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Vietnam History

A look at the cordial relations between the United States and Vietnam today might be mistaken to mean that this has been the situation for long. However, a journey through the memory lane to a few decades back exposes animosity and war whose wounds are still being nursed to date. It would reveal national shame of such great enormity that few in the American leadership would like to revisit. The Vietnam War that took place from 1965 to 1975 left the Americans baffled as well as the Vietnamese wallowing in a miasma of death and human suffering that has not been unrecorded in the history of mankind since then.

In the wake of its conclusion, the United States army had been rendered a blunt blow by the communist regime forces but not without the demise of more than two million civilians. The United States entered the war amidst growing opposing sentiments by thousands of protestors especially from students. The Vietnamese had by 1945, been fighting the yoke of French colonialists that would result to a division of the country into two regions; the North and South Vietnam.

North Vietnam was controlled by the communists who were all along yearning for the unification of the two regions to form a formidable one nation that would be over seen by the communist leadership. The southern part of Vietnam was under the control of Vietnam French collaborators and apparently enjoyed great western and United States support. The United States was stepping in to ensure that South Vietnam did not collapse in the wake of the Northern Vietnam communist led upsurge (John S. Bowman, 1995. ).

The Geneva peace accords between the French colonialists and the Vietnamese in 1954 had given a go ahead to the re-unification of Vietnamese in conformation to the communist’s wishes. The then United States secretary of states, John Foster Dulles was opposed to the accord believing that it favored the communists. They would support militarily the South Vietnam against any onslaught from the north. From then hence forth the events that would take place, would have devastating effects both in Vietnam and America politics. President Kenney was waging an attack in the midst of contrary advice from his close allies.

Many thought that the war was a “dead end alley” as it was near impossible to quell the growing hold of the National Liberation Front. The initial strategy by the American administration was to institute a limited onslaught on the Vietnam and then frighten them with a possibility of unleashing more artillery. Johnson resorted to bombing the major communication transport and fuel facilities but the North Vietnam forces did not relent in their efforts. The tide was against the United States forces for the complications brought forth by the presence of civilians.

The aerial bombings were resulting to unexplainable collateral damage. The Tet offensive for example resulted to the demise of more than 500 civilians and turned the public’s support against the United States. It was the uproar after the Tet offensive that would see Johnson becoming willing to start the peace process but it later immediately failed. Richard Nixon upon his election as the president also escalated the military engagement and bombing this time extending the offensive into Cambodia. His strategy in the war was met with stiff opposition from the public in the United States especially college students.

In the face of eminent defeat and political ramifications at home, Washington opted for more diplomacy rather than military involvement. Both Hanoi and Washington had come to the agreement that this was the best strategy but that each party had to get the best out of the agreement. The initial talks were faced with hostility and distrust amongst the parties. By 1972, Washington and Hanoi were drawing closer to signing a peace agreement. The negotiations were being used by Nixon as back up effort as he still escalated his military activities to the neighboring countries.

Henry Kissinger called the strategy “Vietnamization” . Nixon tried to use all manner of deceptions to hide from the public the escalated bombings in Cambodia with a severe backlash. The United States was bombing Hanoi to force it to the negotiations table. The culmination of the talks was on the January of 1973 when the treaty of Paris was signed by the four warring parties (Martin Greenberg and Augustus Norton,1985). It is more than apparent that the United States lost the battle. The U. S army had all the weaponry and trained manpower to win the way but lost.

However, the analysis of who lost or won the war would take a different approach from the simplistic one of determining who lost the ground battle. Through unconventional means the United States was trying to arrest the spread of communism. It was trying to ensure the democratization of South Vietnam. It lost in the war and also lost a face internationally. The communists in Vietnam won the war against the U. S but the period after the United States troop’s withdrawal is characterized by the gross abuse of human rights, the re-education camps were full and there was a humanitarian crisis.

It hence would be more than wise to claim that communism won the day but both the people in Vietnam and the United States lost in the war. The aftermath of the war presented a demoralized U. S military, the fall of an American president and losing in the international face. Vietnam lacked in the basic freedom and the unity required to drive the country ahead (Burns and Leitenberg, 1985). Immediately after the fall of Saigon in 1975, the United States severed its diplomatic ties with Vietnam. These ties were restored in 1995 and an embassy opened in Hanoi to make official the ties.

High ranking U. S official have been to Vietnam since the ties, ranging from Bush Senior and Robert Mc Namara, a defense secretary. However, it is the Bill Clinton’s visit to Vietnam that became historical. During the visit he emphasized that he thought the time had come for which to start a new chapter in the diplomatic relations between the two nations (Merritt Clifton 1985). The two countries signed a bilateral trade agreement that will see Vietnam greatly benefit from the United States goodwill.

This charted the path towards healing the war wounds that dealt devastating blows to both nations. President Clinton believed that by introducing bilateral ties and promoting an economic deal with Vietnam, it would go a long way improving relations and understanding. The war had severed the ties between the two nations and there are still so un-ironed out issues such as the unaccounted disappearance of the United States soldiers during the war. These are some of the issues that are likely to impede any relations between the two countries from time to time.

Increased ties have been witnessed of late especially as the United States re-established its air transport route to Saigon. More and more Americans tourists have been traveling to the Vietnam. President Bush recently, in 2005, visited Hanoi to further strengthen these ties but still reiterated his call for religious freedom. Trade partnership between the two nations has thrived to a level of almost 10 billion dollars worth trade in exchange between the two countries. At the moment, the United States is the largest trade partner. It was also able to join the world trade organization under the U.

S tutelage. Efforts are being made to see the two countries sign an agreement that will open up free trade in both markets. It is apparent that the Vietnam War severed the relations between the two countries as well as with a number of neighboring states. Both the United States and Vietnam recorded huge fatalities. Vietnam suffered most from the attack and also it is not clear who between the two won. They both lost in the greater war. Vietnam still tries to reel from the after-effects of the war; its struggle received a boost after Clinton’s visit to chart a way for more trade relations.

At the moment, although the wounds are not completely healed, the trade partnership is slowly seeing Vietnam get out of its economic quagmire .


John S. Bowman,1995. The World Almanac of The Vietnam War. New York: Bison. Burns and Leitenberg,1985. The Wars in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio. Merritt Clifton 1985. Those Who Where There. Paradise, CA: Dust Books. Martin Greenberg and Augustus Norton,1985. Eds. Touring Nam: The Vietnam Reader. New York: Morrow.

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