People usually associate the sixties with the hippie movement, free love, drugs and rock-n-roll. It is easier to think about multicolored fashion and to draw the sign of peace without trying to recall the reason for such cultural protest. However, the war in Vietnam became a serious disaster both for the Vietnamese and American people. The conflict continued for almost fifteen years, during which thousands of people were killed and others still suffer from post-traumatic syndrome.
The reason for the war was fighting for the political influence and the rivalry between the United Stated and the Soviet Union in the context of the Cold War. Vietnam has simply become the place where geopolitical issues were solved during the opposition of two great countries. Nowadays, it is crucial to remember that the opposition resulted in great human losses, who passed away for the ideas of Communism and Democracy. As a result, only understanding and deep analysis of past historical events can prevent the painful experience from repetition.
Current essay provides a discussion of the opposite viewpoints on the Vietnam War expressed in the articles of Jeffrey Kimball (1997) and Henry Kissinger (2003). Kimball (1997) analyzes the reasons of the Soviet Union to participate in the Vietnam War, while Kissinger (2003) analyzes the issues of American foreign policy. Although the authors provide arguments to support the idea that both regimes were right in their intentions, it is difficult to state which article proves the point more effectively. Both of them describe the selfishness of diplomatic motifs of both sides, which caused the deaths of millions of people. It is possible to assume that the main thing that the discussed articles help understand is that global politics may have extremely negative influence on ordinary people. Besides, it should be stated that the means by which the proclaimed ideas of the opponents were realized were very similar.
In the first article “Nonfiction - Ending the Vietnam War: a History of America's Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War” (Kissinger, 2003) the reasons and the results of American participation in the Vietnam War are described. Kissinger had to make the American troops leave Vietnam without losing their pride and more people. He became the first foreign policy adviser during the presidency of Nixon and the main challenge for Kissinger became to justify thousands of killed American young men. It had to be done in order to retreat with dignity in the eyes of the international community and to deny his own image of the person who secretly influenced all the decisions regarding the Vietnam War.
The Cold War is the general theme that dominates in the article of Kissinger. Even though the Soviet Union and the United Stated were fighting on one side against Nazi Germany during the World War II, their relationships were not peaceful. Joseph Stalin, the leader of the USSR, was not content because the Americans refused treating the new Communist country as the equal part of international community. In their turn, the American Government was shocked by the violation of human rights in the tyrannical state of the Soviet Union. The expansion of the Communist ideas in the Eastern Europe and Africa created the feeling that the Soviets decided to control the world and create the “Red Empire”. The atmosphere of a never-ending conflict led to the decades of the arm race.
The Cold War started in 1947 and continued until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The fight between the Eastern Bloc, represented by the USSR, and the Western Bloc, represented by NEO forces and the United States, divided the Vietnam into two parts. Kissinger writes that the United States started participating in the armed conflict partly due to the idea of American exceptionalism and partly due to the desire to popularize the democracy even if it was not required from them. The Communists seemed to be the absolute evil that was opposite to the democratic West. That is why it was not difficult for the American Government to explain the reasons why thousands of American soldiers were killed on the other side of the world.
The focus of the Cold War shifted from Europe to Asia in 1949, after the Communist party won in China. When France decided to leave its former colonies in Indochina in 1954, as it had no resources to support them, the US became involved in the long-term civil conflict in Vietnam, thinking that it might reduce the spread of Communism in the region. The Northern part of Vietnam was fighting against the American troops, and their weapons and military technologies were superior to the ones used by the Southern Communists.
The history of the war in Vietnam is characterized by cruelty and numerous war crimes. For example, the operation “Ranch Hand” which was performed to make the Vietnamese run away from the jungles by using chemical weapons. In addition, helicopters were supporting the American and the Northern Vietnamese troops during the operations in jungle because helicopters do not need aerodromes unlike planes. Search and Destroy strategy widely used in the jungles, meaning finding Communists and destroying them. The mission usually implied destroying entire villages, perhaps, not to let the young Communists grow up. Air attacks supported the ground troops and were called to destroy the bases and supply roots of the enemies. Of course, the American troops did not make any attempts to separate the Vietnamese troops from the civilians, who were killed during bombing alongside with soldiers.
Kissinger was the first person who was blamed for the war crimes done by the Americans. As the first secretary, he was considered to have immense powers and his personality was vilified. There were caricatures in the press of Kissinger standing behind the throne of the American president and leading secret diplomatic negotiations and deciding to bomb the Vietnamese. In fact, Kissinger has tried to fight the critique for years and the article about ending the war in Vietnam was an attempt to make an excuse for himself and to show that the international politics did not depend upon him. Though, it is difficult to believe in such statement.
Kimball (1997) analyzes the participation of the Soviet Union in the Vietnam War from the Russian point of view in the article “Russia's Vietnam War”. He states that the Western countries like France and then the United States were the first to invade Vietnam and the Soviet government could not leave the Vietnamese Communist comrades. In addition, it was strategically correct to support the communist regime in the world, because if one country will not receive help from the Soviet Union in difficult times, the others will lose their belief in communist ideals. The main point of the article is to give an alternative perspective for the analysis of the Vietnam War, because people rarely study the opponent's point of view. Though, it is impossible to find someone who is absolutely right or wrong in the war, as everyone has its rationale.
Kimball (1997) writes that the war itself started from the French colonization of Vietnam. The first stage was the occupation of the Mekong delta and Saigon in 1859 and 1862. Then, the Tonkin region and Hanoi were annexed to the occupied territory in 1993. The French officials were not showing much courtesy towards the Vietnamese population and the natives were deprived of all civil rights. In addition, they paid high taxes for the goods and for the support of the colonial administration. It is not strange that the nationalist protests against the colonizers arouse in the country, where people were turned into servants without reasons. Nonetheless, the time passed and a generation of the French-educated Vietnamese appeared. They had good jobs and the money the colonizers paid them; thus, they were not able to understand why the lower classes were not content with their lives. The economic and social misunderstandings increased, which led to the civil war.
As a result, Kissinger writes that the American nation tried to stop the popularization of the Communist ideas. At the same time, Kimball tells that the actions of the Soviet Union prevented the United States from achieving global hegemony. The Vietnamese were living in the conditions of civil war and social injustice under the occupation of France. Perhaps, the Communism was not the worst solution for them under such conditions.
Why One Article is Better
The international politics is usually deprived of such notions as sentiments, regrets and humanism. Vietnam was nearly ruined both by the Soviet and American soldiers. Thousands of people ended their lives in the jungles for the ideas of winning in the Cold War that was finished in the future. Nevertheless, the question why people had to die and kill each other received reasonable explanations from both sides of the conflict. Kissinger, as the representative of the American viewpoint, wrote that the US participated in the war because it was the question of national self-esteem, the belief in their exceptional position among other nations and their right to give poor Vietnamese people democracy. Kimball, on contrary, wrote about the Soviet belief in their right to give oppressed Vietnamese equality and Communism. Besides, it was a question of national esteem to the Soviets to help their red comrades.
As it can be seen from the above description, both Kissinger and Kimball present the same ideas in the way that supports opposite sides. It is necessary to analyze both sides of the propaganda to understand that the ways of making people go against their human nature are the same and are based on idealistic lies.
The country suffered from the French colonization, Civil War and Cold War during a comparatively short period of time. Even though many people know that there were numerous victims in those conflicts, for many of them such victims remain only statistics. Anyway, Vietnam managed to live without the help of their Soviet and American comrades and to restore the country from the ruins of the Cold War. 1976 is the year when the two parts of Vietnam began their reunification process. The old way of managing social and economic life in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam turned out to be ineffective. That is why, the government adopted a series of market-oriented reforms in the middle of 1980s, following the example of China and moving away from the classical socialist system.