Vietnam Policy Under Eisenhower

The importance of Vietnam:

Although Vietnam is a tiny country, it symbolized the critical pawn in the battle between the communist forces of Russia and China versus the capitalist forces of America and Europe after the Second World War. The American perception tended to the belief that Vietnam’s subjugation by Communist forces spelt the threat of Communist consciousness spreading over south Asia.

The Vietnam Policy:

The American policy towards Vietnam after the Second World war was chiefly fuelled by the threat of the spread of Communism. The vociferous opposition to Communistic forces, advocated by the Republicans, was in favor of extending strong support to the French to consolidate the hold of democracy on the tiny nation. American policy towards Vietnam was characterized by an increasingly tough Republican stand against the threat of Communism1.

Eisenhower pursued a policy that has since come to be referred as the Eisenhower Doctrine, which was one of containment. He was not in favor of American military action in Vietnam unless it was widely supported by the world community of fellow capitalist forces such as Europe. He believed that war in Vietnam would prove destructive and require extensive military action, for which he was not prepared to commit American troops. Moreover, he did not support the French regime in Vietnam. But although Eisenhower’s policy may have had merit in a political and military sense, it was not a position supported by the Republicans. In fact, Eisenhower himself was supportive of the Republican position and was fully in agreement that preventing Communist inroads into South east Asia was vital in Western interests. However, he was not prepared to take on the responsibility for initiating military action and being a shrewd strategist, declared that he was not ready to attack Vietnam without the strong support of America’s allies. But the Dien Bien Phu crisis of 1954 cemented a stronger involvement from America in the Vietnam War in the form of increased air attacks and support to the French and later snowballed into the much derided Vietnam war that caused severe losses of American troops. Eisenhower’s policy of containment has therefore been criticized as having contributed to ineffective strengthening of democratic forces and the invasion of Communist forces1.

The CIA played a role in the Vietnam scenario by aiding in the introduction of Diem as the leader of the tiny country, in a move to ease the French out of the region, in support of Eisenhower’s tacit disapproval of the French policy in Vietnam. His inception into the role of leader was a CIA led operation, through which Eisenhower hoped to consolidate the American foothold in Vietnam. It was largely through American support, aided and abetted by the CIA led by Eisenhower that helped Diem to crush coups and assume leadership of Vietnam. Military training was provided at considerable cost to Vietnamese troops and Diem was touted as the only leader capable of saving Vietnam. However, Eisenhower’s policy in supporting Diem and enhancing military support through the CIA activities later proved to be disastrous and contrary to the ground realties that existed in Vietnam. Diem proved to be anything but a puppet ruler and chose his top Government advisors from among his family members. The American military training also proved to be woefully inadequate to meet the guerilla warfare of the Vietcong. The increasing dissatisfaction of the people with the American supported Diem’s rule and the deflection of their support to the rebel Viet Congs proved disastrous to American troops and led to a war that could not be won and generated widespread public opposition among the public in America, who opposed Eisenhower’s policies.

References:

  1. “Vietnam Policy under Eisenhower”. (2000): Knowledge Reports, Document ID: 26705,

published by K&C Research Assistance, Inc

1 “Vietnam Policy under Eisenhower”. (2000): Knowledge Reports, Document ID: 26705, published by K&C Research Assistance, Inc.

1 “Vietnam Policy under Eisenhower”. (2000): Knowledge Reports, Document ID: 26705, published by K&C Research Assistance, Inc

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