was because Hanoi had mistakenly identified the Maddox as the platform used by the American forces as an exit point for the raids on the North Vietnamese coast. She also claims that there was no second attack, but does not provide the explanation that is commonly accepted among researchers, i.e. that the ships’ electronic systems provided false data because of the severe tropical storm which raged throughout the area during the night. Her conclusions are supported by the minutes of the National Security Council.When President Johnson asked whether North Vietnam was looking for war, the director of the CIA, John McCone, replied that the North Vietnamese “are reacting defensively to our attacks on their off-shore islands [=OPLAN 34A].”34 At noon (1 a.m. Washington time) Herrick sent a telegram in which he conceded that there may have been no attack and that there were, in fact, no North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the operating zone of the destroyers that night. Herrick stated that the rough weather has disrupted the ships’ electronic systems, triggering false positive alarms, i.e. causing them to detect targets which did not exist in the vicinity of the American destroyers.35 Thus, his recommendation was that a thorough situation assessment should be performed before taking offensive action. The two attacks, or rather “attacks,” are collectively known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and there are many studies that maintain that the United States invented these attacks as a pretext for escalating the military action against North Vietnam.36 The most comprehensive study of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, performed by Ed Moise, states that there was no second attack, but there is no doubt that the first attack did take place. He also stated that there is no evidence supporting the theory of conspiracy or document “doctoring” in Washington in order to substantiate the claims of North Vietnamese aggression.37 At 23:36 on August 4, President Johnson, in a speech to the American nation, described the North Vietnamese attack on the American destroyers and asked for Congress’s approval for a military response (see Document 4 in the appendix).38 In his speech, the President stated that the attacks were a North Vietnamese act of aggression and that they were launched while
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the American destroyers were in international waters.39 President Johnson also reemphasized the unrelenting American commitment to the support and defense of South Vietnam but stated that the United States was not seeking war. On reading the President’s speech, one can see that it did not hint that the United States intended to engage in open war against North Vietnam. However, it failed to mention the fact that the United States had, for a long period of time, been executing covert military actions. These statements were repeated in a speech given by the President at Syracuse University on August 5 (see Document 7 in the appendix).40 Within hours of the delivery of the speech, dozens of U.S. Navy attack planes, taking off from the aircraft carriers USS Ticonderoga and USS Constellation, attacked four bases which harbored North Vietnamese torpedo boats and an oil reservoir. According to the pilots’ reports, the attacks (Operation Pierce Arrow) ended with 29 boats being destroyed, as well as the oil reservoir, which held 10 percent of North Vietnam’s oil stockpile.41 Following the bombardment, Admiral Sharp requested authorization to respond more aggressively, should the ships which continued to patrol under Operation DESOTO be attacked again, including authorization to pursue the attackers into North Vietnamese territorial waters.42 During Operation Pierce Arrow, two American A-4 Skyhawk attack planes were shot down. One pilot, Lieutenant Richard Sather, was killed, while the other pilot, Lieutenant Everett Alvarez, was captured; he was only released from captivity in March 1973.43 Later that day, the President spoke before the American Congress (see Document 5 in the appendix).44 In this speech, the President again informed Congress about the attack on the American naval vessels and asked that Congress pass a joint resolution expressing the wish of the United States to maintain peace and security in Southeast Asia (see Document 6 in the appendix). In reality, what the President was asking in his speech was for Congress to authorize a policy which would allow the administration to respond to North Vietnamese aggression, and to the threat that it posed to the security and stability of the various states in the region. The President further stated that such a resolution should also express the determination of the United States to defend its military forces deployed in the region, including taking steps to provide this defense. However, Johnson repeated his claim that the United States was not interested in going to war. This statement, Prados argues, clearly reflects the looming shadow of the election campaign and the fact that the President’s actions were motivated by election-related considerations.45 Johnson claimed that a joint resolution by Congress would constitute a clear signal to hostile states about the United States’ determination to defend itself and its allies worldwide. Thus, an American military response
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had become a test case of America’s staunch stand against the aggression and global threat posed by Communism.46 The statement was also directed against the Republican rhetoric which accused the administration of incompetence and lack of response (especially an aggressive response) when dealing with the worldwide Communist aggression, controlled and directed by Moscow. Operation Pierce Arrow also served as a response to criticism expressed by Republican candidate Barry Goldwater, who advocated the use of the aerial power of the United States. On August 6, the Secretary of Defense testified before a Joint Session of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees. McNamara stated that the Maddox was on a routine mission of the type performed by other United States naval vessels all over the world. However, he failed to mention the commando raids carried out under OPLAN 34A by South Vietnamese units, with American support, against North Vietnamese targets. Actually, by disassociating the two operations, the secretary of defense was able to present North Vietnam as having executed an act of provocation against an American naval vessel sailing in international waters.47 On the following day, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which stated that Congress “approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression” (see Figures 3.4 and 3.5).48 The Figure 3.4 President Lyndon Johnson signing the Gulf of Tonkin resolution on August 10, 1964. Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
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Figure 3.5 The Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
resolution passed by an overwhelming majority, with 416 supporting and none opposing in the House of Representatives and 88 supporting and just two opposing in the Senate. The resolution was ratified and made into a law on August 10 (see Document 8 in the appendix).49 The joint resolution
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presented a unified front of unreserved support for the President’s declaration by both parties. There are those who consider the resolution as a kind of declaration of war by the United States. The resolution actually empowered the President to take any steps which he found fit, including the use of military power, in order to protect the allies of the United States in Southeast Asia against Communist aggression, and also to take all the necessary measures to support SEATO member states, should they ask for American help for their defense.50 Operation Pierce Arrow and the other aerial attacks fell in line with the strategic perceptions of many of the President’s advisors, both military and civilian, including Maxwell Taylor, the American ambassador to South Vietnam, who had replaced Cabot-Lodge in July 1964.The Joint Chiefs of Staff prepared a list of targets to be bombed inside the territory of North Vietnam. President Johnson, however, refused to authorize the escalation of the aerial attacks and was still trying to reach a political agreement with North Vietnam. The strategic bombardments exposed North Vietnam’s vulnerability to the United States’ aerial power. Using aerial power also offered a low risk in terms of casualties and won the support of the proponents of aerial power in Congress. Thus, Johnson succeeded in countering Republican criticism during the election campaign. Many heavyweight factors contributed to Johnson’s victory in the 1964 election, not least the voting pattern of the Afro-Americans in the southern states. However, there is hardly any doubt that quelling the Republican propaganda had a significant effect on the election results. Albeit this book is focused on a significant event in American history, the events of the first weeks of August were also a turning point in the North Vietnamese policy. The North Vietnamese army, aided by the Viet Cong, increased its military operations in South Vietnam, and the North also applied to the Communist powers, i.e. the Soviet Union and China, for economic and military aid.51 This seems to be the right moment to briefly explore here the response of the Communist powers. We can simplistically state that both powers limited themselves to denouncing the bellicose actions (in their eyes) of the United States against North Vietnam. However, the level of denunciation was different. The Soviet press, in itself a propaganda organ of the Kremlin, denounced the United States but also mentioned the atmosphere of “peaceful coexistence” between the United States and the Soviet Union.52 Soviet ambivalence was also expressed by the warning against the danger of a possible flare-up of hostilities, followed by a call to all peace-loving parties to do their best to douse the flames and prevent a regional war.53 This conciliatory, albeit critical and moralizing, spirit can be found in a letter sent by Nikita Khrushchev to President Johnson, in which the leader of the Soviet Union wondered why the United States would support South Vietnam’s corrupt regime while
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risking a war against China.54 The assessment of the Soviet Union was that the aggressive actions of the United States did not indicate a thirst for escalation, but rather that they stemmed from electoral considerations, and from Johnson’s need to respond to Republican criticism.55 China’s response was more aggressive, and it encouraged North Vietnam to apply to the United Nations to denounce the American aggression.56 In parallel, China started to send advisors and military aid to North Vietnam. About a week after the events of the Gulf of Tonkin and the American aerial attacks, China sent some fighter planes to North Vietnam and also started large-scale military maneuvers in South China.57 These steps stemmed from China’s desire to bolster its standing in continental Southeast Asia, and probably from its intention to warn the United States against invading North Vietnam, as it did during the Korean War.58 China’s actions and the widening rift between the two Communist powers drove the Soviet Union to reassess its geopolitical interests in Southeast Asia.59 This is where we can place the involvement of the two Communist powers in the Vietnam War in the context of the deterioration of their own interrelations and the ideological and geopolitical competition between them over spheres of influence, as well as the continuing struggle against the United States.60 The Vietnam War was not simply a conflict between two political entities, North and South Vietnam, fighting for the control of Vietnam (a civil war), or an American struggle against Communist aggression (the Cold War); it was also an ideological-political- geopolitical struggle within the Communist world.61 Neither of the Communist powers could allow the political hegemony and military patronage of the other, and North Vietnam became very adept at taking advantage of the situation. Moreover, the aerial response of the United States after the Gulf of Tonkin incident allowed North Vietnam to strengthen its connections with the Communist powers, and thus it obtained not just political support but also economic and military aid, including the establishment of a sophisticated air defense system, which would cause serious problems to the American aerial power in the coming years.62
AFTER TONKIN: CROSSING THE RUBICON (NOVEMBER 1964 TO NOVEMBER 1965) In November 1964, Johnson won the elections, defeating the Republican candidate by an overwhelming, unprecedented majority.63 Johnson’s campaign was based on several commitments. The first was his declaration about the Great Society. In Vietnam, Johnson deployed aerial power to
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block the Communist aggression and continued to assert that this was his preferred response. Thus, Johnson succeeded in neutralizing Goldwater’s bellicose statements. Johnson also declared that the war would be waged by the Vietnamese with American help, but without deploying American troops to fight in South Vietnam. During the election campaign, Johnson stated that there would be no Americanization of the war.64 There are those who accuse Johnson of delaying the escalation until after his victory in the elections, but there is no supporting evidence for this claim. In fact, the evidence tends to support just the opposite. Johnson aspired to carry out his Great Society program and a major war (as the Vietnam War ultimately turned out to be) would have drained the budget of the significant economic resources necessary for the implementation of the plan. Additionally, Johnson was aware of the prevailing mood in American public opinion, which was basically anti-war.65 Moreover, Warren Cohen claims that Johnson rejected proposals for escalating the war during the months following his election, until February 1965.66 The events of November 1964 to February 1965 were responsible for driving the United States to escalate the war. During these months, Johnson was still hoping that North Vietnam would drop its support of the Viet Cong, and therefore he refused to authorize any expansion of the bombing campaign against North Vietnam.67 Johnson’s victory in the 1964 elections opened a new era in the American involvement in Southeast Asia, but this was a process rather than an abrupt change, and we will show that the events of the summer of 1964 had a crucial influence on the period that came after Johnson’s election. Thus, the continuation of this chapter will attempt to establish the continuity from the summer of 1964 to the following months, until, in the middle of 1965, we can see the full Americanization of the war, with the start of the strategic bombing campaign against targets in North Vietnam (Operation Rolling Thunder), and the deployment of Marines and U.S. Army troops in South Vietnam. The mission of these troops gradually changed from securing the American bases to direct fighting against the Communist forces operating in South Vietnam. Based on the President’s belief that the Communist Aggression could be stopped by relying on aerial power, the Joint Chiefs of Staff prepared a list of targets within the territory of North Vietnam. However, even after having won the elections, President Johnson still refused to approve the escalation of the aerial attacks. In January 1965, Johnson’s advisors claimed that the situation in South Vietnam was becoming critical and that the attacks on the North should be intensified in order to protect the South. Walt Rostow, President Johnson’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, stated that North Vietnam had abandoned its guerrilla
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methods and must, as a state, protect its industrial infrastructure, as well as any energy producing sites. This implied that there were strategic targets in North Vietnam that, if damaged, would force North Vietnam to stop its aggression toward the South. However, a study conducted by the National Security Council (NSC) to evaluate the efficacy of the strategic bombing campaign came to the conclusion that such a campaign would not achieve any political goals, since Ho Chi Minh’s primary objective was the unification of Vietnam rather than economic growth.68 Strategic bombing, the study stated, would not weaken the Communist regime and might even strengthen it. Rostow ignored this study, as did most of President Johnson’s advisors, who continued to support the bombing of North Vietnam. They included the Secretary of Defense, the director of the CIA John McCone, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earl Wheeler. The continuing instability in South Vietnam, together with the gradual military escalation, was one of a series of global events which the United States interpreted as an increase in the Communist threat. Among the events that influenced American foreign policy we can mention the political pressure applied by pro-Communist Indonesia on Malaysia, the warming relations between the radical states in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Egypt) and the Soviet Union, the Soviet involvement in sub-Saharan Africa (especially in Congo), and some bellicose declarations by the leaders of the Soviet Union and China. In this fraught atmosphere, the United States was bound to demonstrate both its military power and its commitment to defend its allies against Communist aggression, as mandated by the Truman Doctrine, Eisenhower’s domino theory, and the commitment made by the United States to the states in the region under the SEATO agreement. On February 7, 1965, the Viet Cong attacked the American base in Pleiku. The attack cost the lives of eight American soldiers and the destruction of 25 aircraft. President Johnson ordered a retaliatory action— Operation Flaming Dart. Fifty aircraft, launched from aircraft carriers, bombed bases and logistic installations in the port town of Dong Hoi, several miles north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). On the following day, additional targets were bombed, this time with the participation of the South Vietnamese air force. These aerial attacks took place during the visit of Alexei Kosygin, Soviet premier, to North Vietnam. There is conjecture that North Vietnam timed the attack on the American base so that the United States would retaliate during Kosygin’s visit, the goal being to bring the Soviet Union to express its support for North Vietnam and maybe even send forces to its defense.The Soviet policy was to try to avoid turning the Vietnam conflict into a global event, part of the Cold War. However, following the American attacks, the Soviet Union had to change its policy, without knowing where its intervention would lead.69 On
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February 10, the Union of Communist States denounced the American aggression. On the same day, the Viet Cong blew up a Saigon hotel, killing 23 Americans. On the following day, 160 American and South Vietnamese aircraft attacked targets in the North.70 Although there are no records of the discussions held in the Soviet Union following the American bombing campaign against North Vietnam, it is clear that the Soviet Union had to abandon its non-intervention policy and declare its support of North Vietnam.71 It is possible that this declaration was also the result of the increased Chinese involvement in the region and the deterioration in the relations between the two Communist powers.The Soviet Union could not afford the ideological defeat of having North Vietnam join the Chinese faction.Thus, the Soviet Union increased its economic and military aid to North Vietnam, sent military advisors, and deployed anti-aircraft batteries for the defense of strategic sites in North Vietnam. In February 1965, the State Department published a long document under the heading “Aggression from the North” (see Document 9 in the appendix).72 The document laid the full responsibility for the Viet Cong attacks at Hanoi’s doorstep, stating that in recent years North Vietnam had conducted an aggressive policy against the United States’ allies in Southeast Asia, meaning mainly South Vietnam and Laos. The document also stated that the Viet Cong actions were not part of a popular insurrection against the government, but rather military aggression against the sovereignty of an independent state. The document stated that, since 1959, about 40,000 North Vietnamese soldiers had penetrated the South, and that they constituted the backbone of the Viet Cong’s activity. Therefore, this position document stated, the action of the United States was justified. On February 24, 1965, President Johnson announced the beginning of Operation Rolling Thunder, a continuous but limited campaign of aerial bombing between the 17th and 19th parallels. The goal of this operation was to stop the flow of troops and logistics from the North to the South, thus causing Hanoi to withdraw its support of the war.73 Rolling Thunder was one of the strategic bombing operations that the United States was running in North Vietnam and Laos. Eventually, the name became a generic term describing all the strategic bombing campaigns launched by the United States in the years 1965–1968.74 Washington estimated that eventually the Communist leadership would break, but in retrospect it seems that throughout the war the United States underestimated the tenacity of the North Vietnamese leadership, and its determination to continue the war until full unification was achieved. The United States viewed the war based on its own perceptions and system of values.75 In the first place, the aerial bombing would illustrate the United States’ military power and
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technological superiority. Secondly, the continuing attacks would cause severe economic damage, human suffering, and the collapse of any attempt at economic rehabilitation. However, Hanoi did not perceive economic progress as a primary goal but rather subordinated it to the national political goal of uniting Vietnam. Only after unification had been achieved could the economic rehabilitation effort start.76 A dramatic turn in the nature of the war occurred with the arrival of two battalions of Marines in Vietnam. At the end of February, Westmoreland demanded that American troops be sent to defend the large air force base near the city of Da Nang. Taylor objected to this demand, arguing that the deployment of a battalion-size regular military force would cause North Vietnam to send in additional troops and increase its involvement in the war. However, the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved Westmoreland’s request, so that on March 8, 1965, the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade arrived in Da Nang.77 This step caused an additional escalation of the developing conflict in a way which neither side expected or wanted.78 During the spring of 1965, the military situation of South Vietnam became critical. Along with attacks on the American forces, the Viet Cong focused on increasing the military pressure on the South Vietnamese army, with the goal of bringing about its collapse before the United States deployed large forces in the South. The Communists believed that the collapse of the South Vietnamese army would be followed by the collapse of the Saigon regime; with the loss of its ally the American intervention would lose its relevance. On the other side, the goals of the South Vietnamese army became limited to the protection of its bases and the main transportation routes in the South. Meanwhile, the government in Saigon was only responding to immediate threats and failed to formulate a long-term, comprehensive plan for a political, social, and economic stabilization of South Vietnam and the final elimination of the Communist threat. In light of the military reality in South Vietnam and the weakness of the South Vietnamese army, the Marines, who had arrived in March 1965, were gradually changing the nature of their activity. Rather than defending the airfields, they resorted to searching for and engaging the enemy within a radius of up to 50 miles around the American bases. The military activity of the Marines focused on the northern districts of South Vietnam (Military Region I [MR-I] or I Corps), and most of the clashes with the Viet Cong were the result of the offensive initiatives of the Marines.The number of Marines deployed in Vietnam gradually increased, until the creation of operative command III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF), which included the 1st and 3rd Marine Divisions and the 1st
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Marine Aircraft Wing.Throughout the war, the Marines’ area of operations was in the northern districts of South Vietnam (MR-I).79 On April 7, President Johnson gave a speech at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and called on North Vietnam to enter into negotiations, promising to extend a billion dollars in economic aid for the economic rehabilitation of Southeast Asia (see Document 10 in the appendix).80 Hanoi, however, rejected any possibility of a political solution as long as the United States continued the bombing within its territory. On April 20, Westmoreland met Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in Honolulu. At the meeting, it was decided to deploy nine additional American battalions and four battalions belonging to its allies, one Australian battalion and three from South Korea. At the beginning of May, the 173rd Airborne Brigade left its base in Okinawa and moved to Vietnam.This was the first United States Army brigade combat team to be sent to South Vietnam. The White House explained that these troops were being sent to support South Vietnam in its war against the Communist aggression, and that they would only be used as a reserve, at the discretion of General Westmoreland. The escalation of the war in the South drove General Westmoreland to request more combat troops, especially infantry units. This request became more urgent after the attack on the American embassy in Saigon on May 30, 1965, in which 22 soldiers and civilians were killed and dozens were wounded. At the beginning of April, following a meeting between President Johnson and his senior advisors, it was decided to deploy 20,000 additional troops. There is no doubt that, at the time, Johnson was still hoping to meet the leaders of North Vietnam at the negotiating table and reach a political agreement.81 However, by putting “boots on the ground” the United States restated its commitment to the defense of South Vietnam and its willingness to go to war in order to establish this defense against North Vietnamese aggression.82 The continuation of aggressive North Vietnamese actions, in the eyes of the United States, led President Johnson to decide in July on a full Americanization of the war. This decision was also mandated by two additional factors. The first was a pessimistic report by Westmoreland which stated that the South Vietnamese army was on the verge of collapse, following the heavy losses it had sustained during the fighting against the Viet Cong. The second factor was a letter sent to the President by McNamara. In his letter, the Secretary of Defense proposed three possible courses of action. The first was the termination of the war and an immediate withdrawal from Vietnam; the second was the continuation of operations in Vietnam without an increase in the number of troops; the third course of action was a gradual increase in the number of American troops, accompanied by a gradual escalation of the war.83
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In order to preserve the prestige of the United States and its status as a leader in the struggle against international Communism, the first option was rejected out of hand. The option of continuing operations in Vietnam without an increase in the number of troops was also rejected because, it was argued, in critical situations the need might arise for a rapid reinforcement in order to prevent defeat, and then it would be “too little too late.” It was also argued that a sudden escalation might bring about a Chinese intervention, in the same manner as in the Korean War. Thus, McNamara’s recommendation to the President was to increase the number of troops. This recommendation was also based on General Westmoreland’s estimation that the South Vietnamese army could not manage the Viet Cong by itself, and therefore he requested permission to deploy the American troops located in Vietnam on offensive operations. President Johnson approved the increase in the number of American battalions from 14 to 44. Toward the end of July, additional Marine units, as well as brigades belonging to the 1st Cavalry Division and the 101st Airborne Division, also arrived inVietnam. By the end of 1965, the number of American troops in South Vietnam had reached 200,000. Westmoreland estimated that, by the end of 1967, the number of American troops in South Vietnam would reach 600,000. In response, North Vietnam gradually increased the number of soldiers which were sent to infiltrate into South Vietnam. This escalation increased the effort that both sides concentrated around the Ho Chi Minh trail passing through Laos, which had become an additional front in the war. During 1965, a debate raged within the administration and the military establishment around the strategy that the United States should adopt in order to win the confrontation.84 The argument was between the proponents of a conventional war and those who favored a strategy of counterinsurgency.85 This argument lies at the bottom of the historical research on the Vietnam War. The conventional strategy comprised two different positions. General Maxwell Taylor, who had been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as of the summer of 1964 was the U.S. ambassador to SouthVietnam, argued that the United States should not wage a war and deploy troops within South Vietnam. Instead, he suggested moving the war into North Vietnam. In his opinion, the United States should invade Hanoi by sea and by air.The Johnson administration rejected this plan outright, because of the fear that an American invasion would trigger direct Chinese intervention. Throughout the war, the United States monitored the Chinese military presence in North Vietnam, while constantly evaluating the Chinese attitude toward the Vietnam conflict. Remembering the massive confrontation with China during the Korean War,Washington was now keen to avoid, at any price, the possibility of an additional direct
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confrontation with China. Moreover, an invasion of North Vietnam would be very costly in terms of American casualties. Besides, Washington could not be sure that its forces could do better than the French forces had done in the previous war, even in the absence of Chinese intervention. The other conventional approach suggested that the United States should invade Laos and deploy eight divisions (five of which would be American) along the border between Laos and North Vietnam as far as the intersection with the Thai border. These frontier fortifications would continue the line of fortifications that had been built between South Vietnam and North Vietnam (the “McNamara Line”). Thus the United States would sever the supply route from North Vietnam through Laos into South Vietnam (the Ho Chi Minh trail), isolating the Communist forces in South Vietnam, which would gradually be destroyed by the forces of the South Vietnamese army. In order to complete the operation, a limited invasion of the area north of the demilitarized zone (the 17th parallel) was proposed, targeted at destroying the logistics bases that were located at the start of the Ho Chi Minh trail. The opponents of this strategy argued that the disruption of the trail would only be temporary, and that eventually the Communist forces would bypass the blockade and establish a new trail through Thailand. The third strategy suggested running operations using counterinsurgency forces. This strategy proposed that the American forces focus on pacification activity within the population centers, while the South Vietnamese army conducted the fighting around the rural areas. In case of need, large American forces would be dispatched to participate in bigger operations for the destruction of the Communist forces. This strategy would leave the offensive initiative in Communist hands, and additionally would not exploit the American superiority in firepower and mobility. However, it bought time for the training of the South Vietnamese army, while simultaneously cutting the number of American casualties, thus moderating the political pressure in the United States coming from those calling for a withdrawal from Vietnam.86 During 1965, the administration supported the concept of a gradual response or slow escalation as a suitable strategic response to the North Vietnamese aggression.87 Within Vietnam, Westmoreland was implementing and intensifying the strategy of attrition, which left little room for counterinsurgency operations. Westmoreland’s attrition strategy prescribed the destruction of the Communist forces by the use of the superior firepower and mobility of the U.S. Army, with a gradual increase in the number of American troops deployed in South Vietnam.88 This concept, also known as “Big Units War,” involved mobility, which did not leave the troops enough time to form close relations with the local population.
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While the ground war in South Vietnam kept on escalating, the strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam— Rolling Thunder— continued. This campaign lasted almost continuously from the spring of 1965 to the end of 1968. During Operation Rolling Thunder, the United States and its allies dropped about eight million tons of bombs, almost three times the weight of the bombs dropped by the United States and Britain on Germany and Japan during World War II. In fact, Rolling Thunder and the associated operations against the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos were considered a separate front, which did not come under the operational command of Westmoreland and MACV. They were directly controlled by Washington through the Pacific Fleet Command, headed by Admiral Sharp. Although the Pacific Fleet Command had the operational responsibility, the targets were selected and approved by President Johnson and his team of senior advisors in the State Department, Department of Defense, and CIA. Just like the ground war, the strategic bombing campaign also followed the path of gradual escalation. However, it is important to note that the aerial campaign was primarily a political act, whose goal was to force North Vietnam to stop its aggression against South Vietnam and to bring it to the negotiating table. During 1966, the American air forces performed about 10,000 sorties per month; in 1967, the number escalated to 13,000.89 There are many who believe that Operation Rolling Thunder was a failure since it did not bring North Vietnam to the negotiating table. However, from a military point of view, it had some important successes. Firstly, many North Vietnamese had to be assigned to repairing the bomb damage and to serving in the air defense system, thus taking important resources away from agriculture and food manufacturing. Additionally, the aerial campaign prevented the North from achieving military victories in the South, since many soldiers were diverted to the defense of the Ho Chi Minh trail and the restoration of bomb damage. However, in spite of the mounting intensity of the aerial campaign, the North Vietnamese leadership refused to enter negotiations as long as the bombing campaign was in effect. The United States, for its part, rejected any preconditions and estimated that stopping the bombing campaign would not bring North Vietnam to the negotiating table immediately and that calling a halt to the bombing would allow many North Vietnamese soldiers to penetrate the South, creating additional risks to the American troops.90 An additional front was the naval arena. The forces of the Seventh Fleet were clustered around aircraft carriers stationed at two points, the first one against the border between South and North Vietnam (Yankee Station), and the other against the Mekong River delta (Dixie Station). The naval units were engaged in several activities: participating in the strategic bombing effort, providing aerial support to ground forces engaged in
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fighting, and blockading marine smuggling routes and riverine operations inside the Mekong River delta. The Seventh Fleet also provided artillery support from several vessels, in particular the gigantic battleship USS New Jersey. This ship was recommissioned for service, and its huge 405 mm cannons were used to shell coastal targets. The Seventh Fleet also shelled coastal targets in North Vietnam (Operation Sea Dragon). The Mekong River delta was the area of operations of the “Brown Water Navy,” which consisted of light boats and hovercrafts that provided fire support to units searching for Viet Cong outposts in the Mekong delta.91 However, the focus of the fighting in South Vietnam remained the ground war. As we have already seen, the summer of 1965 saw a critical deterioration of the military situation in the South, both for the Americans and for the South Vietnamese army. During the month of June, the casualties of the South Vietnamese army amounted to the equivalent of a full battalion per week. Under these circumstances, General Westmoreland decided to take the initiative and force the Communist forces to focus on constant defense. In order to achieve this goal, Westmoreland deployed the 1st Cavalry Division—a division that operated in close collaboration with helicopters, according to a new operational concept developed in the United States during the first half of the 1960s.92 Helicopters have become the symbol of the Vietnam War, to the extent that many call it “the helicopter war.” The numbers illustrate this very clearly. During the war, helicopters performed 36,125,000 sorties. About four million were for assault and about 7.5 million for landing troops. About 5,000 helicopters were lost in the war, 40 percent of them as a result of enemy fire. In spite of its vulnerability, the helicopter proved its value as a platform that combined a high degree of mobility with a remarkable firepower at the tactical level. Additionally, helicopters enabled the transport of supplies to cut-off units, without having to travel on the mined, ambush- prone roads. Moreover, the helicopter revolutionized medical evacuation from the battlefield. During the war, the helicopter was used for other purposes too, such as recon, artillery ranging, relay stations, and more.93 Once the advantages of the helicopter, primarily its operational flexibility in the battlefield, had sunk in, the U.S. Army formed a new type of division suitable for fighting in hard topography devoid of roads. During 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division was converted into an airborne division, meaning that the division soldiers, together with their vehicles and artillery, could be transported by helicopters. Later in the war other similar divisions, such as the 101st Airborne Division, were established or converted to the new format. As a matter of fact, both Army and Marine units used helicopters intensively, the most prominent of which was the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, known as the Huey.
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During the summer of 1965,Westmoreland was planning on breaking the 1st Cavalry Division up into brigade combat teams, and deploying them separately throughout South Vietnam. However, the division commander, Major General Harry Kinnard, objected to this move, so it was decided that the entire division would be stationed in central Vietnam, north of route 19, which was an important route connecting Cambodia to the sea. During September 1965, the division was stationed near the village of An Khe, at the entrance to the Ia Drang Valley. Within less than a month, the division would be leading a counterattack through the valley of Ia Drang, foiling an invasion attempt by North Vietnamese divisions, reinforced with Viet Cong regular units. In the autumn of 1965, North Vietnam decided to invade South Vietnam using Cambodia as a springboard. The plan devised by General Chu Huy Man, the commander of the North Vietnamese forces in the Western Highlands, called for an attack on the Special Forces base near the village of Plei Me. According to the plan, South Vietnamese army units sent to reinforce the base would be ambushed and destroyed. Once these forces were destroyed, the main force of the North Vietnamese army would move down route 19, all the way to the coast, thus bisecting South Vietnam. In parallel, several diversionary attacks were planned, the first one from North Vietnam to the South, and the second from southern Cambodia in the direction of Saigon. Strategic wisdom says that he who controls route 19 controls the Central Highlands, and he who controls the Central Highlands—controls all of Vietnam. The attack on Plei Me started on October 19, 1965, and gradually expanded into what was later known as “the battle of Ia Drang Valley.” This battle was the first significant clash between the North Vietnamese forces and the United States Army, and its consequences had a major impact on the strategy of both sides for the next two years. The assault of the Northern forces on the Special Forces base and the ambush laid for the rescue force failed, mostly due to a massive intervention by American artillery and aerial forces. During the second half of October, the MACV intelligence branch succeeded in assembling a picture of the battlefield that indicated that high concentrations of North Vietnamese forces were stationed in Cambodia, preparing to invade South Vietnam. Based on this information, General Westmoreland decided on a series of operations meant to disrupt the North Vietnamese plans. For two weeks, starting on October 27, one of the brigades of the 1st Cavalry Division conducted a series of “search and destroy” missions around the valley, and on November 14, following a few clashes between the armies, a series of bloody battles erupted in the landing zones “X Ray” and “Albany.”
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The battle in “X Ray” started when the 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment arrived in the landing zone and found itself surrounded by two North Vietnamese brigades numbering 2,000 soldiers. For four days, the 450 American soldiers successfully repelled numerous attacks, with the help of massive aerial support, including the gigantic B-52 bombers used to provide tactical support to the ground forces. During the entire battle, the battalion lost 96 soldiers. Later on, another fierce battle broke out at landing zone “Albany,” about 4 km north of “X Ray.” The battle lasted for the entire day, and the American unit (the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment) lost 155 of its men. The battle of Ia Drang ended on November 20, 1965, with the North Vietnamese forces retreating to Cambodia.The 1st Cavalry Division had 305 KIA. According to American reports, 3,561 North Vietnamese were killed. Although both sides claimed victory, the North Vietnamese army avoided further large-scale offensives like Ia Drang until January 1968.94 As a result of the Ia Drang battle, the North Vietnamese army learned that it could survive the massive firepower of the U.S. Army and that it could cope with the new helicopter-based tactics. It also extracted lessons about reducing the level of casualties. Conducting the battle at close proximity to the American forces would limit the ability of the Americans to use both aerial and accurate artillery support. As Giap put it: “Grab their belts to fight them.”95 On the other side, the American high command realized that it had just thwarted a strategic move which could have decided the war, even before the full deployment of American troops in South Vietnam. Westmoreland and his Operations Officer, General William Depuy, considered the kill ratio achieved in the Ia Drang battle (1:12) clear proof of the success of the attrition strategy. By improving on this strategy, the two generals believed, the United States would be able to win the war. Consequently, the United States Army employed a tactic called “search and destroy.” After Ia Drang, the size and number of “search and destroy” missions increased, with the goal of forcing the Communist forces to come out and fight and then destroying them using the firepower and mobility of the U.S.Army.96 Some researchers, such as Andrew Krepinevich, argue that the battles fought by the 1st Cavalry Division and the outcome of the battle of Ia Drang molded Westmoreland’s strategy for the following years, because they served as a highly successful operational model that exploited the effectiveness of the firepower and mobility of the American forces.97 After their withdrawal from Ia Drang, the North Vietnamese forces and the Viet Cong avoided large direct confrontations with the American forces. The Communist tactics prevented the effective application of Westmoreland’s attrition tactics and the concept of “Big Units War,” but
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there was no change in the operational perceptions of MACV.Westmoreland continued to launch large operations against strategic Communist targets. The idea behind these large operations was that attacking a target with strategic importance, such as a supply depot, would force the guerrilla fighters to come out of hiding in order to defend the target, only to be destroyed by the American firepower and technological superiority. It is worth mentioning that tactically the Communist soldier was more mobile on the ground; he was only carrying about 5 kg of equipment on his body, compared to the American soldier who had to carry 20–25 kg of equipment, weapons, and ammunition. This is where the increased use of helicopters was a big help to the mobility of the American soldier.
Sidebar 3.2: Search and Destroy “Search and destroy” refers to a military tactic that became a major component of the Vietnam War. The idea was to insert ground forces into hostile territory, search out the enemy, destroy it, and then withdraw immediately afterward. The strategy was the result of a new technology, the helicopter, which produced a new form of warfare, the fielding of air cavalry, and was thought to be ideally suited to counter-guerrilla operations and jungle warfare. The complementary conventional tactic, which entailed attacking and conquering an enemy position, then fortifying and holding it indefinitely, was known as “clear and hold” or “clear and secure.” In theory, since the traditional methods of “taking ground” could not be used in the Vietnam War, a war of attrition would be used, eliminating the enemy fighters by searching for them and then destroying them; the “body count” would be the measuring tool to determine the success of the strategy of attrition and the tactic of “search and destroy.” “Search and destroy” became an offensive tool that was crucial to General Westmoreland’s second phase during the Vietnam War. In his three-phase strategy, the first phase was to tie down the Viet Cong, the second phase was to resume the offensive and destroy the enemy, and the third phase was to restore the area under South Vietnamese government control. “Search and destroy” missions entailed sending out platoons or companies of U.S. troops from a fortified position (fire base) to locate and destroy Communist units in the countryside. These missions most commonly involved hiking out into the jungle and setting an ambush near a suspected Viet Cong trail. The ambush typically involved the use of fixed Claymore anti-personnel mines, crossing lines of small arms fire, mortar support, and possibly additional artillery support called in via radio from a nearby fire support base.
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The “search and destroy” tactic was also used in large-scale battles, i.e. to draw large enemy forces within the reach of the superior firepower of the American forces. Westmoreland argued that such operations would ultimately cause severe damage to the military power of the Communist units. The American command in South Vietnam awaited the turning point: the point in time where the number of Communist casualties exceeded the number of new recruits. The strategy of attrition, whose tactical derivative comprised the “search and destroy” operations, was severely criticized by both the American public and senior officers. Air force Chief of Staff General John McConnell and Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Greene both objected to the strategy. McConnell favored strategic bombing, while Greene supported counterinsurgency. The latter was also the firm preference of Major General Edward Lansdale, who was considered an expert in the domain of counterinsurgency and advised presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. Lansdale’s attitude, crystallized during the 1950s following his contribution to the fight against the Communist insurgency in the Philippines, was that the U.S. Army should focus on counterinsurgency rather than on deploying large, mobile units.98 The strategy of attrition and waiting for the turning point in the war testify to the fact that the American political and military system never understood that North Vietnam was willing to sacrifice many soldiers and pay a heavy economic price in order to achieve its main political goal—the unification of Vietnam. Hanoi did not have to placate public opinion. Moreover, the American bombing actually bolstered the civilian population’s support of the regime. Hanoi was fully committed to total victory, which would bring about the unification of the two states, if need be at the price of massive economic destruction and the sacrificing of an entire generation on the unification altar. North Vietnam was generating about 200,000 new recruits each year.The casualty rate that America inflicted never exceeded that number. Additionally, the political goal of North Vietnam was clear, and its translation into military language was extremely simple: to undermine the American will to continue the fight and thus bring about the withdrawal of the American troops, which would be followed by the unification of Vietnam. In spite of Westmoreland’s attempts to take the offensive initiative, the initiative was mostly in the hands of the North Vietnamese army and the Viet Cong, The battle of Ia Drang proved beyond any doubt that the Communists could not cope with the superior firepower and maneuverability of the United States Army. However, the tactical initiative remained in the hands of the Communists, who decided when, where, at what intensity, and until when they would fight.
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In 1965, Time Magazine selected General Westmoreland as Man of the Year. Through his strategy, Westmoreland succeeded in preventing the political and military collapse of South Vietnam.99 At that time, he was also the only American military man who was standing up to the global Communist threat on the field of battle. During 1965, the United States lost 1,275 soldiers, the South Vietnamese army lost 11,403 soldiers, and, according to American estimates, over 35,000 Communist fighters were killed. The gradual deterioration and escalation in the months following the Gulf of Tonkin incident brought about, toward the end of 1965, a complete Americanization of the war, sending the United States into one of the most traumatic eras in its history.
NOTES 1 Yaughn D. Bornet, The Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 1983), 101–102. 2 Spencer C. Tucker, Vietnam (Lexington: Kentucky UP, 1999), 101. 3 President Kennedy’s fateful visit to Dallas was, in fact, the opening tour of his election campaign. About Johnson’s presidency during the first months after he entered the White House, see: Robert Buzzanco, Masters of War: Military Dissent and Politics in the Vietnam Era (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996), 153–155. 4 Toward the end of Eisenhower’s presidency as well as during Kennedy’s presidency, the Cold War assumed a global scope, following its spread to Africa and Latin America. About the Cold War during the first half of the 1960s, see: J.P.D. Dunbabin, The Cold War: The Great Powers and Their Allies (London: Longman, 1994), 233–246; Odd A. Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008), 110–157. 5 Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History (New York: Penguin Books, 1983), 336. 6 Norman Podhoretz, Why We Were in Vietnam (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982), 80. 7 Tucker, Vietnam, 102. 8 Marilyn B. Young, The Vietnam Wars 1945–1990 (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 108; Robert D. Schulzinger, A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941– 1975 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997), 137–138. 9 Tucker, Vietnam, 102–103. 10 Larry H. Addington, America’s War in Vietnam:A Short Narrative History (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2000), 69–70. 11 Pierre Asselin, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War 1954–1965 (Berkley: California UP, 2013), 162–169. 12 Tucker, Vietnam, 105. The Kalashnikov soon became identified with terrorist and guerrilla organizations, the distinct mark of the revolutionary. In 1965, M-16 rifles started to arrive in Vietnam, gradually replacing the older M-14s. Since Vietnam and until today, the M-16 has been the U.S. military’s standard service rifle. For more information about the rifles used in the Vietnam War, see: Spencer C. Tucker, The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social and Military History (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001), 351–352 (hereafter: EVW).
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1 3 Schulzinger, A Time for War, 130–131. 14 For additional reading about General Westmoreland’s early biography, see: Samuel Zaffiri, Westmoreland: A Biography of General William C. Westmoreland (William Morrow and Company, 1994); Ernest B. Furgurson, Westmoreland: The Inevitable General (Boston, MA: Little Brown and Company, 1968). See also Westmoreland’s autobiographical book: A Soldier Report (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976). 15 Westmoreland, A Soldier Report, 98–99. For more information about Westmoreland’s strategic perception, see: Gregory Daddis, Westmoreland’s War: Reassessing American Strategy in Vietnam (Oxford: OUP, 2014), 57–63; Andrew F. Krepinevich, The Army and Vietnam (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1986), 166–167. 16 Tucker, Vietnam, 105. 17 About the operation, see: EVW, 35–36. 18 About the discussions in Washington concerning ways of coping with the North Vietnamese aggression, see: Addington, America’s War in Vietnam, 71–72; Schulzinger, A Time for War, 142–145. 19 Edwin E. Moise, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War (Chapel Hill: North Carolina UP, 1996), 22–32. See also: F. Charles Parker, Vietnam: Strategy for a Stalemate (New York: Paragon House, 1989), 28–33. 20 T.G. Fraser and Donette Murray, America and the World since 1945 (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 121–124. 21 OPLAN 34A was approved at the beginning of Kennedy’s presidency, under the general framework of covert operations against Communist regimes all around the world. Kennedy actually continued the policy formulated by President Eisenhower. One of the largest covert operations that Kennedy inherited was Operation Mongoose, run against Castro’s regime in Cuba. On Kennedy’s decision to launch covert operations against North Vietnam, see: Richard H. Shultz, The Secret War against Hanoi: Kennedy’s and Johnson’s Use of Spies, Saboteurs, and Covert Warriors in North Vietnam (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), 177–178. 22 On the transfer of responsibility from the CIA to MACV, see: Shultz, The Secret War against Hanoi, 42–46; Tucker, Vietnam, 107. 23 Orr Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters: The Untold Story of the Navy SEALs (New York: Pocket Books, 1992), 118–123. 24 In fact, the commando forces were stationed at Da Nang base. 25 About the North Vietnamese claims, see: Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam (Chapel Hill: North Carolina UP, 2012), 74–75. 26 However, the report to the President stated that the Maddox was 30 nautical miles from the coast of North Vietnam. Either way, it was sailing in international waters. See: Memorandum from the Duty Officer in the White House Situation Room, August 2, 1964, FRUS, 1964–1968, Vietnam 1964 (vol. 1) (Washington, DC, 1992), 590. 27 Telegram from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp), August 2, 1964, FRUS, 1964–1968, Vietnam 1964 (vol. 1) (Washington, DC, 1992), 591. 28 Tucker, Vietnam, 107; Shultz, The Secret War against Hanoi, 35–40. See also the telegram from the American embassy in Saigon to the Department of State concerning the wording of the American official response: Telegram from the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State, August 2, 1964, FRUS, 1964–1968, Vietnam 1964 (vol. 1) (Washington, DC, 1992), 593.
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29 The United States took a similar stance during the 1980s, when Libya claimed the Gulf of Sidra as part of its territorial waters, and the United States refused to accept this declaration. The U.S. response was to send naval forces to the area, and even shoot down Libyan fighter planes that attempted to attack the American vessels. It is also important to remember that the United States had previously gone to war twice, once against France (the Quasi-War, 1798–1800) and the second time against England (War of 1812), after having accused the two states of attacking American merchant vessels and impeding the freedom of navigation. 30 Telegram from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp), August 2, 1964, FRUS, 1964–1968, Vietnam 1964 (vol. 1) (Washington, DC, 1992), 593. 31 Schulzinger, A Time for War, 151. 32 Military History Institute of Vietnam, Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People’s Army of Vietnam, 1954–1975, tr. William L. Pribbenow (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 2002), 132. 33 Nguyen, Hanoi’s War, 74. 34 Summary Notes of the 538th Meeting of the National Security Council, August 4, 1964, FRUS, 1964–1968,Vietnam 1964 (vol. 1) (Washington, DC, 1992), 611. 35 Young, The Vietnam Wars, 118–119. 36 Tucker, Vietnam, 107–108. 37 See the comprehensive discussion in: Moise, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War, 106–207. 38 About the implications of the time zones difference betweenVietnam and the United States, see: Editorial Note, FRUS, 1964–1968, Vietnam 1964 (vol. 1) (Washington, DC, 1992), 604–605. For a summary of the events of August 4, 1964, see: Editorial Note, FRUS, 1964–1968, Vietnam 1964 (vol. 1) (Washington, DC, 1992), 607–608. See also:Young, The Vietnam Wars, 117–119. 39 President Johnson’s Radio and Television Report to the American People Following Renewed Aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin (August 4, 1964) is available at: www. presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=26418. Cohen uses the term “aggression on the high seas,” thus seemingly accepting the claim that the first attack did indeed take place, while the second attack was a case of mistaken identification; see: Warren I. Cohen (ed.), The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations (vol. 4): America in the Age of Soviet Power, 1945–1991 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993), 163–164. 40 President Johnson’s Remarks at Syracuse University on the Communist Challenge in Southeast Asia (August 5, 1964). Available at: www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index. php?pid=26419 41 EVW, 330. In fact, as Tucker indicates, the aircraft took off on the way to their missions prior to Johnson’s speech; see: Tucker, Vietnam, 108. 42 Telegram from the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Sharp) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler), August 4, 1964, FRUS, 1964–1968, Vietnam 1964 (vol. 1) (Washington, DC, 1992), 624–625. 43 See the North Vietnamese announcement of the capturing of the American pilot: Russell D. Buhite (ed.), Major Crisis in Contemporary American Foreign Policy (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997), Document no. 228, p. 281. 44 Special Message to the Congress on U.S. Policy in Southeast Asia (August 5, 1964). Available at: www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=26422#axzz2hl9fydBl 45 John Prados, Vietnam: The Unwinnable War, 1945–1975 (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 2009), 99.
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46 We must remember that, during the first half of the 1960s, there were many other locations where the United States perceived Communist aggression, such as Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, the Middle East, Africa, and of course Latin America. Thus, the American conclusion was that war against global Communism must be waged on several geographical fronts and that the Communist threat was indeed global. See: Dunbabin, The Cold War, 233–251. 47 Schulzinger, A Time for War, 152. 48 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/tonkin-g.asp 49 www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-78/pdf/STATUTE-78-Pg384.pdf 50 Addington, America’s War in Vietnam, 77–78; Tucker, Vietnam, 108. 51 Asselin, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War, 196–198; Nguyen, Hanoi’s War, 75. 52 “Peaceful coexistence” was a theory in the domain of International Relations, developed in the Soviet Union, and claiming that Socialism can exist peacefully alongside the Capitalist world. See: John W. Young, Cold War and Détente, 1941–91 (London: Longman, 1993), 301–303. 53 Daniel S. Papp, Vietnam: The View from Moscow, Peking, Washington (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1981), 38. 54 Letter from Chairman Khrushchev to President Johnson, August 5, 1964, FRUS, 1964–1968,Vietnam 1964 (vol. 1) (Washington, DC, 1992), 636–638. 55 Papp, Vietnam, 41. 56 At this time, Communist China was not yet a member of the UN, and it was Taiwan (Republican China) that represented the Chinese people. 57 Asselin, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War, 201–202. 58 It is important to remember that the policy of the United States during Johnson’s presidency was strongly influenced by the Korean trauma, and by the military defeats that the Chinese army had inflicted on the UN forces. 59 On the change in the Soviet Union’s policy, see: Asselin, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War, 202–204; Parker, Vietnam, 46–50. 60 One of the distinct test cases for this triple-sided competition can be seen in the struggle for influence over the sub-Saharan African states which, during the latter half of the 1950s, started to get their independence. See: Elizabeth Schmidt, “Africa,” in: Richard H. Immerman and Petra Goedde (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013), 267–269. 61 For a comprehensive discussion of the responses and the steps taken by the two Communist powers, see for example: Parker, Vietnam, 37–46. 62 Nguyen, Hanoi’s War, 75. 63 Johnson was elected by 486 electors, whereas only 52 voted for Goldwater. 64 Schulzinger, A Time for War, 156. 65 Fraser and Murray, America and the World since 1945, 119–121. On the influence of American public opinion on Johnson’s decision not to escalate the conflict, see: Richard Sobel, The Impact of Public Opinion on U.S. Foreign Policy (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001), 64–65. 66 Cohen, The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations (vol. 4), 165. 67 Tucker, Vietnam, 110. 68 Michel H. Hunt, Lyndon Johnson’s War: America’s Cold War Crusade in Vietnam, 1945–1968 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1996), 85–86; John F. O’Connell, The Effectiveness of Airpower in the 20th Century (vol. 3): 1945– 2000 (New York: iUniverse, 2006), 61.
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69 Ilya V. Gaiduk, The Soviet Union and the Vietnam War (Chicago, IL: I.R. Dee, 1996), 27–31. 70 Tucker, Vietnam, 110, 112. 71 Asselin, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War, 202–204. 72 www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP79R01001A001400010005- 4.pdf 73 See: Schulzinger, A Time for War, 170–174. 74 About Operation Rolling Thunder, see: John Schlight, A War Too Long: The USAF in Southeast Asia 1961–1975 (Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums, USAF, 1996), 45–53; Wayne Thompson, “Operations over North Vietnam, 1965– 1973,” in: John A. Olsen (ed.), A History of Air Warfare (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2009), 108–117; Robert A. Pape, Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1996), 174–210. 75 Tucker, Vietnam, 118–120. 76 Young, The Vietnam Wars, 153–154. 77 On the arrival of the Marines in South Vietnam as the first manifestation of the Americanization of the war, see: Allan R. Millet, Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps (New York: The Free Press, 1991), 565–567. 78 Asselin, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War, 206. 79 See: Edward F. Murphy, Semper Fi –Vietnam: From Da Nang to the DMZ, Marine Corps Campaigns 1965– 1975 (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 2000), 6– 13; Edwin H. Simmons, The United States Marines: A History (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1998), 221–225. 80 www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=26877 81 Matthew S. Muehlbauer and David J. Ulbrich, Ways of War: American Military History from the Colonial Era to the Twenty- First Century (New York: Routledge, 2014), 460–463. 82 Parker, Vietnam, 68–72. 83 Adrian R. Lewis, The American Culture of War: The History of U.S. Military Forces from World War II to Operations Enduring Freedom (New York: Routledge, 2012), 239–241; Schulzinger, A Time for War, 174–181. 84 On the argument, see: Tucker, Vietnam, 116–118. 85 See the discussion in: Max Boot, Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (New York: Liveright, 2013), 413–426. 86 See also: Daddis, Westmoreland’s War, 68–74. 87 Lewis, The American Culture of War, 241–242. 88 Dave R. Palmer, Summons of the Trumpet: U.S. –Vietnam Perspective (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1978), 116–121. See also: Lewis, The American Culture of War, 221–226. 89 Tucker, Vietnam, 120. 90 Ibid. 91 For a comprehensive review of the naval dimension of the Vietnam War, see: Malcolm W. Cagle, “Task Force 77 in Action off Vietnam,” in: Frank Uhlig (ed.), Vietnam: The Naval Story (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986), 14–72. One of the most important books about the operations of the “Brown Water Navy” is the book written by Thomas J. Cutler, Brown Water –Black Berets: Coastal and Riverine Warfare in Vietnam (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1988). 92 About the development of the air mobility concept in the U.S. Army, see: Robert F. Futrell, Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine: Basic Thinking in the United States Air Force (vol.
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2), 1961–1984 (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, 1989), 311–316; Jonathan M. House, Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 2001), 213–218. 93 Tucker, Vietnam, 121–122. 94 About the battle, see: Muehlbauer and Ulbrich, Ways of War, 463– 467; Shelby Stanton, The 1st Cav in Vietnam: An Anatomy of a Division (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1999), 45–67. 95 Tucker, Vietnam, 123. 96 Daddis, Westmoreland’s War, 93–101. 97 Krepinevich, The Army and Vietnam, 169. 98 See also the discussion in: Daddis, Westmoreland’s War, 93–95. 99 Gregory A. Daddis, No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011), 83.
The White House vs. Capitol Hill The War Powers Act
he Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the joint resolution of Congress which followed it, mark a historical turning point in the relations between the executive and the legislative branches of the United States government. The main issue was the attempt by Congress to reclaim War Powers—the sole authority to declare war. Arthur Schlesinger wrote, in the foreword to William Goldsmith’s book, that the Vietnam War “sent a whole generation back to the Constitution, the debates at the Convention and the Federalist Papers.”1 This chapter deals with the political (rather than legal or constitutional) debate about War Powers within the American government, which ultimately led to the legislation of the War Powers Act in November 1973. The struggle and ensuing legislative process were a direct result of the Vietnam War in general and especially the escalation which took place at the beginning of President Nixon’s presidency.2 The war fomented the crisis between the President and Congress not because of a constitutional conflict, but rather because of the unsuccessful management of the war by the preceding presidents and the failure to achieve a clear-cut victory,3 during Johnson’s and Nixon’s administrations. The more it became clear that the various administrations, especially Nixon’s, had no clear idea of how to terminate the war, the more Congress attempted to limit the presidential room for maneuver on one side and to increase its own power on the other.4
WAR POWERS: A HISTORICAL REVIEW UP TO 1941 The Constitutional Convention convened in Philadelphia at the end of the revolutionary war created a new form of government. On one side, the
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people of the colonies refused to revert to the old oppressive monarchic regime, but on the other side the confederative regime failed to live up to expectations either during the revolution or in facing the colossal political and economic challenges in the following years. During the convention, a federalist regime emerged as the optimal solution, from which separation of powers and the system of checks and balances were derived. The Constitution, which was signed following lengthy and stormy debates, is meant to protect the citizens against government. Thus the portion of the Constitution dedicated to the Legislative Branch— Congress—is more detailed than the section dealing with the powers of the presidency. The basic assumptions behind the Constitution created a mechanism which implied that Congress is the main representative of the people vis-a-vis the central government,5 while the presidency was put in charge of managing the foreign affairs of the United States, whether in war or in peace, as well as formulating and executing a policy which would unite the component states into a single entity. When reading the minutes of the Constitutional Convention, one can discern three opposing approaches to the issue of initiating or declaring war. The first stated that such a heavily loaded decision should be made by the representatives of the public, i.e. by the members of the legislative branch. The second claimed that this power should be entrusted to the executive branch since the executive branch controlled the military power of the state. The third, a compromise between the first two approaches, held that the power to declare war should be the product of collaboration between the two branches of government,6 so as not to entrust too much power in the hands of one of the branches. This spirit of compromise, together with the philosophical essence of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances, were typical of the Constitutional Convention.7 The delegates of the convention and the drafters of the Constitution, being familiar with the royalist regimes of Europe, refused to entrust the War Powers in the hands of one branch of government.They preferred the third, middle-of-the-road approach. The main debate in the convention dedicated to the War Powers took place on August 17, 1787.The final draft of the Constitution stated that Congress had the power to declare war, raise an army, establish a navy, and set the rules for their management.8 The Constitution also stated that the President was the Commander in Chief of the United States Army and Navy.9 However, the Constitution does not specify the powers of the President as supreme commander of the armed forces. The drafters of the Constitution seem to have relied not just on their experience, i.e. their familiarity with European royalist regimes, but also on the realization that they could not foresee all the future scenarios in
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Sidebar 4.1: War Power Clauses U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 8, Clauses 11–14 [The Congress shall have power]
11. To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water: 12. To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years: 13. To provide and maintain a navy: 14. To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces:
which the United States might use its military power outside its borders.10 We can assert that the President’s role as Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States, and the fact that those forces report directly to the President rather than to Congress, are the factors that give the President vast powers in the management of foreign policy in general and the use of military power in particular.11 Between the ratification of the Constitution (1793) and the war of 1812, American presidents used military force on several occasions. Thus, for example, John Adams (1797– 1801) used the navy against French warships which attacked American merchant ships because of the U.S. refusal to support the French revolutionary government (the Quasi- War, 1798–1800). The activation of the navy was not backed by a declaration of war by Congress, which, however, supported the actions of President Adams. An additional example can be seen in the dispatching of the navy, as well as units of Marines to North Africa in order to protect American merchant shipping against the raids of local pirates (the First Barbary War, 1801–1805) during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809). In his notice to Congress, Jefferson wrote that the sending of the navy was within his constitutional powers, as its only purpose was to defend American commerce.12 In his opinion, only offensive use of military force necessitated a decree or the consent of Congress. Elsewhere, Jefferson wrote that only Congress had the constitutional power to move the United States from a state of peace to a state of war.13 Between the founding of the republic and the Vietnam War, the United States was involved in six wars outside its borders, where the Korean War was the first case in which the United States went to war without
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a declaration of war by Congress. On June 18, 1812, Congress declared war on England.14 The formal reason stated by President James Maddison (1809–1817) was the continuous interference in the freedom of navigation of American ships by the British Navy. However, the debate about the President’s request exposed dissent within Congress. The members of Congress who supported going to war mostly came from the western states, which had an interest in expanding U.S. territory northward toward Canada, while Britain was tied down by the Napoleonic Wars. These states were also exposed to attacks by a Native American coalition, which enjoyed the support of the English governor of Canada. On the other side, representatives of the northeastern states, whose ships suffered the most from interference by the British Navy, opposed the proposed war. The reason was that, in spite of the damage caused by the English, American commerce continued to be profitable.15 As a result of the debate, Congress approved the presidential request to go to war. This was the first time in which the President applied to Congress for a declaration of war, as well as the first time in which both branches acted according to the Constitution.16 The second time Congress voted on going to war was in 1846, when President James Polk (1845–1849) made it clear to Congress that a state of war already existed between the United States and Mexico, after, according to his claims, Mexican army units crossed the Rio Grande and attacked an American military unit. Thus, Polk requested, and was subsequently granted, approval by Congress to go to war against Mexico.17 Prior to the third war (against Spain in 1898), the United States had gone through the Civil War, when President Lincoln had issued a series of presidential decrees for the management of the war without applying to Congress. These decrees concerned drafting soldiers, allocating economic and financial resources for the war, imposing a naval blockade on the Southern States, and even the suspension of Habeas Corpus.18 It is worth mentioning that, while he was a senator, Lincoln had criticized the fact that the war against Mexico was decided by an exclusive decision of the President, without any coordination or consultation with the legislative branch. In spite of the fact that the Civil War was conducted entirely within the borders of the United States, Lincoln’s actions served as precedents for the actions of the presidents who followed him.19 The declaration of war against Spain (April 25, 1898) was the third time that Congress voted in favor of going to war outside the borders of the United States. During the three years preceding the war, Cubans fought to get their independence from Spain. This fight caused damage to American businessmen who operated sugar and tobacco plantations on the island. These businessmen, in their turn, pressured congressmen to demand that President William McKinley (1897–1901) make a move
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which would have meant the annexation of Cuba by the United States. These pressures increased after the explosion of the USS Maine in the harbor of Havana, which caused the death of 266 American sailors (February 15, 1898). The American press held Spain responsible for the explosion, causing American public opinion to demand resolute action by the President. Before the explosion, whose cause remains the subject of debate until today, President McKinley was not inclined to go to war; however, the sinking of the USS Maine and the pressure of public opinion forced him to agree. On April 11, McKinley requested the approval of Congress to send American military forces to Cuba in order to put an end to the civil war. On April 19, Congress passed a resolution stating that Cuba was an independent state and that the United States was not demanding any rights in Cuba. Congress also demanded that Spain withdraw its military forces from Cuba and authorized the President to use military force as required in order to resolve the crisis. The deterioration of relations between the two countries finally caused Spain to be the first to declare war on April 23, 1898. However, it is worth mentioning that two days earlier the President ordered a naval blockade of the Spanish fleet in Cuba. The President claimed that since the United States was now in a de-facto state of war with Spain, it must obtain a military base in Cuba and take control of the Philippines. On April 25, Congress declared that a state of war was in effect between Spain and the United States. One day earlier, the President instructed Admiral George Dewey to move his ships toward the Philippines, in order to prevent the local Spanish naval force from reinforcing the Spanish forces in the Caribbean Sea. The war lasted four months, ending in mid-august 1898. In its aftermath, Cuba won its independence, and the United States gained control of the Caribbean Sea and conquered the Philippines. Thus, without congressional approval, the war had spread outside the Caribbean Sea to Southeast Asia. One could also claim that the President’s instructions to Admiral Dewey were within his powers as Commander in Chief and that they constituted a part of the general war instructions. Moreover, if we read the second paragraph of Congress’s declaration of war, we can see that the resolution states that “the President of the United States be…directed and empowered to use the entire land and naval forces of the United States…to such extent as may be necessary to carry this act into effect.” This implies that no geographical limitation was imposed and that the action in respect of the Philippines had military justification. Either way, Congress did not oppose the expansion of the war, which ultimately made the United States into a more influential power in the international system.20 About two years after the war, President McKinley sent several thousand American soldiers, as part of an international force, to suppress the
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Boxer Rebellion in China. This action, which did not gain approval from Congress, did not meet any protest either, with McKinley using the same argument used by President Adams a hundred years before him, i.e. that the use of military force was meant to protect the lives and property of American citizens residing in China.21 McKinley’s successor, Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909), advocated an aggressive foreign policy, although, during his presidency, the United States was not directly involved in any war. In his 1904 State of the Union Address, Roosevelt stated the outlines of this policy, known as the “Roosevelt Corollary.” This was an extension of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, which asserted U.S. patronage over the Latin American states, warning the European powers against intervening in the affairs of the American continent. This policy of Roosevelt and his successors was the underlying cause of a series of military interventions all over Latin America during the first trimester of the 20th century, none of which involved a declaration of war by Congress. The next time Congress was called to vote on sending the United States to war was at the beginning of 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921) asked for such a war declaration. This was in spite of Wilson’s clear declaration during his second campaign (1916) that he had no intention of involving the United States in the European conflict. However, following Germany’s announcement of unrestricted submarine warfare and the intelligence indicating that Germany had promised to support Mexico should it declare war against the United States (the “Zimmerman Telegram”), the President applied to Congress on April 2, 1917. In his speech, Wilson described the continuing attacks by German submarines on American merchant ships, stating that the U.S. policy of Armed Neutrality was no longer effective. Four days later, Congress declared war against Germany, and the United States went to war, for the fourth time in its history, following a proper constitutional interaction between the executive and the legislative branches of government.22 The Second World War was the fifth time the United States entered a war following a proper declaration of war by Congress. However, in the years spanning the outbreak of war in Asia (1937) and in Europe (1939) and the entry of the United States into the war, a very interesting dynamic existed between the President and Congress. President Franklin Roosevelt (1933–1945) opposed the Neutrality Acts, enacted during the 1930s, and fought Congress in an attempt to change this policy.23 His success resulted in arms shipments to France and Britain but did not allow for direct military involvement. Even at this time, Roosevelt accepted the constitutional paradigm that only Congress had the power to decide on direct military involvement where there was no direct attack on the United States. However, Germany’s massive military victories in Western Europe and the
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difficult situation of Britain and later the Soviet Union triggered stormy arguments between the White House and Congress. Against the objections of separatist lawmakers, Roosevelt succeeded in pushing through a series of laws which increased the U.S. level of involvement in the war.24 Shipments of military equipment were sent to Britain and the Soviet Union, and the United States Navy became directly involved in escorting the convoys in the western parts of the Atlantic Ocean. These missions brought the U.S. Navy into direct collision with German submarines, with both sides sinking each other’s ships. All these activities took place without a formal declaration of war by the United States, and thus this period is called the “undeclared war.” From the German point of view, these activities could be interpreted as direct acts of aggression against its navy. It’s interesting to note that Roosevelt encouraged American pilots to enlist in the British air force as volunteers (the “Eagle Squadrons”), as the British were at the time in desperate need of pilots. Additionally, even before the United States had entered the war, pilots belonging to the Army Air Corps, the Navy, and the Marines started training in Burma in order to assist China in its war against Japan (the “Flying Tigers,” commanded by Claire Chennault). Although recruitment was done under presidential authority, they started direct military activity only on December 20, 1941, after the United States formally entered the war. Several weeks before the 1940 elections, Roosevelt declared that he had no intention of involving the United States in the war unless it was directly attacked, an event which took place at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The following day, Roosevelt made his famous “a date which will live in infamy” speech before a joint session of Congress, which declared, almost instantly, war against Japan. On December 11, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and Congress reciprocated by recognizing a state of war with these two states.25 To summarize the constitutional process relating to War Powers prior to 1941, we can conclude that most of the time presidents acted in accordance with the Constitution, especially in clear cases of confrontation with a specific country. Also, presidents tended to appeal to Congress (speaking before a joint session) in cases where the United States already found itself in a state of war (England, Mexico, Spain, and Japan) or in a semi-war situation (Germany in both world wars).26 However, we can also discern a dynamic of political conflict between the two branches of government, especially in cases where the political or military situation was not clear-cut, such as the sending of the U.S. Navy and the Marines to North Africa in order to face the threat of pirates or military forces to China as part of the international expedition sent to suppress the Boxer Rebellion.This lack of clarity, i.e. cases in which the United States was not directly attacked, will become more intense around the Vietnam War and
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will be the trigger for Congress’s initiation of the political move targeted at reclaiming the War Powers.27
WAR POWERS 1945–1964 The consequences of World War II created a geopolitical vacuum, following the total defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and the decline of the traditional European powers.The post-war world saw the ascent of the United States and the Soviet Union, which attempted to fill the vacuum created by the war and became the leading superpowers. These changes in the distribution of power in the international system, together with the appearance of nuclear weapons, the development of the Cold War, and the depiction of Communism as a clear and present danger to the security of the United States and its allies, caused a dramatic change in the dynamic between the President and Congress in relation to sending and using military forces outside the borders of the United States. The developing characteristics of the Cold War, the achievement of nuclear capability by the Soviet Union, and the bureaucratic growth of the presidency, in conjunction with the President’s control of diverse intelligence sources and the creation of a large peacetime standing army, resulted in a dramatic increase in presidential power in the areas of foreign policy management and the control of military forces.28 The first hint of this change could be perceived in a speech given by President Harry Truman (1945–1953) before a joint session of Congress on March 12, 1947.This speech, better known as the Truman Doctrine (see Document 2 in the appendix), was based on the assumption that guaranteeing the security of the United States required that any future conflict would be conducted far outside its borders. Although Truman’s speech did not challenge the Constitution or the powers of Congress, two years later the United States signed the North Atlantic Treaty and became a member of NATO. Article 5 of this treaty asserts that in the event that one of the members is attacked, the other members will come to its aid (see Document 12 in the appendix). Thus, Article 5 created an additional way in which the President was (and still is) given powers to send U.S. military forces to war.29 The Truman Doctrine was tested on June 25, 1950, when Truman ordered American military forces to be sent to South Korea, in order to help the South Korean army repel an invasion by North Korea. This order was issued before the UN Security Council called for a military response to the North Korean aggression. Truman had met with a group of congressmen, but his purpose was to update them rather than obtain
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congressional approval. Truman’s claim, which was supported by several senators, was that the American involvement did not count as a war which necessitated congressional approval; rather, it was a police action under the auspices of the United Nations. The Korean War gave birth to several historical precedents.The first was the establishment of Article 51 of the UN Charter as a legitimate source, in addition to the United States Constitution, from which the President could derive authority to send military forces outside the borders of the United States (see Document 11 in the appendix).30 The second precedent was American military involvement in a local conflict, without a prior attack on the United States. The third precedent was the sending of hundreds of thousands of soldiers to fight in a conflict whose political objectives and time limits had not been previously defined. These trends gradually caused a break in the consensus toward the war within American society. Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency (1953–1961) was characterized by peaceful relations with Congress on the subject ofWar Powers.31 Eisenhower believed that cooperation with the Capitol would foster wider public support if the United States had to intervene militarily in world affairs. In this spirit of cooperation, Eisenhower succeeded in pushing through decisions with significant military implications for Taiwan (1954) and the Middle East (1957). When the United States sent a peacekeeping force of U.S. Marines to Beirut, Eisenhower defined its mission as protecting the security of American citizens in Lebanon. This reveals a new pattern of action—the use of successful rhetoric by past presidents, such as the justification by President Jefferson for sending the Marines to North Africa. It is important to note that Eisenhower made extensive use of covert activities executed by the Central Intelligence Agency. These activities, which started as early as August 1953 (the Iran revolution), allowed the American administration to intervene in various countries, influencing (or at least attempting to influence) their internal political systems without involving the American military. This type of action had the added benefit of not requiring congressional approval.32 The policy initiated by Eisenhower continued under the presidency of John Kennedy (1961–1963). However, in several cases Kennedy considered the use of military force without a proper constitutional process in Congress.33 Kennedy himself declared, before the Cuban missile crisis, undoubtedly the most dramatic event of his short presidency, that if the United States was required to respond by the use of military force, he would act on the basis of his constitutional authority. In parallel, in September 1962, Congress passed a resolution stating that the United would act resolutely against foreign aggression by any entity in the Western hemisphere, including the use of military force.This was, in fact, a repetition
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of the principles of the Monroe Doctrine but it did not give carte blanche to the President to act without congressional approval, as mandated by the Constitution. On October 22, 1962, Kennedy instructed that Cuba be put under naval quarantine. This action, albeit brought to the attention of congressional leaders, was taken without any intervention by Congress in the decision-making process of the President and his group of consultants. Kennedy himself maintained that the action of putting Cuba under naval quarantine was consistent with his constitutional power and, moreover, that it was a direct corollary of the congressional resolution of September 1962. In summing up the first two decades after World War II, we can see that American foreign policy underwent a deep and dramatic transformation in the direction of an active global policy. The Truman Doctrine implied that the ocean did not provide a total defense to the United States and that, in order to stop the Communist danger from reaching the United States, it must act and intervene whenever another country was put in danger by Communist aggression. American foreign policy was based on the assertion that the United States had the political, economic, technological, and military ability, as well as the moral obligation, to be the leader of the democratic world and to provide protection to friendly governments, while aiding in the establishment of liberal, democratic regimes. These political goals promoted the idea that there was a need to put all the controls of war in one pair of governmental hands, i.e. in the hands of the head of the executive branch—the President. As mentioned above, the NATO treaty and the UN Charter created new sources of legitimation for the executive branch to use American military force outside the borders of the United States, without it having been previously attacked. An additional source emerged in 1954. In September of that year, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles succeeded in organizing several European and Southeast Asian states into a mutual defense treaty called the “South East Asia Treaty Organization” (SEATO). This group included Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Britain, and the United States. It is interesting to note that the states for whose protection the organization was formed following the French withdrawal out of the area, i.e. South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, were not included in the treaty. Article 4 of the treaty asserts that in the event that one of the member states is attacked, the other members will act in accordance with their respective constitutional guidelines. The article further states that if one of the member states comes under threat, the other signatories of the treaty will consult in order to determine the necessary measures. Although this treaty did not include a commitment to immediate support by military force, as in the NATO treaty, as American involvement in Vietnam deepened, the administration asserted that the
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United States was bound to intervene in this area by the rules of the SEATO treaty.34 Thus this treaty, like the NATO treaty, became a fourth source legitimizing the President’s authority to send military forces to fight outside the borders of the United States, albeit with a limitation to a specified geographic zone. As we have seen in the previous chapters, the American involvement in Vietnam started immediately after the French withdrawal from the Indochina peninsula. Both Eisenhower and Kennedy gradually increased the number of American soldiers in South Vietnam, in addition to sending massive economic and military aid. All this holds true for the period before the Gulf of Tonkin incident of August 1964. During this era, the presidents did not need congressional approval because the sending of economic aid and military consultants fell within the power of the executive branch, although foreign aid was part of the Federal budget, which was approved by Congress. Thus, the debate in Congress about President Johnson’s request following the events in the Gulf of Tonkin was the first time in which Congress discussed the possibility that American involvement might evolve and escalate into a full war. Johnson asked and obtained approval for employing military power at his discretion, in order to protect the forces of the United States and its allies in Southeast Asia against Communist aggression.35 During the debate, Senator John Cooper, a Kentucky Republican, asked whether the blanket approval awarded to the President constituted an authority to wage war without an explicit declaration by Congress. The reply of Senator William Fulbright, an Arkansas Democrat who at that time served as the chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, was that he did not have any doubt that the President would consult Congress, should a need for a significant change in American policy toward the Communist aggression become evident. The result of the vote—the Gulf of Tonkin resolution—demonstrated that congressional support crossed partisan boundaries between Democrats and Republicans.Thus, we can see that President Johnson did not initiate any dramatic moves, but rather attempted to control the unfolding events. However, as the United States gradually escalated its involvement, the Communists escalated their activity in parallel, so that gradually more and more American soldiers were sucked into the fighting, a process culminating in the full Americanization of the war during 1965.
THE DISENCHANTMENT OF CONGRESS As the American involvement in Vietnam deepened, the number of American soldiers increased up to the level of half a million in 1968. As
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the number of casualties grew, so did the criticism in Congress, as well as in the American public, of the management of the war by the President.36 This criticism grew even fiercer following the Tet Offensive (January– February 1968), which, in the face of optimistic forecasts by the military of imminent victory, demonstrated that the Communist forces were still very much alive and capable of initiating dramatic offensive moves.37 The main points of criticism against the administration had to do with its lack of an exit strategy from the war and the questionable legitimacy of the escalation in Vietnam, since the Gulf of Tonkin resolution did not constitute a proper declaration of war. The question of legitimacy became more acute when the full scope of the American military activity which took place in Vietnam from mid-1965, including the strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam within the framework of Operation Rolling Thunder, became publicly visible. However, all the administration’s requests concerning the draft laws and additional appropriations won wide support in both houses, while any proposal to limit the budget for the continuation of the war was overwhelmingly rejected. By the end of Johnson’s presidency (January 1969), Congress had failed to pass a resolution which would force the President to terminate the war, or at least specify a timetable for its termination. Johnson, on his side, attempted to start a diplomatic move which would bring North Vietnam to the negotiating table. This move was accompanied by two important decisions which conveyed the U.S. government’s intention to bring the war to an end and withdraw from the area.The first step was the limitation of the strategic bombardment of North Vietnam to the zone between 17 and 19 degrees latitude. The second step was the beginning of the process of Vietnamization, i.e. a gradual withdrawal of the American troops and the transfer of the operational responsibility for the management of the war to the South Vietnamese army.38 These steps were to be accelerated during Nixon’s administration. The stormy elections of 1968 sent the Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, to the White House. He ordered the continuation of the process of Vietnamization, on the one hand, while simultaneously authorizing the expansion of the strategic bombardment campaign to Cambodia, and in April 1970 he also authorized an invasion of Cambodian territory.39 The goals of the invasion, as presented by the President to the American public, were to support the stabilization of the new regime in Cambodia, disrupt the supply lines to the Communist forces in South Vietnam, and thwart an attempted invasion by the North Vietnamese army into the South via Cambodia. The news of Nixon’s new “Cambodian Policy,” which actually constituted a dramatic escalation of the war, triggered a lot of criticism from many members of Congress, mainly because this escalation and
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especially the ground invasion were decided on without any consultation with or reporting to Congress. During the second half of 1970 and the early months of 1971, several senators proposed amendments to existing laws with the purpose of limiting the military involvement of the United States in Southeast Asia, both geographically and timewise. One of the most important amendments was the Cooper–Church Amendment (June 30, 1970), which was attached to the Foreign Military Sales Act of 1971 and sought to cut off funding for military operations in Cambodia.40 The amendment was only approved after a long debate, but, since the two senators belonged to two different parties, we can see that the will to limit the war, as expressed in the amendment, was not rooted in Democratic opposition to the Republican administration. Thus, these two senators were among the first to show open and determined opposition to the Vietnam War. The amendment won the support of many senators who wanted to restore Congress’s authority to wage war, but Nixon responded by claiming that the amendment was unconstitutional, since it limited his powers as Commander in Chief, and went as far as threatening to veto the entire law.Thus, the Cooper–Church amendment was excluded from the final version of the bill and was reintroduced in a milder form only at the end of 1970, after the American troops had already left Cambodia. The bill included an explicit guideline preventing the American forces from operating outside the borders of South Vietnam. However, Nixon got around the guideline by using private armies, financed and operated by the CIA, as well as aerial force.41 Either way, David Schmitz argues that the amendment was a landmark in the history of the opposition to the war, congressional initiatives to bring the fighting to an end, and efforts to control executive power in foreign policy.42 Another example was the proposed legislation by Republican Senator Jacob Javits of New York, which he submitted in June 1970.The bill stated that, in the absence of a formal declaration of war, the President may only use military force in case of a direct attack on the United States or an attack on American military forces or causing damage to American citizens or property outside the borders of the United States. The proposed bill also stipulated that such military operations be limited to 30 days and that any further activity will require approval by Congress. Facing these and many other initiatives, Nixon maintained that they did not reflect the attitudes of his administration and that they did not have any impact on his authority, since he was, according to the Constitution, Commander in Chief of all the American military forces. Additionally, he claimed that only the President had the authority to decide on the termination of the war. One of the main reasons for the inability of Congress to impose its
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opinion on the President was the turn of events in the spring of 1972, which was caused neither by the United States nor by South Vietnam. On March 30, 1972, North Vietnam launched a massive offensive against South Vietnam. During this operation, the North Vietnamese army (NVA) invaded the South on several axes in parallel. In response, the American air force initiated an intensive bombing campaign against North Vietnamese units and supply routes (Operation Linebacker). In the face of this North Vietnamese aggression and the fact that the Marines were fighting for their lives, Congress could not support a policy or pass laws which could be interpreted (even if they were not) as damaging to the fighting American troops, certainly not in a congressional election year. As a matter of fact, right through to the signing of the peace agreement with North Vietnam (January 23, 1973), Congress was unable to impose its attitude on Nixon and force the administration to put an end to the war, or at least to set a definite timetable for its termination. However, we can observe that Nixon’s decisions, as of the summer of 1970, were clearly influenced by the atmosphere of public protest, the growth of the anti-war protest movement, the hostile media, and also political criticism from Congress, fanned by the weakening of the President by the Watergate affair. During 1973, Congress drafted a new bill, but Nixon vetoed it, claiming, in a speech given on October 24, that any limitations imposed on the presidential authority would not just be unconstitutional but also endanger the national security of the United States (see Document 13 in the appendix). Furthermore, Nixon maintained that the Founding Fathers had understood that not every kind of event could be foreseen in advance, and therefore had accepted the need for a certain degree of flexibility. However, Nixon ended his speech on a conciliatory note, saying that decisions related to foreign policy, including going to war and war management, should be made through collaboration between the White House (executive branch) and Congress (legislative branch).43 Only in November 1973 did Congress succeed in overturning the presidential veto and enacting the War Powers Act (see Document 14 in the appendix). Several factors coincided to achieve this success. The first was the end of the Vietnam War and the completion of the evacuation of U.S. troops from the area. At this phase, a congressional initiative to limit the President’s authority could not be viewed as damaging or endangering American troops. The second factor was the desire of several members of Congress to use the law as a tool to help expedite Nixon’s impeachment following his involvement in the Watergate scandal. The third factor was that some members of Congress supported the law because opposing it might have been interpreted as support for the presidential veto and so
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bring about the decline of legislative power.The fourth factor was a bipartisan understanding that the mutual relations between the presidency and Congress on the subject of War Powers, and in general the forming and managing of American foreign policy, had reached crisis point. Thus, we can see the War Powers Act as a test of congressional political power vis- à-vis the presidency.44
Sidebar 4.2: Veto The word “veto” does not appear in the United States Constitution but the first section of the Constitution states that any legislation passed by both houses of Congress will be passed to the President of the United States for approval. If the President returns the bill to Congress within ten days (excluding Sundays) the bill does not become law. A two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress can pass a law even without the President’s approval.
The War Powers Act is the end of a process which had been developing since the end of World War II. The forming of a new world order and the introduction of nuclear weapons caused a deep erosion in the power of Congress as a decisive factor in the forming and management of American foreign policy, including the deployment of military force outside the borders of the United States. Thus this act became the essence of the congressional effort to regain the power which it had lost, but it also reflects a constitutional conflict in which the management of the Vietnam War by the President served as a catalyst for the congressional aspiration to restore its influence on foreign policy related matters. However, the articles of the act, some of which will be reviewed below, did not replace the Constitution, which remained the underlying guideline in the constitutional dynamic between President and Congress on the subject of going to war. According to article 2 of the act, the purpose of the law was to define the collaboration between the two branches when the need arose to send troops to various parts of the world. Articles 3–4 impose on the President the obligation of consulting with and reporting to Congress, both before the troops are sent and afterward, until the end of the military involvement.45 These articles also require the President to explain the circumstances which, in his opinion, justified the sending of troops, to present the legal basis on which the action is based, and to estimate
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the duration of the intervention. From reading the law we can deduce that article 5, which deals with the termination of military involvement, was inspired by the Vietnam trauma. Once the President has reported to Congress (according to article 4), he may then authorize the use of military force for up to 60 days. Within this time frame, he must terminate the military operations unless, within this period, Congress declares war or extends, via legislation, the duration of the military activity. If Congress is not convinced that there is a need for the continuation of the military involvement, it can bring it to an end by a joint resolution of the Senate and the House.46 Article 8 is also worth a look. It states that the President cannot send troops on the basis of an international treaty, unless said treaty has an explicit article which requires the sending of troops. It should be noted that Congress has the sole authority to ratify all international treaties and defense pacts signed by the President, and also has the authority to reject or qualify such agreements, such as when Congress refused to ratify the entry of the United States into the League of Nations, in spite of the fact that President Wilson had signed the treaty. Thus we can claim that this article nullifies the justifications put forward for the American military intervention in Korea (the UN Charter) and Vietnam (SEATO) but leaves intact the American commitment to the protection of Western Europe, according to article 5 of the NATO treaty.
AFTER 1973 In the decades following the passing of the War Powers Act, the United States intervened militarily in tens of cases of varying scope, and on most occasions the President did not ask Congress for consent. However, these military actions were characterized by being of short duration, having limited goals, using mostly aerial forces or special forces, and suffering small numbers of casualties.Thus, even after the enactment of the law, presidents continued to use military force not just for the protection of American citizens or property around the world, but also in order to support allies and to promote American goals and interests in the international system. Although in most cases the President did report to Congress, these reports were usually after-the-fact updates and gave information about operations which had been completed or were in the middle of being executed. Senator Frank Church claimed, while speaking to the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee in 1977, that the law was not created in order to extend congressional influence over the military commitments of the United States, but rather to prevent a repetition of events such as
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the Vietnam War.47 However, the enactment of the War Powers law, the debates and the political battles that preceded it, the media coverage, and public opinion all raised the levels of sensitivity and restraint of the various administrations, compared to the period preceding the law. There is no doubt that the law created a new situation in the dynamic and the constitutional and political clashes between the President and Congress.48 The law did not bring about consensus in Congress on the subject of the best mechanisms for limiting presidential authority. Practically, the only mechanism that worked was continued legislation, accompanied by a political struggle against the executive branch. Several factors came together to inhibit additional legislation. The first was that the War Powers Act of 1973 was passed following the trauma of the Vietnam War, when Congress was facing a president who was politically weakened by the Watergate scandal and the threat of impeachment. By contrast, a strong presidential figure such as President Reagan was still able to convince the American public that Communism remained a viable threat. The second reason for the passiveness shown by Congress in the middle of military operations was the reluctance of members of Congress to be depicted as damaging the essential interests of the United States. However, in cases where military operations ended in failure, such as the abortive attempt to release the hostages in Iran in April 1980, increasing numbers of congressmen expressed criticism of the President’s action. The War Powers Act was not, however, a fleeting episode or a marginal event in the historical struggle between the White House and the Capitol. This claim is supported by the attempts made to revise the law in 1983 and 1995, which failed and left the law intact.49 We can also observe the intensification of public debate on the subject of military intervention and the fact that ever since the law was enacted, presidents have avoided a head-on clash with Congress. These trends have increased the inclination within both the administration and Congress to attempt to find acceptable modes of operation which, in spite of political differences and partisan dissent, prevent friction and clashes between the two government branches. There is no doubt that the Vietnam War was a turning point on the subject of War Powers, or at least a dramatic and significant phase in the historical and constitutional struggle between the legislative branch and the executive branch.50 The November 1973 law was enacted as a direct response to the war and attempted to impose some order on constitutional issues that have never been clarified because of the element of ambiguity built into the Constitution, which leaves it open to interpretation. A more detailed review of the dynamic between the presidency and Congress in the years between the enactment of the law and the present time will show
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that this process is still at the heart of tensions between the presidency and Congress. The law has never been invoked in full and in any case would not have caused the termination of American military involvement in cases such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Several presidents have claimed that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional because it impairs the authority granted to them by the Constitution itself. All this having been said, we can see that presidents have indeed applied to Congress before setting out on wide scale military operations, as in the case of President George Bush’s (1989–1993) request of Congress before Operation Desert Storm.51 In these cases, the authorizations awarded by Congress were realized through specific legislation, without invoking the articles of the War Powers Act. The complex dynamic and ambiguity built into the articles of the Constitution can be illuminated by the words of John Quincy Adams, a central figure in American history, who served as a U.S. senator and then as president, i.e. in both the legislative and the executive branch (not simultaneously of course). In his book about James Madison (1836) he wrote that the balance of powers between Congress and the President in case of war has not yet been decided, adding that this balance may “never be defined… The declaration of war is in its nature a Legislative act [Congress], but the conduct of war is and must be Executive [President].”52 Although the constitutional division of tasks is clear, the shift from legislation (declaration of war) to reality (management of war) remains ambiguous and vague, susceptible to interpretation and especially to political power struggles, being a derivative of the checks and balances system and the separation of powers -the values and goals which guided the Founding Fathers.
SUMMARY The primary goal of this book was to show how the United States found itself engaged in a brutal war of attrition against irregular and semi- regular forces in a particular part of the world. Thus, the first two chapters discussed the historical framework from which the underlying principles of American foreign policy during the first two decades following World War II were derived. The third chapter continued the analysis of the escalation of the American involvement in Vietnam, described the events of the summer of 1964, and, in its final section, showed how these events escalated into a full Americanization of the war. The last chapter examined the process by which the war brought about a constitutional struggle between the presidency (the executive branch) and Congress (the legislative branch) on the War Powers issue. There is no doubt about the impact of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and its repercussions on the nature of this struggle.
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The guiding principles of American foreign policy during the post- 1945 era, which were formulated during the presidency of Harry Truman, continued to shape the foreign policy of the following presidents.Thus, the question of the strategic or economic importance of Vietnam to American interests is irrelevant, since the gradual involvement of the United States in Vietnam can serve as a test case, where the application of these principles by the following administrations, especially those of presidents Kennedy and Johnson, can be evaluated. The American policy toward Vietnam is a manifestation of the belief that the global balance of power consists of psychological, as well as material, elements. The purpose of the American involvement was to bolster American deterrence and American credibility as the leader of the free world, ready to go to war in order to defend and support democracy. A Communist victory in a country under the protection of the United States, such as South Vietnam, would have resulted in humiliation, which would cause severe damage to the prestige of the United States and the free world. Looking at the psychological aspect, we can argue that the submission to Hitler’s aggression at the Munich conference and the myth of the “loss of China” had a critical role in the considerations of the decision-makers in Washington. Beyond the psychological effect of the loss of credibility, prestige, and the means of deterrence, the Communist threat to South Vietnam was also perceived in real-world terms. There was a prevailing fear that the fall of South Vietnam into Communist hands would not be the end of the process, but rather its beginning, the first domino as per President Eisenhower’s domino theory. According to this theory, the fall of South Vietnam would trigger a chain of falling dominoes, culminating in the loss to Communism of considerable areas in Asia. Even states that had previously leaned toward Washington, such as Japan, would not be able to ignore the developments and would be influenced. Ultimately, the United States would have to defend “Fortress America” against a hostile world dominated mostly by anti-American regimes. Thus, the sequential collapse of the dominoes had to be nipped in the bud.Vietnam became the state where the Kennedy and Johnson administrations attempted to end the dangerous chain reaction by cutting the weak link in the spreading Communist affliction. The need to protect American prestige and credibility stemmed from the American commitment to Southeast Asia within the framework of SEATO.This treaty, signed in 1954, stipulated that in the event of an attack on one of the signatories, the other signatories would join forces to face the threat together. South Vietnam was covered by the treaty under a complementary protocol. It is possible that President Eisenhower only considered the treaty as a means of deterrence. However, presidents Kennedy and Johnson perceived the North Vietnamese involvement and its support of
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the Viet Cong’s political and military efforts as a significant threat to the position and credibility of the United States in Southeast Asia, and, in fact, the entire world. Officials in Washington argued that if the treaty were not honored, doubts concerning the American commitment would spread not just in the region, but throughout the entire world. Thus, we can state that maintaining worldwide credibility was one of the cornerstones of American foreign policy. Should that credibility be lost, international Communism would draw the appropriate conclusions, which would probably lead to catastrophe and global war. Thus, President Kennedy was willing to assign a central position to Vietnam in American foreign policy and to send an increasing number of American troops, who during the Johnson presidency took a major part in the fighting. We can perceive that the deterioration in the internal security within Vietnam became a challenge to the principles of American foreign policy, as well as a threat to its international prestige.To these considerations, we must add the realities of the elections of 1964. Johnson knew that should Communism achieve another victory over a state under American protection, he would certainly lose those elections. As the chapters of this book have shown, the deepening American involvement in Vietnam evolved through a process that, in the eyes of the United States, was directly linked to the global events of the Cold War. Toward the end of Eisenhower’s presidency, and even more so during President Kennedy’s years in the White House, the United States was perceived as losing the Cold War. Thus, geopolitically speaking, Vietnam was one of the last places where the United States could demonstrate its determination to stop the Communist threat. Adding the considerations of the 1964 elections on top of the global events, the President had to demonstrate, both internally and externally, that the United States had no intention of bowing to international Communism. Confronting the American policy were the national aspirations of North Vietnam, i.e. the reversal of the artificial partition of Vietnam into two states and its full unification under Hanoi. During the second half of the 1950s, Ho Chi Minh came to the conclusion that such unification could not be achieved by diplomatic means, and so, toward the end of the decade, he reverted to the military option. During this period, South Vietnam was suffering from political and social instability, which gave birth to a new, powerful entity—the Viet Cong. The United States, however, classified these events and processes as part of the global Communist aggression emanating from the Soviet Union. The North Vietnamese national aspirations, on one side, and the American determination to stop the Communist aggression, on the other, created a deterministic process leading the two sides on a collision course.
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Thus, if we remember the statement by Nicholas Katzenbach, Johnson’s Deputy Attorney General, quoted in the introduction to this book, that any exceptional event could have caused an escalation, we can see that the two states were moving toward an unavoidable confrontation, and that the events of the Gulf of Tonkin served as the spark needed to ignite the conflagration. There is no doubt that the Vietnam War was a traumatic event in American history.Thus, if the Gulf of Tonkin incident brought about an escalation of the war up to full Americanization within a year of the events of the summer of 1964, then those events in the Gulf of Tonkin should indeed be considered as a critical moment in American history. In episode 14 of the second season of the TV series The West Wing, President Bartlet (played by the actor Martin Sheen) is considering sending thousands of American troops to Colombia, in order to put an end to the drug smuggling from Colombia to the United States. Leo McGarry, his Chief of Staff (played by John Spencer), tells him: I fought a jungle war. I’m not doing it again. If I could put myself anywhere in time, it would be the Cabinet room, on August 4, 1964, when our ships were attacked by North Vietnam in the Tonkin Gulf. I’d say, “Mr. President…don’t do it. Don’t consider authorizing a massive commitment of troops and throwing in our lot with torturers and panderers, leaders without principle and soldiers without conviction; no clear mission, and no end in sight.”
The events which took place in the Gulf of Tonkin at the beginning of August 1964 were, indeed, a critical moment in American history.
NOTES 1 Arthur M. Schlesinger, “Foreword,” in: William M. Goldsmith (ed.), The Growth of Presidential Power: A Documentary History (vol. 1): The Formative Years (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1974), xvi. See also: Donald L. Westerfield, War Powers:The President, the Congress, and the Question of War (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996), 1–3. 2 Concerning the escalation at the beginning of Nixon’s administration, see: Spencer C. Tucker, Vietnam (Lexington: Kentucky UP, 1999), 154–162; Larry H. Addington, America’s War in Vietnam: A Short Narrative History (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2000), 127–138. 3 Robert D. Schulzinger, A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941–1975 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997), 288–290. 4 For a general review of War Powers, see: Glenn P. Hastedt, American Foreign Policy: Past, Present, Future (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall: 2006), 170–171.
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5 See: W. Taylor Reveley, War Powers of the President and Congress:Who Holds the Arrows and Olive Branch? (Charlottesville:Virginia UP, 1981), 29–50. 6 Matthew Crenson and Benjamin Ginsberg, Presidential Power: Unchecked and Unbalanced (New York: W.W. Norton, 2008), 215–216. See also: Reveley, War Powers of the President and Congress, 51–73. 7 Louis Fisher, “Historical Survey of the War Powers and the Use of Force,” in: Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin (eds.), The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 11–14; Westerfield, War Powers, 13–17, 18–20; Reveley, War Powers of the President and Congress, 74–99. 8 Constitution of the United States of America, Article I Section 8 (11–16). See also: Cecil V. Crabb and Pat M. Holt, Invitation to Struggle: Congress, the President, and Foreign Policy (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1989), 43–51; Linda L. Fowler, “Congressional War Powers,” in: Eric Schickler and Frances E. Lee (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the American Congress (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011), 812–826; Westerfield, War Powers, 20–21. 9 Constitution of the United States of America, Article II Section 2 (2). About the President as Commander in Chief, see: Louis Henkin, Foreign Affairs and the United States Constitution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 45–46. 10 On the Constitution and War Powers, see: Matthew S. Muehlbauer and David J. Ulbrich, Ways of War: American Military History from the Colonial Era to the Twenty- First Century (New York: Routledge, 2014), 113–114. On the President’s power to form and implement American foreign policy, see: James Keagle, “The President and Foreign Policy,” in: David C. Kozak and Kenneth N. Ciboski (eds.), The American Presidency (Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall, 1985), 420–430; Henkin, Foreign Affairs and the United States Constitution, 34–36. See also: Peter Raven-Hansen, “Constitutional Constraints: The War Clause,” in: Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin (eds.), The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 29–54. This extensive chapter examines the history of War Powers and their interpretation over the years. In several cases the Supreme Court has intervened, mainly in response to petitions by senators and congressmen. The Supreme Court has overwhelmingly decreed that this question is outside its jurisdiction, since going to war is a constitutional question and, as such, it should be decided by the legislative branch and the executive branch. For more about the Supreme Court and War Powers, see: Harold H. Koh, “Judicial Constraints: The Courts and War Powers,” in: Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin (eds.), The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 121–132; Westerfield, War Powers, 25–26. 11 See also: Reveley, War Powers of the President and Congress, 135–169. 12 James D. Richardson (ed.), A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789–1908 (vol. 1) (New York: Bureau of National Literature, 1908), 315. 13 Ibid., 377. See also: Crenson and Ginsberg, Presidential Power, 219–220. 14 Louis Fisher, Presidential War Power (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 2004), 37–39. 15 On President Maddison’s attitude and the ensuing debate, see: Brad D. Lookingbill, The American Military: A Narrative History (Malden, MA: Wiley, 2013), 78–80; Walter R. Borneman, 1812: The War that Forged a Nation (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), 38–44. 16 Fisher, “Historical Survey of the War Powers and the Use of Force,” 14–18; Cecil V. Crabb and Pat M. Holt, Invitation to Struggle, 52–53.
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1 7 See: Lookingbill, The American Military, 122–125; Fisher, Presidential War Power, 39–44. 18 Crenson and Ginsberg, Presidential Power, 220–221. 19 Fisher, Presidential War Power, 47–51. 20 Fisher, “Historical Survey of the War Powers and the Use of Force,” 18–19. 21 Fisher, Presidential War Power, 58. 22 Crenson and Ginsberg, Presidential Power, 221– 224; Fisher, Presidential War Power, 66–69. 23 Lookingbill, The American Military, 253–255. 24 See: Fisher, Presidential War Power, 75–80. 25 Crenson and Ginsberg, Presidential Power, 224–228. 26 Fisher, “Historical Survey of the War Powers and the Use of Force,” 19–21. 27 On the constitutional struggles between the Congress and the presidents, see: Henkin, Foreign Affairs and the United States Constitution, 96–105. 28 Arthur M. Schlesinger, War and the American Presidency (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005), 45–68. 29 Fisher, Presidential War Power, 105–110. 30 Westerfield, War Powers, 63–71; Fisher, Presidential War Power, 81–95. See also: Jane E. Stromseth, “Treaty Constraints:The United Nations Charter and War Powers,” in: Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin (eds.), The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 83–98. 31 Fisher, Presidential War Power, 117–125. 32 On covert activities as a tool of policy during the Eisenhower era, see: Christopher Andrew, For the President’s Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995), 199–256; James Callanan, Covert Action in the Cold War: US Policy, Intelligence and CIA Operations (London: I.B. Tauris, 2010), 68–108. On the constitutional tension between War Powers and covert activities as a political tool, see: Gregory F. Treverton,“Constraints on ‘Covert’ Paramilitary Action,” in: Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin (eds.), The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 133–136; Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin, “ ‘Covert’ Paramilitary Action and War Power,” in: Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin (eds.), The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 149– 152; Morton H. Halperin, “Lawful Wars,” Foreign Policy 72 Autumn 1988, 173–195; Fisher, Presidential War Power, 236–260. 33 Fisher, Presidential War Power, 125–127; Fisher, “Historical Survey of the War Powers and the Use of Force,” 21–22. 34 Westerfield, War Powers, 80, 81–82. 35 Fisher, Presidential War Power, 129–133. 36 Schulzinger, A Time for War, 226–242. 37 On the increase of public protest during 1968, see:Tucker, Vietnam, 143; Schulzinger, A Time for War, 280–284; Addington, America’s War in Vietnam, 133. 38 Tucker, Vietnam, 151–152. 39 Schulzinger, A Time for War, 284–287. 40 www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-84/pdf/STATUTE-84-Pg1942.pdf 41 A measure of the effectiveness of this amendment can be seen when, a year later, the South Vietnamese army invaded Laos (Operation Lam Son 719). The Marines provided supporting artillery fire from bases near the border with Laos. Additionally, the United States used aerial forces to support the South Vietnamese military units.
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42 David F. Schmitz, The United States and Right- Wing Dictatorships, 1965– 1989 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006), 121. 43 Richard Nixon, “Veto of the War Powers Resolution,” October 24, 1973, Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon. Available at: www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/ index.php?pid=4021. See also: Ellen C. Collier, “Statutory Constraints: The War Powers Resolution,” in: Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin (eds.), The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 58. 44 See: Hastedt, American Foreign Policy, 171–173. 45 Westerfield, War Powers, 101–105. 46 Crabb and Holt, Invitation to Struggle, 53–55; Henkin, Foreign Affairs and the United States Constitution, 105–110. 47 U.S. Congress, Senate, Hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee on War Power Resolution, 95th Cong. 1st Session, 1977, p. 172. 48 Collier, “Statutory Constraints: The War Powers Resolution,” 64–75. 49 Fisher, Presidential War Power, 151–153. 50 Westerfield, War Powers, 4–5. 51 www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=18820 52 John Quincy Adams, Eulogy on the Life and Character of James Madison (Boston, MA, 1836), 47.
Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (September 2, 1945)
or the people of Vietnam, who were just beginning to recover from five years of ruthless economic exploitation by the Japanese, the end of World War II promised to bring 80 years of French control to a close. As the League for the Independence of Vietnam (Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi), better known as the Viet Minh, Vietnamese nationalists had fought against the Japanese invaders as well as the defeated French colonial authorities. With the support of rich and poor peasants, workers, businessmen, landlords, students, and intellectuals, the Viet Minh (led by Ho Chi Minh) had expanded throughout northern Vietnam, where it established new local governments, redistributed some lands, and opened granaries to alleviate the famine. On September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh square. The first lines of his speech repeated verbatim the famous second paragraph of America’s 1776 Declaration of Independence. ----------------------------------------------------------“All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free. The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen also states: “All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights.” Those are undeniable truths. Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our
Fatherland and oppressed our fellow-citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice. In the field of politics, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty. They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, the Center and the South of Vietnam in order to wreck our national unity and prevent our people from being united. They have built more prisons than schools.They have mercilessly slain our patriots; they have drowned our uprisings in rivers of blood. They have fettered public opinion; they have practiced obscurantism against our people. To weaken our race they have forced us to use opium and alcohol. In the field of economics, they have fleeced us to the backbone, impoverished our people, and devastated our land. They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, and our raw materials. They have monopolized the issuing of bank-notes and the export trade. They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty. They have hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie; they have mercilessly exploited our workers. In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese Fascists violated Indochina’s territory to establish new bases in their fight against the Allies, the French imperialists went down on their bended knees and handed over our country to them. Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese. Their sufferings and miseries increased. The result was that from the end of last year to the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri province to the North of Vietnam, more than two million of our fellow-citizens died from starvation. On March 9, the French troops were disarmed by the Japanese. The French colonialists either fled or surrendered showing that not only were they incapable of “protecting” us, but that, in the span of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese. On several occasions before March 9, the Vietminh League urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese. Instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists so intensified their terrorist activities against the Vietminh members that before fleeing they massacred a great number of our political prisoners detained at Yen Bay and Caobang. Notwithstanding all this, our fellow-citizens have always manifested toward the French a tolerant and humane attitude. Even after the Japanese putsch of March 1945, the Vietminh League helped many Frenchmen to
cross the frontier, rescued some of them from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property. From the autumn of 1940, our country had in fact ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession. After the Japanese had surrendered to the Allies, our whole people rose to regain our national sovereignty and to found the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese and not from the French. The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which for nearly a century have fettered them and have won independence for the Fatherland. Our people at the same time have overthrown the monarchic regime that has reigned supreme for dozens of centuries. In its place has been established the present Democratic Republic. For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government, representing the whole Vietnamese people, declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; we repeal all the international obligation that France has so far subscribed to on behalf of Vietnam and we abolish all the special rights the French have unlawfully acquired in our Fatherland. The whole Vietnamese people, animated by a common purpose, are determined to fight to the bitter end against any attempt by the French colonialists to reconquer their country. We are convinced that the Allied nations which at Tehran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, will not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Vietnam. A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eight years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the Fascists during these last years, such a people must be free and independent. For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, solemnly declare to the world that Vietnam has the right to be a free and independent country—and in fact is so already. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their independence and liberty. Source: Ho Chi Minh, Selected Works, vol. 3 (Hanoi: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1960–62), 17–21.
The Truman Doctrine (March 12, 1947)
n February 21, 1947, the British Embassy informed U.S. State Department officials that Great Britain could no longer provide financial aid to the governments of Greece and Turkey. American policymakers had been monitoring Greece’s crumbling economic and political conditions, especially the rise of the Communist-led insurgency.The United States had also been following events in Turkey, where a weak government faced Soviet pressure to share control of the strategic Dardanelle Straits. When Britain announced that it would withdraw its aid to Greece and Turkey, the responsibility was passed on to the United States. In a meeting between congressmen and State Department officials, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson articulated what would later become known as the domino theory. He stated that more was at stake than Greece and Turkey, for if those two key states should fall, Communism would likely spread south to Iran and as far east as India. Acheson concluded that not since the days of Rome and Carthage had such a polarization of power existed. The stunned legislators agreed to endorse the program on the condition that President Truman stress the severity of the crisis in an address to Congress and in a radio broadcast to the American people. Addressing a joint session of Congress on March 12, 1947, President Harry S. Truman asked for $400 million in military and economic assistance for Greece and Turkey and established a doctrine, aptly characterized as the Truman Doctrine, that would guide U.S. diplomacy for the next 40 years. President Truman declared: “It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” The sanctioning of aid to Greece and Turkey by a Republican Congress indicated the beginning of a long and enduring bipartisan Cold War foreign policy. -----------------------------------------------------------
PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN’S ADDRESS BEFORE A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS, MARCH 12, 1947 Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Congress of the United States: The gravity of the situation which confronts the world today necessitates my appearance before a joint session of the Congress.The foreign policy and the national security of this country are involved. One aspect of the present situation, which I wish to present to you at this time for your consideration and decision, concerns Greece and Turkey. The United States has received from the Greek Government an urgent appeal for financial and economic assistance. Preliminary reports from the American Economic Mission now in Greece and reports from the American Ambassador in Greece corroborate the statement of the Greek Government that assistance is imperative if Greece is to survive as a free nation. I do not believe that the American people and the Congress wish to turn a deaf ear to the appeal of the Greek Government. Greece is not a rich country. Lack of sufficient natural resources has always forced the Greek people to work hard to make both ends meet. Since 1940, this industrious and peace loving country has suffered invasion, four years of cruel enemy occupation, and bitter internal strife. When forces of liberation entered Greece they found that the retreating Germans had destroyed virtually all the railways, roads, port facilities, communications, and merchant marine. More than a thousand villages had been burned. Eighty-five per cent of the children were tubercular. Livestock, poultry, and draft animals had almost disappeared. Inflation had wiped out practically all savings. As a result of these tragic conditions, a militant minority, exploiting human want and misery, was able to create political chaos which, until now, has made economic recovery impossible. Greece is today without funds to finance the importation of those goods which are essential to bare subsistence. Under these circumstances the people of Greece cannot make progress in solving their problems of reconstruction. Greece is in desperate need of financial and economic assistance to enable it to resume purchases of food, clothing, fuel and seeds. These are indispensable for the subsistence of its people and are obtainable only from abroad. Greece must have help to import the goods necessary to restore internal order and security, so essential for economic and political recovery.
The Greek Government has also asked for the assistance of experienced American administrators, economists and technicians to insure that the financial and other aid given to Greece shall be used effectively in creating a stable and self-sustaining economy and in improving its public administration. The very existence of the Greek state is today threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by Communists, who defy the government’s authority at a number of points, particularly along the northern boundaries. A Commission appointed by the United Nations Security Council is at present investigating disturbed conditions in northern Greece and alleged border violations along the frontier between Greece on the one hand and Albania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia on the other. Meanwhile, the Greek Government is unable to cope with the situation. The Greek army is small and poorly equipped. It needs supplies and equipment if it is to restore the authority of the government throughout Greek territory. Greece must have assistance if it is to become a self- supporting and self-respecting democracy. The United States must supply that assistance. We have already extended to Greece certain types of relief and economic aid but these are inadequate. There is no other country to which democratic Greece can turn. No other nation is willing and able to provide the necessary support for a democratic Greek government. The British Government, which has been helping Greece, can give no further financial or economic aid after March 31. Great Britain finds itself under the necessity of reducing or liquidating its commitments in several parts of the world, including Greece. We have considered how the United Nations might assist in this crisis. But the situation is an urgent one requiring immediate action and the United Nations and its related organizations are not in a position to extend help of the kind that is required. It is important to note that the Greek Government has asked for our aid in utilizing effectively the financial and other assistance we may give to Greece, and in improving its public administration. It is of the utmost importance that we supervise the use of any funds made available to Greece; in such a manner that each dollar spent will count toward making Greece self-supporting, and will help to build an economy in which a healthy democracy can flourish. No government is perfect. One of the chief virtues of a democracy, however, is that its defects are always visible and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected. The Government of Greece is
not perfect. Nevertheless it represents eighty-five per cent of the members of the Greek Parliament who were chosen in an election last year. Foreign observers, including 692 Americans, considered this election to be a fair expression of the views of the Greek people. The Greek Government has been operating in an atmosphere of chaos and extremism. It has made mistakes. The extension of aid by this country does not mean that the United States condones everything that the Greek Government has done or will do. We have condemned in the past, and we condemn now, extremist measures of the right or the left. We have in the past advised tolerance, and we advise tolerance now. Greece’s neighbor, Turkey, also deserves our attention. The future of Turkey as an independent and economically sound state is clearly no less important to the freedom-loving peoples of the world than the future of Greece. The circumstances in which Turkey finds itself today are considerably different from those of Greece. Turkey has been spared the disasters that have beset Greece. And during the war, the United States and Great Britain furnished Turkey with material aid. Nevertheless, Turkey now needs our support. Since the war Turkey has sought financial assistance from Great Britain and the United States for the purpose of effecting that modernization necessary for the maintenance of its national integrity. That integrity is essential to the preservation of order in the Middle East. The British government has informed us that, owing to its own difficulties, it can no longer extend financial or economic aid to Turkey. As in the case of Greece, if Turkey is to have the assistance it needs, the United States must supply it. We are the only country able to provide that help. I am fully aware of the broad implications involved if the United States extends assistance to Greece and Turkey, and I shall discuss these implications with you at this time. One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion. This was a fundamental issue in the war with Germany and Japan. Our victory was won over countries which sought to impose their will, and their way of life, upon other nations. To ensure the peaceful development of nations, free from coercion, the United States has taken a leading part in establishing the United Nations, The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members. We shall not realize our objectives, however, unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free
institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States. The peoples of a number of countries of the world have recently had totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will. The Government of the United States has made frequent protests against coercion and intimidation, in violation of the Yalta agreement, in Poland, Rumania, and Bulgaria. I must also state that in a number of other countries there have been similar developments. At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one. One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, and guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression. The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio; fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms. I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way. I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes. The world is not static, and the status quo is not sacred. But we cannot allow changes in the status quo in violation of the Charter of the United Nations by such methods as coercion, or by such subterfuges as political infiltration. In helping free and independent nations to maintain their freedom, the United States will be giving effect to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. It is necessary only to glance at a map to realize that the survival and integrity of the Greek nation are of grave importance in a much wider situation. If Greece should fall under the control of an armed minority, the effect upon its neighbor, Turkey, would be immediate and serious. Confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle East.
Moreover, the disappearance of Greece as an independent state would have a profound effect upon those countries in Europe whose peoples are struggling against great difficulties to maintain their freedoms and their independence while they repair the damages of war. It would be an unspeakable tragedy if these countries, which have struggled so long against overwhelming odds, should lose that victory for which they sacrificed so much. Collapse of free institutions and loss of independence would be disastrous not only for them but for the world. Discouragement and possibly failure would quickly be the lot of neighboring peoples striving to maintain their freedom and independence. Should we fail to aid Greece and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far reaching to the West as well as to the East. We must take immediate and resolute action. I therefore ask the Congress to provide authority for assistance to Greece and Turkey in the amount of $400,000,000 for the period ending June 30, 1948. In requesting these funds, I have taken into consideration the maximum amount of relief assistance which would be furnished to Greece out of the $350,000,000 which I recently requested that the Congress authorize for the prevention of starvation and suffering in countries devastated by the war. In addition to funds, I ask the Congress to authorize the detail of American civilian and military personnel to Greece and Turkey, at the request of those countries, to assist in the tasks of reconstruction, and for the purpose of supervising the use of such financial and material assistance as may be furnished. I recommend that authority also be provided for the instruction and training of selected Greek and Turkish personnel. Finally, I ask that the Congress provide authority which will permit the speediest and most effective use, in terms of needed commodities, supplies, and equipment, of such funds as may be authorized. If further funds, or further authority, should be needed for purposes indicated in this message, I shall not hesitate to bring the situation before the Congress. On this subject the Executive and Legislative branches of the Government must work together. This is a serious course upon which we embark. I would not recommend it except that the alternative is much more serious. The United States contributed $341,000,000,000 toward winning World War II. This is an investment in world freedom and world peace. The assistance that I am recommending for Greece and Turkey amounts to little more than 1 tenth of 1 per cent of this investment. It is only common sense that we should safeguard this investment and make sure that it was not in vain.
The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They spread and grow in the evil soil of poverty and strife. They reach their full growth when the hope of a people for a better life has died. We must keep that hope alive. The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms. If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world — and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation. Great responsibilities have been placed upon us by the swift movement of events. I am confident that the Congress will face these responsibilities squarely. Source:The Truman Doctrine (March 12, 1947). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/trudoc.asp
President Eisenhower’s News Conference (April 7, 1954) The Domino Theory
resident Eisenhower was the first to refer to countries in danger of Communist takeover as dominoes, in response to a journalist’s question about Indochina in an April 7, 1954 news conference, though he did not use the term “domino theory.” If Communists succeeded in taking over the rest of Indochina, Eisenhower argued, local groups would then have the encouragement, material support, and momentum to take over Burma, Thailand, Malaya, and Indonesia; all of these countries had large popular Communist movements and insurgencies within their borders at the time. This would give them a geographical and economic strategic advantage, and it would make Japan,Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand the front- line defensive states.The loss of regions traditionally within the vital regional trading area of countries like Japan would encourage the front-line countries to compromise politically with Communism. Eisenhower’s domino theory of 1954 was a specific description of the situation and conditions within Southeast Asia at the time, and he did not suggest a generalized domino theory as others did afterward. The John F. Kennedy administration intervened in Vietnam in the early 1960s, among other reasons, to keep the South Vietnamese “domino” from falling.When Kennedy came to power, there was concern that the Communist-led Pathet Lao in Laos would provide the Viet Cong with bases, and that eventually they could take over Laos. ----------------------------------------------------------Q. Robert Richards, Copley Press: “Mr. President, would you mind commenting on the strategic importance of Indochina to the free world? I think there has been, across the country, some lack of understanding on just what it means to us.” THE PRESIDENT: “You have, of course, both the specific and the general when you talk about such things.
“First of all, you have the specific value of a locality in its production of materials that the world needs. “Then you have the possibility that many human beings pass under a dictatorship that is inimical to the free world. “Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the ‘falling domino’ principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences. “Now, with respect to the first one, two of the items from this particular area that the world uses are tin and tungsten. They are very important. There are others, of course, the rubber plantations and so on. “Then with respect to more people passing under this domination, Asia, after all, has already lost some 450 million of its peoples to the Communist dictatorship, and we simply can’t afford greater losses. “But when we come to the possible sequence of events, the loss of Indochina, of Burma, of Thailand, of the Peninsula, and Indonesia following, now you begin to talk about areas that not only multiply the disadvantages that you would suffer through loss of materials, sources of materials, but now you are talking really about millions and millions and millions of people. “Finally, the geographical position achieved thereby does many things. It turns the so-called island defensive chain of Japan, Formosa, of the Philippines and to the southward; it moves in to threaten Australia and New Zealand. “It takes away, in its economic aspects, that region that Japan must have as a trading area or Japan, in turn, will have only one place in the world to go-that is, toward the Communist areas in order to live. “So, the possible consequences of the loss are just incalculable to the free world.” * * * Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: “Mr. President, do you agree with Senator Kennedy that independence must be guaranteed the people of Indochina in order to justify an all-out effort there?” THE PRESIDENT: “Well, I don’t know, of course, exactly in what way a Senator was talking about this thing. “I will say this: for many years, in talking to different countries, different governments, I have tried to insist on this principle: no outside country can come in and be really helpful unless it is doing something that the local people want.
“Now, let me call your attention to this independence theory. Senator Lodge, on my instructions, stood up in the United Nations and offered one country independence if they would just simply pass a resolution saying they wanted it, or at least said, ‘I would work for it.’ They didn’t accept it. So I can’t say that the associated states want independence in the sense that the United States is independent. I do not know what they want. “I do say this: the aspirations of those people must be met, otherwise there is in the long run no final answer to the problem.” Q. Joseph Dear, Capital Times: “Do you favor bringing this Indochina situation before the United Nations?” THE PRESIDENT: “I really can’t say. I wouldn’t want to comment at too great a length at this moment, but I do believe this: this is the kind of thing that must not be handled by one nation trying to act alone.” Source: President Eisenhower’s News Conference, April 7, 1954. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from: www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/ ps11.htm
Radio and Television Report to the American People Following Renewed Aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin (August 4, 1964)
hortly before midnight, on August 4, Johnson interrupted national television to make an announcement in which he described an attack by North Vietnamese vessels on two U.S. Navy warships, Maddox and Turner Joy, and requested authority to undertake a military response. Johnson’s speech repeated the theme that “dramatized Hanoi/Ho Chi Minh as the aggressor and which put the United States into a more acceptable defensive posture.” Johnson also referred to the attacks as having taken place “on the high seas,” suggesting that they had occurred in international waters.The President emphasized his commitment to both the American people and the South Vietnamese government. He also reminded Americans that there was no desire for war. “A close scrutiny of Johnson’s public statements…reveals no mention of preparations for overt warfare and no indication of the nature and extent of covert land and air measures that already were operational.” Johnson’s statements were short in order to “minimize the U.S. role in the conflict; a clear inconsistency existed between Johnson’s actions and his public discourse.” ----------------------------------------------------------- My fellow Americans: As President and Commander in Chief, it is my duty to the American people to report that renewed hostile actions against United States ships on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin have today required me to order the military forces of the United States to take action in reply. The initial attack on the destroyer Maddox, on August 2, was repeated today by a number of hostile vessels attacking two U.S. destroyers with
torpedoes. The destroyers and supporting aircraft acted at once on the orders I gave after the initial act of aggression. We believe at least two of the attacking boats were sunk. There were no U.S. losses. The performance of commanders and crews in this engagement is in the highest tradition of the United States Navy. But repeated acts of violence against the Armed Forces of the United States must be met not only with alert defense, but with positive reply. That reply is being given as I speak to you tonight. Air action is now in execution against gunboats and certain supporting facilities in North Viet-Nam which have been used in these hostile operations. In the larger sense this new act of aggression, aimed directly at our own forces, again brings home to all of us in the United States the importance of the struggle for peace and security in Southeast Asia. Aggression by terror against the peaceful villagers of South Viet-Nam has now been joined by open aggression on the high seas against the United States of America. The determination of all Americans to carry out our full commitment to the people and to the government of South Viet-Nam will be redoubled by this outrage. Yet our response, for the present, will be limited and fitting. We Americans know, although others appear to forget, the risks of spreading conflict. We still seek no wider war. I have instructed the Secretary of State to make this position totally clear to friends and to adversaries and, indeed, to all. I have instructed Ambassador Stevenson to raise this matter immediately and urgently before the Security Council of the United Nations. Finally, I have today met with the leaders of both parties in the Congress of the United States and I have informed them that I shall immediately request the Congress to pass a resolution making it clear that our Government is united in its determination to take all necessary measures in support of freedom and in defense of peace in Southeast Asia. I have been given encouraging assurance by these leaders of both parties that such a resolution will be promptly introduced, freely and expeditiously debated, and passed with overwhelming support. And just a few minutes ago I was able to reach Senator Goldwater and I am glad to say that he has expressed his support of the statement that I am making to you tonight. It is a solemn responsibility to have to order even limited military action by forces whose overall strength is as vast and as awesome as those of the United States of America, but it is my considered conviction, shared throughout your Government, that firmness in the right is indispensable today for peace; that firmness will always be measured. Its mission is peace.
Source: Radio and Television Report to the American People Following Renewed Aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin (August 4, 1964). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from: www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/ radio-and-television-report-the-american-people-following-renewed- aggression-the-gulf
Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Special Message to the Congress on U.S. Policy in Southeast Asia” (August 5, 1964)
n August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese gunboats fired on the U.S. destroyer Maddox, which was monitoring North Vietnamese communications in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of North Vietnam. Aware of American support for commando raids, North Vietnam targeted the Maddox to show its readiness to strike back at U.S. forces. The Maddox defended itself, sinking two North Vietnamese gunboats. Two days later, another U.S. destroyer, the Turner Joy, reported being attacked, but that incident was not confirmed; the Turner Joy’s electronic equipment may have misinterpreted weather disturbances as a torpedo attack. President Lyndon Johnson ordered retaliatory air attacks against North Vietnamese targets and delivered an address to Congress on August 5, 1964. Johnson described the attack on U.S. warships, but in a significant and intentional omission he did not say anything about Operation Plan 34A, thus giving the impression that North Vietnam’s strike was unprovoked. Johnson asked Congress for a joint resolution authorizing the President, as Commander in Chief, to use all necessary measures, including military force, to prevent further Communist aggression in Southeast Asia.Two days later, on August 7, Congress complied. All members of the House who were present and all but two senators voted to approve the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. The resolution negated the need to declare war in Vietnam and opened the door to the sending of large numbers of U.S. troops to Vietnam. ----------------------------------------------------------- To the Congress of the United States: Last night I announced to the American people that the North Vietnamese regime had conducted further deliberate attacks against U.S. naval vessels operating in international waters, and that I had therefore directed air action against gun boats and supporting facilities used in these hostile operations. This air action has now been carried out with
substantial damage to the boats and facilities. Two U.S. aircraft were lost in the action. After consultation with the leaders of both parties in the Congress, I further announced a decision to ask the Congress for a Resolution expressing the unity and determination of the United States in supporting freedom and in protecting peace in Southeast Asia. These latest actions of the North Vietnamese regime have given a new and grave turn to the already serious situation in Southeast Asia. Our commitments in that area are well known to the Congress. They were first made in 1954 by President Eisenhower. They were further defined in the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty approved by the Senate in February 1955. This Treaty with its accompanying protocol obligates the United States and other members to act in accordance with their Constitutional processes to meet Communist aggression against any of the parties or protocol states. Our policy in Southeast Asia has been consistent and unchanged since 1954. I summarized it on June 2 in four simple propositions: 1. America keeps her word. Here as elsewhere, we must and shall honor our commitments. 2. The issue is the future of Southeast Asia as a whole. A threat to any nation in that region is a threat to all, and a threat to us. 3. Our purpose is peace. We have no military, political or territorial ambitions in the area. 4. This is not just a jungle war, but a struggle for freedom on every front of human activity. Our military and economic assistance to South Vietnam and Laos in particular has the purpose of helping these countries to repel aggression and strengthen their independence. The threat to the free nations of Southeast Asia has long been clear. The NorthVietnamese regime has constantly sought to take over SouthVietnam and Laos. This Communist regime has violated the Geneva Accords for Vietnam. It has systematically conducted a campaign of subversion, which includes the direction, training, and supply of personnel and arms for the conduct of guerrilla warfare in South Vietnamese territory. In Laos, the North Vietnamese regime has maintained military forces, used Laotian territory for infiltration into South Vietnam, and most recently carried out combat operations—all in direct violation of the Geneva Agreements of 1962. In recent months, the actions of the North Vietnamese regime have become steadily more threatening. In May, following new acts of
Communist aggression in Laos, the United States undertook reconnaissance flights over Laotian territory, at the request of the Government of Laos. These flights had the essential mission of determining the situation in territory where Communist forces were preventing inspection by the International Control Commission. When the Communists attacked these aircraft, I responded by furnishing escort fighters with instructions to fire when fired upon. Thus, these latest North Vietnamese attacks on our naval vessels are not the first direct attack on armed forces of the United States. As President of the United States I have concluded that I should now ask the Congress, on its part, to join in affirming the national determination that all such attacks will be met, and that the U.S. will continue in its basic policy of assisting the free nations of the area to defend their freedom. As I have repeatedly made clear, the United States intends no rashness, and seeks no wider war.We must make it clear to all that the United States is united in its determination to bring about the end of Communist subversion and aggression in the area.We seek the full and effective restoration of the international agreements signed in Geneva in 1954, with respect to South Vietnam, and again in Geneva in 1962, with respect to Laos. I recommend a Resolution expressing the support of the Congress for all necessary action to protect our armed forces and to assist nations covered by the SEATO Treaty. At the same time, I assure the Congress that we shall continue readily to explore any avenues of political solution that will effectively guarantee the removal of Communist subversion and the preservation of the independence of the nations of the area. The Resolution could well be based upon similar resolutions enacted by the Congress in the past—to meet the threat to Formosa in 1955, to meet the threat to the Middle East in 1957, and to meet the threat in Cuba in 1962. It could state in the simplest terms the resolve and support of the Congress for action to deal appropriately with attacks against our armed forces and to defend freedom and preserve peace in Southeast Asia in accordance with the obligations of the United States under the Southeast Asia Treaty. I urge the Congress to enact such a Resolution promptly and thus to give convincing evidence to the aggressive Communist nations, and to the world as a whole, that our policy in Southeast Asia will be carried forward—and that the peace and security of the area will be preserved. The events of this week would in any event have made the passage of a Congressional Resolution essential. But there is an additional reason for doing so at a time when we are entering on three months of political campaigning. Hostile nations must understand that in such a period the
United States will continue to protect its national interests, and that in these matters there is no division among us. Source: Lyndon B. Johnson: Special Message to the Congress on U.S. Policy in Southeast Asia (August 5, 1964). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from: https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/ special-message-to-the-congress-on-u-s-policy-in-southeast-asia/
Joint Resolution of Congress H.J. RES 1145 (August 7, 1964)
mmediately after reports of the second attack, Johnson asked the U.S. Congress for permission to defend U.S. forces in Southeast Asia. The Senate passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution with only two opposing votes, and the House of Representatives passed it unanimously. Congress supported the resolution on the assumption that the President would return and seek their support before engaging in additional escalations of the war. The Gulf of Tonkin incident and the subsequent Gulf of Tonkin resolution provided the justification for further U.S. escalation of the conflict in Vietnam. Acting on the belief that Hanoi would eventually weaken when faced with stepped up bombing raids, Johnson and his advisors ordered the U.S. military to launch Operation Rolling Thunder, a bombing campaign against the North. Operation Rolling Thunder commenced on February 13, 1965 and continued through to the spring of 1967. Johnson also authorized the first of many deployments of regular ground combat troops to Vietnam to fight the Viet Cong in the countryside. ----------------------------------------------------------Section 1. Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression. Section 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in Southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps,
including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom. Section 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress. Source: Joint Resolution of Congress (August 7, 1964). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from: www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true &doc=98&page=transcript
Remarks at Syracuse University on the Communist Challenge in Southeast Asia (August 5, 1964)
n August 5, President Johnson delivered an expanded version of his late- night address of the previous day (see Document 4) at the dedication of the Newhouse Communications Center at Syracuse University (New York). The Syracuse University speech was Lyndon Johnson’s first definitive statement on U.S. Vietnam policy since becoming president. Much speculation had taken place in 1964 on whether or not the new president would continue the policies of his fallen predecessor. The American mission in South Vietnam was failing in the summer of 1964 and the political base of the South Vietnamese government was gradually disintegrating. Johnson desperately needed to clarify his position regarding the Vietnam conflict with a presidential election approaching, and the Tonkin Gulf incident gave him that opportunity. ----------------------------------------------------------Dr. Newhouse, Chancellor Tolley, Governor and Mrs. Rockefeller, Members of the Congress, distinguished guests, members of the faculty, ladies and gentlemen: I know that you share with me the great admiration and pride that the generosity of Dr. Newhouse has made possible for this area of our Nation and for this great institution. We all are in his debt, and in the years and generations and centuries to come, we will see the products of this great adventure. On this occasion, it is fitting, I think, that we are meeting here to dedicate this new center to better understanding among all men. For that is my purpose in speaking to you. Last night I spoke to the people of the Nation.
This morning, I speak to the people of all nations—so that they may understand without mistake our purpose in the action that we have been required to take. On August 2 the United States destroyer Maddox was attacked on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin by hostile vessels of the Government of North Viet-Nam. On August 4 that attack was repeated in those same waters against two United States destroyers. The attacks were deliberate.The attacks were unprovoked.The attacks have been answered. Throughout last night and within the last 12 hours, air units of the United States Seventh Fleet have sought out the hostile vessels and certain of their supporting facilities.. Appropriate armed action has been taken against them. The United States is now asking that this be brought immediately and urgently before the Security Council of the United Nations. We welcome—and we invite—the scrutiny of all men who seek peace, for peace is the only purpose of the course that America pursues. The Gulf of Tonkin may be distant, but none can be detached about what has happened there. Aggression—deliberate, willful, and systematic aggression—has unmasked its face to the entire world. The world remembers-the world must never forget—that aggression unchallenged is aggression unleashed. We of the United States have not forgotten. That is why we have answered this aggression with action. America’s course is not precipitate. America’s course is not without long provocation. For 10 years three American Presidents—President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, and your present President—and the American people have been actively concerned with threats to the peace and security of the peoples of southeast Asia from the Communist government of North Viet-Nam. President Eisenhower sought—and President Kennedy sought—the same objectives that I still seek: That the governments of southeast Asia honor the international agreements which apply in the area; That those governments leave each other alone; That they resolve their differences peacefully; That they devote their talents to bettering the lives of their peoples by working against poverty and disease and ignorance. In 1954 we made our position clear toward Viet-Nam. In June of that year we stated we “would view any renewal of the aggression in violation of the 1954 agreements with grave concern and as seriously threatening international peace and security.”
In September of that year the United States signed the Manila pact on which our participation in SEATO is based. That pact recognized that aggression by means of armed attack on South Viet-Nam would endanger the peace and the safety of the nations signing that solemn agreement. In 1962 we made our position clear toward Laos. We signed the Declaration of Neutrality of Laos.That accord provided for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and respect for the neutrality and independence of that little country. The agreements of 1954 and 1962 were also signed by the government of North Viet-Nam. In 1954 that government pledged that it would respect the territory under the military control of the other party and engage in no hostile act against the other party. In 1962 that government pledged that it would “not introduce into the Kingdom of Laos foreign troops or military personnel.” That government also pledged that it would “not use the territory of the Kingdom of Laos for interference in the internal affairs of other countries.” That government of North Viet-Nam is now willfully and systematically violating those agreements of both 1954 and 1962. To the south it is engaged in aggression against the Republic of Viet-Nam. To the west it is engaged in aggression against the Kingdom of Laos. To the east it has now struck out on the high seas in an act of aggression against the United States of America. There can be, there must be no doubt about the policy and no doubt about the purpose. So there can be no doubt about the responsibilities of men and the responsibilities of nations that are devoted to peace. Peace cannot be assured merely by assuring the safety of the United States destroyer Maddox or the safety of other vessels of other flags. Peace requires that the existing agreements in the area be honored. Peace requires that we and all our friends stand firm against the present aggressions of the government of North Viet-Nam. The government of North Viet-Nam is today flouting the will of the world for peace. The world is challenged to make its will against war known and to make it known clearly and to make it felt and to make it felt decisively. So, to our friends of the Atlantic Alliance, let me say this, this morning: the challenge that we face in southeast Asia today is the same challenge that we have faced with courage and that we have met with strength in Greece and Turkey, in Berlin and Korea, in Lebanon and in Cuba. And to
any who may be tempted to support or to widen the present aggression I say this: there is no threat to any peaceful power from the United States of America. But there can be no peace by aggression and no immunity from reply. That is what is meant by the actions that we took yesterday. Finally, my fellow Americans, I would like to say to ally and adversary alike: let no friend needlessly fear—and no foe vainly hope—that this is a nation divided in this election year. Our free elections—our full and free debate—are America’s strength, not America’s weakness. There are no parties and there is no partisanship when our peace or the peace of the world is imperiled by aggressors in any part of the world. We are one nation united and indivisible. And united and indivisible we shall remain. Source: Remarks at Syracuse University on the Communist Challenge in Southeast Asia (August 5, 1964). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from: www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/remarks-syracuse-university-the- communist-challenge-southeast-asia
Joint Resolution (August 10, 1964)
he Gulf of Tonkin resolution or the Southeast Asia resolution (Pub.L. 88– 408, 78 Stat. 384), enacted August 10, 1964, was a joint resolution that the United States Congress passed on August 7, 1964, in response to the Gulf of Tonkin incident. It is of historic significance because it gave Lyndon B. Johnson authorization, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, for the use of conventional military force in Southeast Asia. Specifically, the resolution authorized the President to do whatever was necessary in order to assist “any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty.”This included involving armed forces. It was opposed in the Senate only by Senators Wayne Morse (D-OR) and Ernest Gruening (D-AK). Senator Gruening objected to “sending our American boys into combat in a war in which we have no business, which is not our war, into which we have been misguidedly drawn, which is steadily being escalated.” The Johnson administration subsequently relied upon the resolution to begin its rapid escalation of U.S. military involvement in South Vietnam and open warfare between North Vietnam and the United States. ----------------------------------------------------------- Whereas naval units of the Communist regime in Vietnam, in violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked United States naval vessels lawfully present in international waters, and have thereby created a serious threat to international peace; and Whereas these attacks are part of a deliberate and systematic campaign of aggression that the Communist regime in North Vietnam has been waging against its neighbors and the nations joined with them in the collective defense of their freedom; and Whereas the United States is assisting the peoples of Southeast Asia to protect their freedom and has no territorial, military or political ambitions in that area,
but desires only that these peoples should be left in peace to work out their own destinies in their own way : Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression. SEC. 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in Southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom. SEC. 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress. Source: Joint Resolution of Congress (August 10, 1964). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from: www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE- 78/pdf/STATUTE-78-Pg384.pdf#page=1
Department of State, “Aggression from the North” (February 27, 1965)
he U.S. State Department released a 14,000-word report entitled “Aggression from the North–The Record of North Vietnam’s Campaign to Conquer South Vietnam” on February 27, 1965. Citing “massive evidence,” including testimony of North Vietnamese soldiers who had defected or been captured in South Vietnam, the document claimed that nearly 20,000 Viet Cong military and technical personnel had entered South Vietnam through the “infiltration pipeline” from the North. The report maintained that the infiltrators remained under military command from Hanoi. The Johnson administration was making the case that the war in Vietnam was not an internal insurgency, but rather an invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnamese forces. This approach was a calculated ploy by President Lyndon Johnson, who realized that he would have a hard time convincing the American public that the United States should get involved in a civil war–acting to stop the spread of Communism by invading North Vietnamese forces would provide a much better justification for increased U.S. involvement in the conflict. ----------------------------------------------------------- South Vietnam is fighting for its life against a brutal campaign of terror and armed attack inspired, directed, supplied, and controlled by the Communist regime in Hanoi. This flagrant aggression has been going on for years, but recently the pace has quickened and the threat has now become acute. The war in Vietnam is a new kind of war, a fact as yet poorly understood in most parts of the world. Much of the confusion that prevails in the thinking of many people, and even governments, stems from this basic misunderstanding. For in Vietnam a totally new brand of aggression has been loosed against an independent people who want to make their way in peace and freedom.
Vietnam is not another Greece, where indigenous guerrilla forces used friendly neighboring territory as a sanctuary. Vietnam is not another Malaya, where Communist guerrillas were, for the most part, physically distinguishable from the peaceful majority they sought to control. Vietnam is not another Philippines, where Communist guerrillas were physically separated from the source of their moral and physical support. Above all, the war in Vietnam is not a spontaneous and local rebellion against the established government. There are elements in the Communist program of conquest directed against South Vietnam common to each of the previous areas of aggression and subversion. But there is one fundamental difference. In Vietnam a Communist government has set out deliberately to conquer a sovereign people in a neighboring state. And to achieve its end, it has used every resource of its own government to carry out its carefully planned program of concealed aggression. North Vietnam’s commitment to seize control of the South is no less total than was the commitment of the regime in North Korea in 1950. But knowing the consequences of the latter’s undisguised attack, the planners in Hanoi have tried desperately to conceal their hand. They have failed and their aggression is as real as that of an invading army. This report is a summary of the massive evidence of North Vietnamese aggression obtained by the Government of South Vietnam. This evidence has been jointly analyzed by South Vietnamese and American experts. The evidence shows that the hard core of the Communist forces attacking South Vietnam were trained in the North and ordered into the South by Hanoi. It shows that the key leadership of the Vietcong (VC), the officers and much of the cadre, many of the technicians, political organizers, and propagandists has come from the North and operate under Hanoi’s direction. It shows that the training of essential military personnel and their infiltration into the South is directed by the Military High Command in Hanoi. In recent months new types of weapons have been introduced in the VC army, for which all ammunition must come from outside sources. Communist China and other Communist states have been the prime suppliers of these weapons and ammunition, and they have been channeled primarily through North Vietnam. The directing force behind the effort to conqueror South Vietnam is the Communist Party in the North, the Lao Dong (Workers) Party. As in every Communist state. the party is an integral part of the regime itself. North Vietnamese officials have expressed their firm determination to absorb South Vietnam into the Communist world. Through its Central Committee, which controls the Government of the North, the Lao Dong Party directs the total political and military effort
of the Vietcong. The Military High Command in the North trains the military men and sends them into South Vietnam. The Central Research Agency, North Vietnam’s central intelligence organization, directs the elaborate espionage and subversion effort... Under Hanoi’s overall direction the Communists have established an extensive machine for carrying on the war within South Vietnam. The focal point is the Central Office for South Vietnam with its political and military subsections and other specialized agencies. A subordinate part of this Central Office is the liberation Front for South Vietnam. The front was formed at Hanoi’s order in 1960. Its principle function is to influence opinion abroad and to create the false impression that the aggression in South Vietnam is an indigenous rebellion against the established Government. For more than 10 years the people and the Government of South Vietnam, exercising the inherent right of self-defense, have fought back against these efforts to extend Communist power south across the 17th parallel.The United States has responded to the appeals of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam for help in this defense of the freedom and independence of its land and its people. In 1961 the Department of State issued a report called A Threat to the Peace. It described North Vietnam’s program to seize South Vietnam. The evidence in that report had been presented by the Government of the Republic of Vietnam to the International Control Commission (ICC). A special report by the ICC in June 1962 upheld the validity of that evidence. The Commission held that there was “sufficient evidence to show beyond reasonable doubt” that North Vietnam had sent arms and men into South Vietnam to carry out subversion with the aim of overthrowing the legal Government there. The ICC found the authorities in Hanoi in specific violation of four provisions of the Geneva Accords of 1954. Since then, new and even more impressive evidence of Hanoi’s aggression has accumulated.The Government of the United States believes that evidence should be presented to its own citizens and to the world. It is important for free men to know what has been happening in Vietnam, and how, and why. That is the purpose of this report... The record is conclusive. It establishes beyond question that North Vietnam is carrying out a carefully conceived plan of aggression against the South. It shows that North Vietnam has intensified its efforts in the years since it was condemned by the International Control Commission. It proves that Hanoi continues to press its systematic program of armed aggression into South Vietnam. This aggression violates the United Nations Charter. It is directly contrary to the Geneva Accords of 1954 and
of 1962 to which North Vietnam is a party. It is a fundamental threat to the freedom and security of South Vietnam. The people of South Vietnam have chosen to resist this threat. At their request, the United States has taken its place beside them in their defensive struggle. The United States seeks no territory, no military bases, no favored position. But we have learned the meaning of aggression elsewhere in the post-war world, and we have met it. If peace can be restored in South Vietnam, the United States will be ready at once to reduce its military involvement. But it will not abandon friends who want to remain free. It will do what must be done to help them. The choice now between peace and continued and increasingly destructive conflict is one for the authorities in Hanoi to make. Source: Department of State, “Aggression from the North” (February 27, 1965). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from: www.cia.gov/library/ readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP79R01001A001400010005-4.pdf
Address at Johns Hopkins University, “Peace without Conquest” (April 7, 1965)
resident Johnson’s first year in office saw the introduction of American combat forces into a Vietnam that was quickly spiraling out of control and threatening to topple all democratic-leaning governments in Southeast Asia. Sparked by the imagined attack in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964, President Johnson sought and received unilateral powers to conduct war in the region under the Tonkin Gulf resolution. At the time, most Americans could not even locate Vietnam on the map but now, through the draft, hundreds of thousands of young Americans were being sent into the jungles on the other side of the world to combat the expansion of Communism. In this April 7, 1965 speech at Johns Hopkins University, President Johnson outlines the stakes for the war and the aim of the United States as “Peace without Conquest.” In this address President Johnson justifies U.S. participation in the war in Vietnam. He places the American war effort in the context of the Cold War, and he refers indirectly to his efforts to promote a Great Society at home. At Johns Hopkins, Johnson transferred the burden of peace onto the North Vietnamese and the burden of credibility onto his critics by offering to “talk anywhere, anytime, to anyone” about “our proposals, their proposals, or anyone’s proposals.” ----------------------------------------------------------Mr. Garland, Senator Brewster, Senator Tydings, Members of the congressional delegation, members of the faculty of Johns Hopkins, student body, my fellow Americans Last week 17 nations sent their views to some two dozen countries having an interest in southeast Asia. We are joining those 17 countries 1 and stating our American policy tonight which we believe will contribute toward peace in this area of the world.
The text of the reply to the 17-nation declaration of March 15 was released by the White House on April 8, 1965. The 17-nation declaration and the U.S. reply are printed in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 52, p. 610). I have come here to review once again with my own people the views of the American Government. Tonight Americans and Asians are dying for a world where each people may choose its own path to change. This is the principle for which our ancestors fought in the valleys of Pennsylvania. It is the principle for which our sons fight tonight in the jungles of Viet-Nam. Viet-Nam is far away from this quiet campus. We have no territory there, nor do we seek any. The war is dirty and brutal and difficult. And some 400 young men, born into an America that is bursting with opportunity and promise, have ended their lives on Viet-Nam’s steaming soil. Why must we take this painful road? Why must this Nation hazard its ease, and its interest, and its power for the sake of a people so far away? We fight because we must fight if we are to live in a world where every country can shape its own destiny. And only in such a world will our own freedom be finally secure. This kind of world will never be built by bombs or bullets. Yet the infirmities of man are such that force must often precede reason, and the waste of war, the works of peace. We wish that this were not so. But we must deal with the world as it is, if it is ever to be as we wish. THE NATURE OF THE CONFLICT The world as it is in Asia is not a serene or peaceful place. The first reality is that North Viet-Nam has attacked the independent nation of South Viet-Nam. Its object is total conquest. Of course, some of the people of South Viet-Nam are participating in attack on their own government. But trained men and supplies, orders and arms, flow in a constant stream from north to south. This support is the heartbeat of the war. And it is a war of unparalleled brutality. Simple farmers are the targets of assassination and kidnapping. Women and children are strangled in the night because their men are loyal to their government. And help less villages are ravaged by sneak attacks. Large-scale raids are conducted on towns, and terror strikes in the heart of cities. The confused nature of this conflict cannot mask the fact that it is the new face of an old enemy. Over this war—and all Asia—is another reality: the deepening shadow of Communist China. The rulers in Hanoi are urged on by Peking. This is 1
a regime which has destroyed freedom in Tibet, which has attacked India, and has been condemned by the United Nations for aggression in Korea. It is a nation which is helping the forces of violence in almost every continent. The contest in Viet-Nam is part of a wider pattern of aggressive purposes. WHY ARE WE IN VIET-NAM? Why are these realities our concern? Why are we in South Viet-Nam? We are there because we have a promise to keep. Since 1954 every American President has offered support to the people of South Viet-Nam. We have helped to build, and we have helped to defend. Thus, over many years, we have made a national pledge to help South Viet-Nam defend its independence. And I intend to keep that promise. To dishonor that pledge, to abandon this small and brave nation to its enemies, and to the terror that must follow, would be an unforgivable wrong. We are also there to strengthen world order. Around the globe, from Berlin to Thailand, are people whose well-being rests, in part, on the belief that they can count on us if they are attacked. To leave Viet-Nam to its fate would shake the confidence of all these people in the value of an American commitment and in the value of America’s word. The result would be increased unrest and instability, and even wider war. We are also there because there are great stakes in the balance. Let no one think for a moment that retreat from Viet-Nam would bring an end to conflict.The battle would be renewed in one country and then another. The central lesson of our time is that the appetite of aggression is never satisfied. To withdraw from one battlefield means only to prepare for the next. We must say in southeast Asia—as we did in Europe—in the words of the Bible: “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.” There are those who say that all our effort there will be futile—that China’s power is such that it is bound to dominate all southeast Asia. But there is no end to that argument until all of the nations of Asia are swallowed up. There are those who wonder why we have a responsibility there.Well, we have it there for the same reason that we have a responsibility for the defense of Europe. World War II was fought in both Europe and Asia, and when it ended we found ourselves with continued responsibility for the defense of freedom. OUR OBJECTIVE IN VIET-NAM Our objective is the independence of South Viet-Nam, and its freedom from attack.We want nothing for ourselves—only that the people of South Viet-Nam be allowed to guide their own country in their own way. We will do everything necessary to reach that objective. And we will do only what is absolutely necessary.
In recent months attacks on South Viet-Nam were stepped up. Thus, it became necessary for us to increase our response and to make attacks by air. This is not a change of purpose. It is a change in what we believe that purpose requires. We do this in order to slow down aggression. We do this to increase the confidence of the brave people of South Viet-Nam who have bravely borne this brutal battle for so many years with so many casualties. And we do this to convince the leaders of North Viet-Nam—and all who seek to share their conquest—of a very simple fact: We will not be defeated. We will not grow tired. We will not withdraw, either openly or under the cloak of a meaningless agreement. We know that air attacks alone will not accomplish all of these purposes. But it is our best and prayerful judgment that they are a necessary part of the surest road to peace. We hope that peace will come swiftly. But that is in the hands of others besides ourselves. And we must be prepared for a long continued conflict. It will require patience as well as bravery, the will to endure as well as the will to resist. I wish it were possible to convince others with words of what we now find it necessary to say with guns and planes: Armed hostility is futile. Our resources are equal to any challenge. Because we fight for values and we fight for principles, rather than territory or colonies, our patience and our determination are unending. Once this is clear, then it should also be clear that the only path for reasonable men is the path of peaceful settlement. Such peace demands an independent South Viet- Nam—securely guaranteed and able to shape its own relationships to all others-free from outside interference—tied to no alliance—a military base for no other country. These are the essentials of any final settlement. We will never be second in the search for such a peaceful settlement in Viet-Nam. There may be many ways to this kind of peace: in discussion or negotiation with the governments concerned; in large groups or in small ones; in the reaffirmation of old agreements or their strengthening with new ones. We have stated this position over and over again, fifty times and more, to friend and foe alike. And we remain ready, with this purpose, for unconditional discussions. And until that bright and necessary day of peace we will try to keep conflict from spreading. We have no desire to see thousands die in
battle—Asians or Americans.We have no desire to devastate that which the people of North Viet-Nam have built with toil and sacrifice. We will use our power with restraint and with all the wisdom that we can command. But we will use it. This war, like most wars, is filled with terrible irony. For what do the people of North Viet-Nam want? They want what their neighbors also desire: food for their hunger; health for their bodies; a chance to learn; progress for their country; and an end to the bondage of material misery. And they would find all these things far more readily in peaceful association with others than in the endless course of battle. A COOPERATIVE EFFORT FOR DEVELOPMENT These countries of southeast Asia are homes for millions of impoverished people. Each day these people rise at dawn and struggle through until the night to wrestle existence from the soil.They are often wracked by disease, plagued by hunger, and death comes at the early age of 40. Stability and peace do not come easily in such a land. Neither independence nor human dignity will ever be won, though, by arms alone. It also requires the work of peace. The American people have helped generously in times past in these works. Now there must be a much more massive effort to improve the life of man in that conflict-torn corner of our world. The first step is for the countries of southeast Asia to associate themselves in a greatly expanded cooperative effort for development.We would hope that North Viet-Nam would take its place in the common effort just as soon as peaceful cooperation is possible. The United Nations is already actively engaged in development in this area. As far back as 1961 I conferred with our authorities in Viet- Nam in connection with their work there. And I would hope tonight that the Secretary General of the United Nations could use the prestige of his great office, and his deep knowledge of Asia, to initiate, as soon as possible, with the countries of that area, a plan for cooperation in increased development. For our part I will ask the Congress to join in a billion dollar American investment in this effort as soon as it is underway. And I would hope that all other industrialized countries, including the Soviet Union, will join in this effort to replace despair with hope, and terror with progress. The task is nothing less than to enrich the hopes and the existence of more than a hundred million people. And there is much to be done. The vast Mekong River can provide food and water and power on a scale to dwarf even our own TVA.
The wonders of modern medicine can be spread through villages where thousands die every year from lack of care. Schools can be established to train people in the skills that are needed to manage the process of development. And these objectives, and more, are within the reach of a cooperative and determined effort. I also intend to expand and speed up a program to make available our farm surpluses to assist in feeding and clothing the needy in Asia.We should not allow people to go hungry and wear rags while our own warehouses overflow with an abundance of wheat and corn, rice and cotton. So I will very shortly name a special team of outstanding, patriotic, distinguished Americans to inaugurate our participation in these programs. This team will be headed by Mr. Eugene Black, the very able former President of the World Bank. In areas that are still ripped by conflict, of course development will not be easy. Peace will be necessary for final success. But we cannot and must not wait for peace to begin this job. THE DREAM OF WORLD ORDER This will be a disorderly planet for a long time. In Asia, as elsewhere, the forces of the modern world are shaking old ways and uprooting ancient civilizations.There will be turbulence and struggle and even violence. Great social change—as we see in our own country now—does not always come without conflict. We must also expect that nations will on occasion be in dispute with us. It may be because we are rich, or powerful; or because we have made some mistakes; or because they honestly fear our intentions. However, no nation need ever fear that we desire their land, or to impose our will, or to dictate their institutions. But we will always oppose the effort of one nation to conquer another nation. We will do this because our own security is at stake. But there is more to it than that. For our generation has a dream. It is a very old dream. But we have the power and now we have the opportunity to make that dream come true. For centuries nations have struggled among each other. But we dream of a world where disputes are settled by law and reason. And we will try to make it so. For most of history men have hated and killed one another in battle. But we dream of an end to war. And we will try to make it so. For all existence most men have lived in poverty, threatened by hunger. But we dream of a world where all are fed and charged with hope. And we will help to make it so.
The ordinary men and women of North Viet-Nam and South Viet- Nam—of China and India—of Russia and America—are brave people. They are filled with the same proportions of hate and fear, of love and hope. Most of them want the same things for themselves and their families. Most of them do not want their sons to ever die in battle, or to see their homes, or the homes of others, destroyed. Well, this can be their world yet. Man now has the knowledge— always before denied—to make this planet serve the real needs of the people who live on it. I know this will not be easy. I know how difficult it is for reason to guide passion, and love to master hate. The complexities of this world do not bow easily to pure and consistent answers. But the simple truths are there just the same. We must all try to follow them as best we can. CONCLUSION We often say how impressive power is. But I do not find it impressive at all. The guns and the bombs, the rockets and the warships, are all symbols of human failure. They are necessary symbols. They protect what we cherish. But they are witness to human folly. A dam built across a great river is impressive. In the countryside where I was born, and where I live, I have seen the night illuminated, and the kitchens warmed, and the homes heated, where once the cheerless night and the ceaseless cold held sway. And all this happened because electricity came to our area along the humming wires of the REA. Electrification of the countryside—yes, that, too, is impressive. A rich harvest in a hungry land is impressive. The sight of healthy children in a classroom is impressive. These—not mighty arms—are the achievements which the American Nation believes to be impressive. And, if we are steadfast, the time may come when all other nations will also find it so. Every night before I turn out the lights to sleep I ask myself this question: Have I done everything that I can do to unite this country? Have I done everything I can to help unite the world, to try to bring peace and hope to all the peoples of the world? Have I done enough? Ask yourselves that question in your homes—and in this hall tonight. Have we, each of us, all done all we could? Have we done enough? We may well be living in the time foretold many years ago when it was said: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” This generation of the world must choose: destroy or build, kill or aid, hate or understand.
We can do all these things on a scale never dreamed of before. Well, we will choose life. In so doing we will prevail over the enemies within man, and over the natural enemies of all mankind. To Dr. Eisenhower and Mr. Garland, and this great institution, Johns Hopkins, I thank you for this opportunity to convey my thoughts to you and to the American people. Good night. Source: Address at Johns Hopkins University: “Peace without Conquest” (April 7, 1965). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from: www.presidency. ucsb.edu/documents/address-johns-hopkins-university-peace-withoutconquest
UN Charter, Chapter 7, Article 51
he Charter of the United Nations is the foundational treaty of the United Nations as an intergovernmental organization. It establishes the purposes, governing structure, and overall framework of the UN system. The UN Charter mandates that the UN and its member states maintain international peace and security, uphold international law, achieve “higher standards of living” for their citizens, address “economic, social, health, and related problems,” and promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” The Charter recognizes a right of self-defense. Some commentators believe that the effect of Article 51 is only to preserve this right when an armed attack occurs, and that other acts of self-defense are banned by Article 2(4).The more widely held opinion is that Article 51 acknowledges this general right, and proceeds to lay down procedures for the specific situation when an armed attack does occur. Under the latter interpretation, the legitimate use of self-defense in situations where an armed attack has not actually occurred is still permitted. Not every act of violence will constitute an armed attack. ----------------------------------------------------------- Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
Source: United Nations Charter, Chapter 7, Article 51. Retrieved September, 20 2020, from: www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter- vii/index.html
NATO Treaty, Article 5
he North Atlantic Treaty, also referred to as the Washington Treaty, is the treaty that forms the legal basis of, and is implemented by, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The treaty was signed in Washington, D.C. on April 4, 1949. The key section of the treaty is Article 5. Its commitment clause defines the casus foederis (a situation in which the terms of an alliance come into play). It commits each member state to consider an armed attack against one member state, in Europe or North America, to be an armed attack against them all. It has been invoked only once in NATO history: by the United States after the September 11 attacks in 2001.The invocation was confirmed on October 4, 2001, when NATO determined that the attacks were indeed eligible under the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty ----------------------------------------------------------- Article 5 The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area. Source: NATO Article 5. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from: www.nato. int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_17120.htm
Richard Nixon’s Veto of the War Powers Resolution (October 24, 1973)
he War Powers resolution required the President to consult Congress before the start of hostilities, and report regularly on the deployment of U.S. troops. Further, the President would have to withdraw forces within 60 days if Congress had not declared war or authorized the use of force. When it arrived on his desk, Nixon vetoed the War Powers resolution. In his veto message, he wrote that the resolution “would attempt to take away, by a mere legislative act, authorities which the President has properly exercised under the Constitution for almost 200 years… The only way in which the constitutional powers of a branch of the Government can be altered is by amending the Constitution.” He noted that Congress already had a constitutional check on the President’s power with its appropriations (funding) power. Congress passed the law over President Nixon’s veto with the necessary two- thirds vote in both Houses. ----------------------------------------------------------To the House of Representatives: I hereby return without my approval House Joint Resolution 542— the War Powers Resolution. While I am in accord with the desire of the Congress to assert its proper role in the conduct of our foreign affairs, the restrictions which this resolution would impose upon the authority of the President are both unconstitutional and dangerous to the best interests of our Nation. The proper roles of the Congress and the Executive in the conduct of foreign affairs have been debated since the founding of our country. Only recently, however, has there been a serious challenge to the wisdom of the Founding Fathers in choosing not to draw a precise and detailed line of demarcation between the foreign policy powers of the two branches. The Founding Fathers understood the impossibility of foreseeing every contingency that might arise in this complex area. They acknowledged the need for flexibility in responding to changing circumstances. They
recognized that foreign policy decisions must be made through close cooperation between the two branches and not through rigidly codified procedures. These principles remain as valid today as they were when our Constitution was written. Yet House Joint Resolution 542 would violate those principles by defining the President’s powers in ways which would strictly limit his constitutional authority. CLEARLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL House Joint Resolution 542 would attempt to take away, by a mere legislative act, authorities which the President has properly exercised under the Constitution for almost 200 years. One of its provisions would automatically cut off certain authorities after sixty days unless the Congress extended them. Another would allow the Congress to eliminate certain authorities merely by the passage of a concurrent resolution—an action which does not normally have the force of law, since it denies the President his constitutional role in approving legislation. I believe that both these provisions are unconstitutional.The only way in which the constitutional powers of a branch of the Government can be altered is by amending the Constitution—and any attempt to make such alterations by legislation alone is clearly without force. UNDERMINING OUR FOREIGN POLICY While I firmly believe that a veto of House Joint Resolution 542 is warranted solely on constitutional grounds, I am also deeply disturbed by the practical consequences of this resolution. For it would seriously undermine this Nation’s ability to act decisively and convincingly in times of international crisis. As a result, the confidence of our allies in our ability to assist them could be diminished and the respect of our adversaries for our deterrent posture could decline. A permanent and substantial element of unpredictability would be injected into the world’s assessment of American behavior, further increasing the likelihood of miscalculation and war. If this resolution had been in operation, America’s effective response to a variety of challenges in recent years would have been vastly complicated or even made impossible. We may well have been unable to respond in the way we did during the Berlin crisis of 1961, the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, the Congo rescue operation in 1964, and the Jordanian crisis of 1970—to mention just a few examples. In addition, our recent actions to bring about a peaceful settlement of the hostilities in the Middle East would have been seriously impaired if this resolution had been in force. While all the specific consequences of House Joint Resolution 542 cannot yet be predicted, it is clear that it would undercut the ability of the United States to act as an effective influence for peace. For example, the provision automatically cutting off certain authorities after 60 days unless they are extended by the Congress could work to prolong or intensify a
crisis. Until the Congress suspended the deadline, there would be at least a chance of United States withdrawal and an adversary would be tempted therefore to postpone serious negotiations until the 60 days were up. Only after the Congress acted would there be a strong incentive for an adversary to negotiate. In addition, the very existence of a deadline could lead to an escalation of hostilities in order to achieve certain objectives before the 60 days expired. The measure would jeopardize our role as a force for peace in other ways as well. It would, for example, strike from the President’s hand a wide range of important peace-keeping tools by eliminating his ability to exercise quiet diplomacy backed by subtle shifts in our military deployments. It would also cast into doubt authorities which Presidents have used to undertake certain humanitarian relief missions in conflict areas, to protect fishing boats from seizure, to deal with ship or aircraft hijackings, and to respond to threats of attack. Not the least of the adverse consequences of this resolution would be the prohibition contained in section 8 against fulfilling our obligations under the NATO treaty as ratified by the Senate. Finally, since the bill is somewhat vague as to when the 60 day rule would apply, it could lead to extreme confusion and dangerous disagreements concerning the prerogatives of the two branches, seriously damaging our ability to respond to international crises. FAILURE TO REQUIRE POSITIVE CONGRESSIONAL ACTION I am particularly disturbed by the fact that certain of the President’s constitutional powers as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces would terminate automatically under this resolution. 60 days after they were invoked. No overt Congressional action would be required to cut off these powers—they would disappear automatically unless the Congress extended them. In effect, the Congress is here attempting to increase its policy-making role through a provision which requires it to take absolutely no action at all. In my view, the proper way for the Congress to make known its will on such foreign policy questions is through a positive action, with full debate on the merits of the issue and with each member taking the responsibility of casting a yes or no vote after considering those merits. The authorization and appropriations process represents one of the ways in which such influence can be exercised. I do not, however, believe that the Congress can responsibly contribute its considered, collective judgment on such grave questions without full debate and without a yes or no vote.Yet this is precisely what the joint resolution would allow. It would give every future Congress the ability to handcuff every future President merely by doing
nothing and sitting still. In my view, one cannot become a responsible partner unless one is prepared to take responsible action. STRENGTHENING COOPERATION BETWEEN THE CONGRESS AND THE EXECUTIVE BRANCHES The responsible and effective exercise of the war powers requires the fullest cooperation between the Congress and the Executive and the prudent fulfillment by each branch of its constitutional responsibilities. House Joint Resolution 542 includes certain constructive measures which would foster this process by enhancing the flow of information from the executive branch to the Congress. Section 3, for example, calls for consultations with the Congress before and during the involvement of the United States forces in hostilities abroad. This provision is consistent with the desire of this Administration for regularized consultations with the Congress in an even wider range of circumstances. I believe that full and cooperative participation in foreign policy matters by both the executive and the legislative branches could be enhanced by a careful and dispassionate study of their constitutional roles. Helpful proposals for such a study have already been made in the Congress. I would welcome the establishment of a non-partisan commission on the constitutional roles of the Congress and the President in the conduct of foreign affairs. This commission could make a thorough review of the principal constitutional issues in Executive-Congressional relations, including the war powers, the international agreement powers, and the question of Executive privilege, and then submit its recommendations to the President and the Congress. The members of such a commission could be drawn from both parties— and could represent many perspectives including those of the Congress, the executive branch, the legal profession, and the academic community. This Administration is dedicated to strengthening cooperation between the Congress and the President in the conduct of foreign affairs and to preserving the constitutional prerogatives of both branches of our Government. I know that the Congress shares that goal. A commission on the constitutional roles of the Congress and the President would provide a useful opportunity for both branches to work together toward that common objective. RICHARD NIXON The White House, October 24, 1973. Source: Richard Nixon’s Veto of the War Powers Resolution (October 24, 1973). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from: www.visitthecapitol. gov/ e xhibitions/ a rtifact/ p resident- r ichard- n ixons- l etter- h ouse- representatives-regarding-his-veto-war
War Powers Resolution (November 7, 1973)
iscontent with the war in Vietnam led to a renewed focus on the question of War Powers under the Constitution. In 1973, Congress attempted to clarify the matter and to reclaim a proportion of the War Powers by passing the War Powers resolution.The War Powers resolution was meant to force presidents to seek approval for war by requiring them to report activities leading to hostile action and then to set a clock for either congressional approval or the removal of the troops. Richard Nixon vetoed the resolution on constitutional and policy grounds. Congress overrode Nixon’s veto, and since then presidents of both parties have argued that the resolution is an unconstitutional derogation of their powers as Commander in Chief. Judged by its own objectives, the War Powers resolution has not succeeded in returning the War Powers to Congress. Presidents can do a lot in 60 days, and the Congress has proven to be reluctant to use its funding power to stop military action it has not authorized. ----------------------------------------------------------Concerning the War Powers of Congress and the President. Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SHORT TITLE SECTION 1. This joint resolution may be cited as the “War Powers Resolution”. PURPOSE AND POLICY SEC. 2. (a) It is the purpose of this joint resolution to fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress
and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations. (b) Under article I, section 8, of the Constitution, it is specifically provided that the Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution, not only its own powers but also all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof. (c) The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in- Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.
CONSULTATION SEC. 3. The President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situation where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and after every such introduction shall consult regularly with the Congress until United States Armed Forces are no longer engaged in hostilities or have been removed from such situations. REPORTING SEC. 4. (a) In the absence of a declaration of war, in any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced— (1) into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances; (2) into the territory, airspace or waters of a foreign nation, while equipped for combat, except for deployments which relate solely to supply, replacement, repair, or training of such forces; or (3) in numbers which substantially enlarge United States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in a foreign nation; the president shall submit within 48 hours to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the
President pro tempore of the Senate a report, in writing, setting forth— (A) the circumstances necessitating the introduction of United States Armed Forces; (B) the constitutional and legislative authority under which such introduction took place; and (C) the estimated scope and duration of the hostilities or involvement. (b) The President shall provide such other information as the Congress may request in the fulfillment of its constitutional responsibilities with respect to committing the Nation to war and to the use of United States Armed Forces abroad (c) Whenever United States Armed Forces are introduced into hostilities or into any situation described in subsection (a) of this section, the President shall, so long as such armed forces continue to be engaged in such hostilities or situation, report to the Congress periodically on the status of such hostilities or situation as well as on the scope and duration of such hostilities or situation, but in no event shall he report to the Congress less often than once every six months.
CONGRESSIONAL ACTION SEC. 5. (a) Each report submitted pursuant to section 4(a)(1) shall be transmitted to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President pro tempore of the Senate on the same calendar day. Each report so transmitted shall be referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate for appropriate action. If, when the report is transmitted, the Congress has adjourned sine die or has adjourned for any period in excess of three calendar days, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate, if they deem it advisable (or if petitioned by at least 30 percent of the membership of their respective Houses) shall jointly request the President to convene Congress in order that it may consider the report and take appropriate action pursuant to this section. (b) Within sixty calendar days after a report is submitted or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 4(a)(1), whichever is earlier, the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces with respect to which such report was
submitted (or required to be submitted), unless the Congress (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces, (2) has extended by law such sixty-day period, or (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States. Such sixty-day period shall be extended for not more than an additional thirty days if the President determines and certifies to the Congress in writing that unavoidable military necessity respecting the safety of United States Armed Forces requires the continued use of such armed forces in the course of bringing about a prompt removal of such forces. (c) Notwithstanding subsection (b), at any time that United States Armed Forces are engaged in hostilities outside the territory of the United States, its possessions and territories without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, such forces shall be removed by the President if the Congress so directs by concurrent resolution.
CONGRESSIONAL PRIORITY PROCEDURES FOR JOINT RESOLUTION OR BILL SEC. 6. (a) Any joint resolution or bill introduced pursuant to section 5(b) at least thirty calendar days before the expiration of the sixty- day period specified in such section shall be referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives or the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, as the case may be, and such committee shall report one such joint resolution or bill, together with its recommendations, not later than twenty-four calendar days before the expiration of the sixty-day period specified in such section, unless such House shall otherwise determine by the yeas and nays. (b) Any joint resolution or bill so reported shall become the pending business of the House in question (in the case of the Senate the time for debate shall be equally divided between the proponents and the opponents), and shall be voted on within three calendar days thereafter, unless such House shall otherwise determine by yeas and nays. (c) Such a joint resolution or bill passed by one House shall be referred to the committee of the other House named in subsection (a) and shall be reported out not later than fourteen calendar days before the expiration of the sixty-day period specified in section 5(b). The joint resolution or bill so reported
shall become the pending business of the House in question and shall be voted on within three calendar days after it has been reported, unless such House shall otherwise determine by yeas and nays. (d) In the case of any disagreement between the two Houses of Congress with respect to a joint resolution or bill passed by both Houses, conferees shall be promptly appointed and the committee of conference shall make and file a report with respect to such resolution or bill not later than four calendar days before the expiration of the sixty-day period specified in section 5(b). In the event the conferees are unable to agree within 48 hours, they shall report back to their respective Houses in disagreement. Notwithstanding any rule in either House concerning the printing of conference reports in the Record or concerning any delay in the consideration of such reports, such report shall be acted on by both Houses not later than the expiration of such sixty-day period.
CONGRESSIONAL PRIORITY PROCEDURES FOR CONCURRENT RESOLUTION SEC. 7. (a) Any concurrent resolution introduced pursuant to section 5(b) at least thirty calendar days before the expiration of the sixty-day period specified in such section shall be referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives or the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, as the case may be, and one such concurrent resolution shall be reported out by such committee together with its recommendations within fifteen calendar days, unless such House shall otherwise determine by the yeas and nays. (b) Any concurrent resolution so reported shall become the pending business of the House in question (in the case of the Senate the time for debate shall be equally divided between the proponents and the opponents), and shall be voted on within three calendar days thereafter, unless such House shall otherwise determine by yeas and nays. (c) Such a concurrent resolution passed by one House shall be referred to the committee of the other House named in subsection (a) and shall be reported out by such committee together with its recommendations within fifteen calendar days and shall thereupon become the pending business of such House and shall be voted on within three calendar days after
it has been reported, unless such House shall otherwise determine by yeas and nays. (d) In the case of any disagreement between the two Houses of Congress with respect to a concurrent resolution passed by both Houses, conferees shall be promptly appointed and the committee of conference shall make and file a report with respect to such concurrent resolution within six calendar days after the legislation is referred to the committee of conference. Notwithstanding any rule in either House concerning the printing of conference reports in the Record or concerning any delay in the consideration of such reports, such report shall be acted on by both Houses not later than six calendar days after the conference report is filed. In the event the conferees are unable to agree within 48 hours, they shall report back to their respective Houses in disagreement.
INTERPRETATION OF JOINT RESOLUTION SEC. 8. (a) Authority to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations wherein involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances shall not be inferred— (1) from any provision of law (whether or not in effect before the date of the enactment of this joint resolution), including any provision contained in any appropriation Act, unless such provision specifically authorizes the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into such situations and stating that it is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of this joint resolution; or (2) from any treaty heretofore or hereafter ratified unless such treaty is implemented by legislation specifically authorizing the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into such situations and stating that it is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of this joint resolution. (b) Nothing in this joint resolution shall be construed to require any further specific statutory authorization to permit members of United States Armed Forces to participate jointly with members of the armed forces of one or more foreign countries in the headquarters operations of high-level military commands which were established prior to the date of enactment of this joint resolution and pursuant to the United
Nations Charter or any treaty ratified by the United States prior to such date. (c) For purposes of this joint resolution, the term “introduction of United States Armed Forces” includes the assignment of member of such armed forces to command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany the regular or irregular military forces of any foreign country or government when such military forces are engaged, or there exists an imminent threat that such forces will become engaged, in hostilities. (d) Nothing in this joint resolution— (1) is intended to alter the constitutional authority of the Congress or of the President, or the provision of existing treaties; or (2) shall be construed as granting any authority to the President with respect to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations wherein involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances which authority he would not have had in the absence of this joint resolution.
SEPARABILITY CLAUSE SEC. 9. If any provision of this joint resolution or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of the joint resolution and the application of such provision to any other person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby. EFFECTIVE DATE SEC. 10.This joint resolution shall take effect on the date of its enactment. CARL ALBERT Speaker of the House of Representatives. JAMES O. EASTLAND President of the Senate pro tempore. IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, U.S. Source:War Powers Resolution (November 7, 1973). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/warpower.asp
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BOOKS AND ARTICLES Addington, Larry H., America’s War in Vietnam: A Sort Narrative History (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2000). Ambrose, Stephen E., Eisenhower (vol. 2): The President (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984). Andrew, Christopher, For the President’s Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995). Asselin, Pierre, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War 1954–1965 (Berkley: California UP, 2013). Ball, George W., The Past Has Another Pattern: Memoirs (New York: Norton, 1982). Beckett, Ian F.W., Modern Insurgencies and Counter- Insurgencies: Guerrillas and Their Opponents since 1750 (New York: Routledge, 2001).
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Halperin, Morton H., “Lawful Wars,” Foreign Policy 72 Autumn 1988, 173–195. Hanyok, Robert J., “Skunk, Bogies, Silent Hounds, and the Flying Fish: The Gulf of Tonkin Mystery, 2–4 August 1964,” Cryptologic Quarterly 19 (4)–20 (1) 2000–2001, 1–55. Hastedt, Glenn P., American Foreign Policy: Past, Present, Future (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006). Henkin, Louis, Foreign Affairs and the United States Constitution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996). Herring, George C., America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam 1950–1975 (New York: Knopf, 1986). Herring, George C., “‘Peoples Quite Apart’: Americans, South Vietnamese, and the War in Vietnam,” Diplomatic History 14 (1) 1990, 1–23. Herring, George C., “What Kind of War Was the Vietnam War?” in: David L. Anderson (ed.), Facing My Lai: Moving Beyond the Massacre (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 1998), 95–105. Herring, George C., “The Vietnam War, 1945–1975: A Historiography,” in: Antonio S. Thompson and Christos G. Frentzos (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History, 1865 to the Present (New York: Routledge, 2013), 235–241. Hess, Gary R., “The Unending War: Historians and the Vietnam War,” Diplomatic History 18 (2) 1994, 239–264. Hook, Steven W. and John Spanier, American Foreign Policy since World War II (Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2016). House, Jonathan M., Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 2001). House, Jonathan M., A Military History of the Cold War 1944–1962 (Norman: Oklahoma UP, 2012). Hunt, Michel H., Lyndon Johnson’s War: America’s Cold War Crusade in Vietnam, 1945– 1968 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1996). Hunt, Michael H. and Steven I. Levine, “Revolutionary Movement in Asia and the Cold War,” in: Melvyn P. Leffler and David S. Painter (eds.), Origins of the Cold War: An International History (New York: Routledge, 1994), 257–275. Karnow, Stanley, Vietnam: A History (New York: Penguin Books, 1983). Keagle, James, “The President and Foreign Policy,” in: David C. Kozak and Kenneth N. Ciboski (eds.), The American Presidency (Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall, 1985), 420–430. Kelly, Orr, Brave Men, Dark Waters: The Untold Story of the Navy SEALs (New York: Pocket Books, 1992). Koh, Harold H., “Judicial Constraints: The Courts and War Powers,” in: Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin (eds.), The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 121–132. Kramer, Mark, “Ideology and the Cold War,” Review of International Studies 25 (4) 1999, 539–573. Krepinevich,Andrew F., The Army and Vietnam (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1986). Lewis, Adrian R., The American Culture of War:The History of U.S. Military Force from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom (New York: Routledge, 2012). Lookingbill, Brad D., The American Military:A Narrative History (Malden, MA:Wiley, 2013). Mason, John W., The Cold War, 1945–1991 (London: Routledge, 1997). McMahon, Robert J., “US National Security from Eisenhower to Kennedy,” in: Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd A. Westad (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War (vol. 1): Origins (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010), 288–311.
Military History Institute of Vietnam, Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People’s Army of Vietnam, 1954–1975, tr. William L. Pribbenow (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 2002). Millet, Allan R., Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps (New York: The Free Press, 1991). Moise, Edwin E., Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War (Chapel Hill: North Carolina UP, 1996). Mr. X (George Kennan), “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” Foreign Affairs 35 (4) 1947, 566–582. Muehlbauer, Matthew S. and David J. Ulbrich, Ways of War: American Military History from the Colonial Era to the Twenty-First Century (New York: Routledge, 2014). Murphy, Edward F., Semper Fi –Vietnam: From Da Nang to the DMZ, Marine Corps Campaigns 1965–1975 (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 2000). Naimark, Norman, “The Sovietization of Eastern Europe, 1944–1953,” in: Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd A.Westad (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War (vol. 1): Origins (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011), 175–197. Newman, John M., JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power (New York: Warner Books, 1992). Nguyen, Lien-Hang T., Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam (Chapel Hill: North Carolina UP, 2012). Nordell, John R., The Undetected Enemy: French and American Miscalculations at Dien Bien Phu (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1995). O’Connell, John F., The Effectiveness of Airpower in the 20th Century (vol. 3): 1945–2000 (New York: iUniverse, 2006). Painter, David S., The Cold War: An International History (London: Routledge, 1999). Palmer, Dave R., Summons of the Trumpet: U.S.–Vietnam Perspective (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1978). Pape, Robert A., Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1996). Papp, Daniel S., Vietnam: The View from Moscow, Peking, Washington (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1981). Parker, F. Charles, Vietnam: Strategy for a Stalemate (New York: Paragon House, 1989). Podhoretz, Norman, Why We Were in Vietnam (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982). Powaski, Ronald E., The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union 1917–1991 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998). Prados, John, Presidents’ Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations since World War II (New York: W. Morrow, 1986). Prados, John, “Assessing Dien Bien Phu,” in: Mark A. Lawrence and Fredrik Logevall (eds.), The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2007), 215–239. Prados, John, Vietnam:The Unwinnable War, 1945–1975 (Lawrence: Kansas UP, 2009). Ranelagh, John, The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986). Raven-Hansen, Peter, “Constitutional Constraints: The War Clause,” in: Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin (eds.), The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 29–54. Reveley,W.Taylor, War Powers of the President and Congress:Who Holds the Arrows and Olive Branch? (Charlottesville:Virginia UP, 1981).
Rothermund, Dietmar, Decolonization (New York: Routledge, 2006). Schlesinger, Arthur M., “Foreword,” in: William M. Goldsmith (ed.), The Growth of Presidential Power –A Documentary History (vol. 1): The Formative Years (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1974), xvi–xxvi. Schlesinger, Arthur M., War and the American Presidency (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005). Schlight, John, A War Too Long: The USAF in Southeast Asia 1961–1975 (Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums, USAF, 1996). Schmidt, Elizabeth, “Africa,” in: Richard H. Immerman and Petra Goedde (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013), 265–268. Schmidt, Regin, Red Scare: FBI and the Origins of Anticommunism in the United States (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2000). Schmitz, David F., The United States and Right-Wing Dictatorships, 1965–1989 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006). Schulzinger, Robert D., A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941–1975 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997). Schwartz, Hans-Peter, “The Division of Germany,” in: Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd A. Westad (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War (vol. 1): Origins (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011), 133–153. Serfaty, Simon, American Foreign Policy in a Hostile World: Dangerous Years (New York: Praeger, 1984). Shultz, Richard H., The Secret War against Hanoi: Kennedy’s and Johnson’s Use of Spies, Saboteurs, and Covert Warriors in North Vietnam (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999). Simmons, Edwin H., The United States Marines:A History (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1998). Smith, Joseph, The Cold War, 1945–1991 (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998). Smith, Tony, “Making the World Safe for Democracy,” in: Michael J. Hogan (ed.), The Ambiguous Legacy: U.S. Foreign Relations in the “American Century” (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999), 30–51. Smith, Tony, America’s Mission: The United States and Worldwide Struggle for Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2012). Smith, Woodruff D., European Imperialism in the 19th & 20th Centuries (Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall, 1982). Sobel, Richard, The Impact of Public Opinion on U.S. Foreign Policy (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001). Spector, Ronald H., Advice and Support:The Early Years of the U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1941– 1960 (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1983). Stanton, Shelby, The 1st Cav in Vietnam: An Anatomy of a Division (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1999). Stern, Gary M. and Morton H. Halperin, “‘Covert’ Paramilitary Action and War Power,” in: Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin (eds.), The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 149–158. Stoler, Mark A., George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century (Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers, 1989). Stromseth, Jane E., “Treaty Constraints: The United Nations Charter and War Powers,” in: Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin (eds.), The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 83–106.
Tanham, George K., Communist Revolutionary Warfare: From the Vietminh to the Viet Cong (New York: Praeger, 1961). Thompson, Wayne, “Operations over North Vietnam, 1965–1973,” in: John A. Olsen (ed.), A History of Air Warfare (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2009), 107–126. Toczek, David M., The Battle of Ap Bac, Vietnam (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2007). Trachtenberg, Marc, “American Policy and the Shifting Nuclear Balance,” in: Melvyn P. Leffler and David S. Painter (eds.), Origins of the Cold War: An International History (New York: Routledge, 1994), 107–122. Treverton, Gregory F., “Constraints on ‘Covert’ Paramilitary Action,” in: Gary M. Stern and Morton H. Halperin (eds.), The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 133–148. Triska, Jan F. and David D. Finley, Soviet Foreign Policy (London: Macmillan, 1968). Tucker, Spencer C., Vietnam (Lexington: Kentucky UP, 1999). Tucker, Spencer C. (ed.), The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social and Military History (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001). Vickers, George R., “U.S. Strategy and the Vietnam War,” in: Jayne S. Werner and Luu Doan Huynh (eds.), The Vietnam War: Vietnamese and American Perspectives (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1993), 113–126. Ward, James R., “Vietnam=Insurgency or War?,” Military Review 69 (1) 1989, 15–23. Westad, Odd A., The Global Cold War:Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008). Westad, Odd A.,“The Cold War and the International History of the Twentieth Century,” in: Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd A. Westad (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War (vol. 1): Origins (Cambridge: Cambridge UP 2011), 1–19. Westerfield, Donald L., War Powers: The President, the Congress, and the Question of War (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996). Westmoreland, William C., A Soldier Report (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976). White, Donald W., The American Century: The Rise and Decline of the United States as a World Power (Yale, CT:Yale UP, 1996). Young, John W., Cold War and Détente, 1941–91 (London: Longman, 1993). Young, Marilyn B., The Vietnam Wars 1945–1990 (New York: HarperCollins, 1991). Zaffiri, Samuel, Westmoreland: A Biography of General William C. Westmoreland (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1994).
WEBSITES Stalin’s Speech (Feb. 9, 1946) www.marx2mao.com/Stalin/SS46.html Churchill’s Speech (March 5, 1946): Audio www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoRwqKGIk9M Churchill’s Speech (March 5, 1946): Transcript www.historyplace.com/speeches/ ironcurtain.htm George Kennan: The Long Telegram (Feb. 22, 1946) www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/coldwar/documents/pdf/6-6.pdf Truman Doctrine: President Harry Truman’s Address before a Joint Session of Congress (March 12, 1947) http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/trudoc.asp The Federalist Papers no. 69 www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/The+Feder alist+Papers#TheFederalistPapers-69
President Johnson’s Radio and Television Report to the American People Following Renewed Aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin (August 4, 1964) www.presidency.ucsb. edu/ws/?pid=26418 President Johnson’s Remarks at Syracuse University on the Communist Challenge in Southeast Asia (August 5, 1964) www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=26419 Special Message to the Congress on U.S. Policy in Southeast Asia (August 5, 1964) www. presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=26422#axzz2hl9fydBl Joint Resolution of Congress (August 7, 1964) http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/ tonkin-g.asp PUBLIC LAW 88–408~AUG. 10, 1964 www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-78/pdf/ STATUTE-78-Pg384.pdf Address before a Joint Session of the Congress on the Persian Gulf Crisis (September 11, 1990) www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=18820 Address at Johns Hopkins University: “Peace Without Conquest” (April 7, 1965) www. presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=26877 Atlantic Charter (August 14, 1941) http://avalon.law.yale.edu/wwii/atlantic.asp Department of State, Aggression from the North (February 1965) www.cia.gov/library/ readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP79R01001A001400010005-4.pdf President Eisenhower’s News Conference: Domino Theory (April 7, 1954) www. mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/ps11.htm
Adams, John 92, 107 aerial warfare 60, 66–7, 69, 71–5, 78, 83 Aggression from the North (1965) 73 AK-47 (Kalashnikov) 58 Albany 80–1 American Civil War 93 Americanization of the war 71, 75, 84 attrition see search and destroy Ball, George 44 Battle of Ap Bac (1963) 45–6 Battle of Ia Drang Valley (1965) 45, 80–1 Ben Tre province 38 Berlin blockade 16–17 Bevin, Ernest 15 Big Units War 59, 77, 81–2 bombing see aerial warfare Boxer Rebellion 94–5 Britain see United Kingdom Buddhist protest 46 Bush, George H.W. 107
Cold War 50–2, 109; beginning of 13–18; Berlin blockade 16–17; build up to 11–12; Cuban missile crisis 49; domino theory 21, 30, 40–2; global scale 27, 72; historiography 5; Korean War 19–20; Long Telegram 14–15; loss of China 18–19; Marshall Plan 16; North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) 17–18; speeches 13–14; War Powers 97–100 Congress see War Powers Constitutional Convention 90–2 containment 14–16, 19, 21, 27, 50–1 Cooper, John 100 Cooper–Church Amendment 102 corruption 43 counterinsurgency 83 covert operations 60–2, 64–7, 98 credibility 108–9 Cuba 93–4 Cuban missile crisis 49, 98–9
Cambodia 101–2 China 73; Boxer Rebellion 94–5; Communist victory 18–19, 42, 56; fear of intervention 76–7; Geneva Convention 28; response to Tonkin 70 Church, Frank 105–6 Churchill, Winston 13–14 Cohen, Warren 71
decision-making 5 declaration of war see War Powers Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) 29 Depuy, William 81 destroyer 61–2 Dien Bien Phu 20–2 domino theory 21, 30, 40–2, 72, 108 Dulles, John Foster 28, 99 Duong Van, Minh 57
East Germany 12 economic conditions see socio-political conditions Eisenhower, Dwight 20–2, 27, 30–40, 51, 98 escalation 44, 71–2, 75–7, 84, 101–2
Lansdale, Edward 83 Laos 40–1, 60, 76–7 Le Duan 36 Lien-Hang, Nguyen 65 Lincoln, Abraham 93 Long Telegram 14–15 LZ X Ray 80–1
France 20–2; Geneva Convention 28–9 Geneva Accords 22 Geneva Convention 28–9 Germany 95–6 Greece 15–16 Greene, David 83 ground warfare 79–84 guerrillas 33–4 Gulf of Tonkin incident 61–70, 110; aftermath 71–84 Gulf of Tonkin resolution 1–2, 67–9 helicopters 62, 79–82 Herrick, John 62, 65 Herring, George 5, 48 historiography 4–6 Ho Chi, Minh 30, 32, 35–7, 40 Ho Chi Minh trail 36–7, 41, 76–8 initiative 77, 83 Javits, Jacob 102 Jefferson, Thomas 92 Johnson, Lyndon 1–2, 6, 52, 60, 65–6, 69–73, 75–6, 100; criticism by Congress 100–1; Great Society 55–6, 70–1; US election 1964 70–1 Katzenbach, Nicholas 7, 110 Kennan, George 14–15 Kennedy, John F. 30, 40–50, 52, 98–9; ambivalence towards Vietnam 49–50, 52; assassination 48–9, 52 Korean War 19–21, 97–8; influence on strategic thinking 33–5 Kosygin, Alexei 72 Krepinevich, Andrew 81 Krushchev, Nikita 69–70
Mao, Zedong 37 Marines 74–6 Marshall Plan 16 McCarthy, Joseph 19, 42 McConnell, John 83 McKinley, William 93–5 McNamara, Robert 56–8, 76 Mexican-American War 93 military aid 32–5, 42, 44 Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) 33 Military Assistance Command,Vietnam (MACV) 44–6, 58–61 mobility 82 Moise, Edwin 7, 65 Monroe Doctrine 95, 99 Munich agreement (1938) 41 National Liberation Front 37 national liberation movements 20, 41 naval warfare 61, 65–6, 78–9 Ngo Dinh, Diem 30, 32–5, 37–40, 42–4, 46–8 Nguyen, Khan 57–9 Nixon, Richard 20, 90, 101–3 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) 17–18, 97, 99–100, 105 North Vietnam 36, 109; escalation 57–8, 75–7; invasion of South Vietnam 80–1, 103; political objective 83; response to Tonkin 69–70 O’Daniel, John 33–4 Operation Barrel Roll 60 Operation DESOTO 60–2, 64, 66 Operation Pierce Arrow 66–7, 69 Operation Plan 34; Alpha (OPLAN 34A) 60–2, 64–5, 67
Operation Rolling Thunder 73–4, 78 Operation Vulture 20–1 Plei Me 80 Polk, James 93 Potsdam conference 12 presidency see War Powers proxy war 11 Radford, Arthur 20–1 Reagan, Ronald 106 referendum 28, 34–6 religious policy 35 Roosevelt, Franklin D. 11–12, 95–6 Roosevelt, Theodore 95 Rostow, Walt 43–4, 71–2 rural population 37–9 Rusk, Dean 41 Schlesinger, Arthur 90 Schmitz, David 102 search and destroy 80–3 socio-political conditions 38–9, 42–3 South Vietnam 29–30, 32–40, 74–5; coup of 1960 39–40; coup of 1963 47–8 South Vietnamese army 37–9, 42–6, 58–9, 76–7, 79–80 Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) 32, 99–100, 105, 108–9 Soviet Union 11–12, 97; aggression 15; Berlin blockade 17; Geneva Convention 28; ideology 14; Marshall Plan 16; nuclear power 18; response to Tonkin 69–70; response to US bombing 72–3 Spanish-American War 93–4 Staley, Eugene 42–3 Stalin, Joseph 12; victory of Communism speech 13 Strategic Hamlet Program 43 strategy 76–7; aerial warfare 60, 66–7, 69, 71–5, 78, 83; Big Units War 59, 77, 81–2; covert operations 60–2, 64–7, 98; ground warfare 79–84; initiative 77, 83; naval warfare 61, 65–6, 78–9; search and destroy 80–3
Taylor, Maxwell 43–4, 60 Tet offensive (1968) 45, 101 Thompson, Robert 43 Truman Doctrine 16, 19, 27, 41–2, 50, 72, 97–9, 108 Truman, Harry S. 11–13, 15–16, 97–8 Turkey 15–16 turning-point battles 45–6, 80–1, 101 United Kingdom 15, 20, 93 United Nations (UN) 97–8, 105 United States foreign policy 50–2; after Tonkin (1964–5) 70–84; after World War II 10–13, 51, 97–100; Americanization of the war 71, 75, 84; before Tonkin (1963–4) 56–61; beginning of Cold War 13–18; Berlin Airlift 17; containment 14–16; covert operations 60–1; credibility 108–9; Diem’s removal 47–8; Dien Bien Phu and possible intervention 20–2; Eisenhower administration 30–40, 100; Gulf of Tonkin incident 61–70; Kennedy administration 40–6, 100; Korean War 19–21; Long Telegram 14–15; loss of China 18–19, 42, 56; Marshall Plan 16; Munich agreement (1938) 41; North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) 17–18; see also strategy; War Powers USS Constellation 66 USS Maddox 61–5, 67 USS Ticonderoga 62, 66 USS Turner Joy 62, 64 veto 103–4 Viet Cong 38–40, 43–7; armaments 58 Viet Minh 20, 22, 28–30, 35, 37 Vietnam: Dien Bien Phu 20–2; French phase 20–2; Geneva Convention 28–9; intervention 21–2 Vietnamese perspective 5–6 War of 1812 93 War Powers 90; 1812–1941 92–7; 1945–1964 97–100; 1968–1973 100–5; 1973–present 105–7; clauses 92; Constitutional Convention 90–2
War Powers Act 103–7 Watergate 103 Westmoreland, William 58–9, 74–84 Williams, Samuel 33–4, 39
Wilson, Woodrow 95 World War I 95 World War II 95–6; post-war era 10–13, 20