Making the Geopolitical Intensely Personal: Lyndon Johnsons Vietnam

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The war in Vietnam was different from most of the other conflicts in American history. There was not a clear point of entry into the conflict - a stark contrast with the horrific night of Pearl Harbor, for example. The rationale behind United States involvement lacked the hearty sentiments of Manifest Destiny or the hated enemies Kaiser Bill or Adolf Hitler.


The conflict, of course, began when the French decided to release their colonial claims to Vietnam. The French army was driven from Vietnam in 1954, resulting in the Geneva Peace Accords. This created a temporary partition of Vietnam at the seventeenth parallel, until 1956, when nationwide elections would be held. While the Communist powers in the Soviet Union and China did want the entire nation of Vietnam to become Communist, they predicted that the 1956 election would accomplish their aims without bringing the United States into the conflict (The Wars for Vietnam: 1945 to 1975).
Rather than initiate another conflict similar to Korea, the American government began a concerted effort to win the political minds of those living to the south of the Communist zone. A major part of this effort was the creation of SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization). Initially, the American efforts were successful: the 1956 elections brought Ngo Dinh Diem, a firm opponent of Communism, to power in South Vietnam. However, Diem claimed that the North Vietnamese were preparing to take the southern half of Vietnam by force, and the Americans began aiding his military maneuvers against the northern half in 1957.
Diem used a variety of brutal internal measures in South Vietnam to qu ...
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