how in 1963 and the U.S. assumed absolute control of South Vietnam

Dien Bien Phu

  • However, the Vietminh was well-organized and extremely popular, and they defeated the French in 1954 at the battle of Dien Bien Phu

Dien Bien Phu

  • “[Canadians], while lamenting the tragic ending of the legendary conflict at Dien Bien Phu, salute with pride and honour the heroic defenders of the fortress.” – Canadian PM Louis St. Laurent
  • Yes, this guy actually thought the French colonizers were the heroes in this situation

American Intervention

  • Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos were declared independent states at the Geneva Convention in 1954, but nevertheless, the United States invaded Vietnam and successfully took control of the southern half of the country
  • Thus, Vietnam was divided in a manner similar to Korea just before it, but war did not break out immediately

North and South

  • In the Communist North, land was seized from landlords and re-distributed to the peasantry (small farming families) while education was rapidly modernized and factories were built
  • In the South, the United States established a puppet government under Ngo Dinh Diem, whose dictatorship was similar to that of Syngman Rhee in Korea
  • Diem rejected land reform, and relied on U.S. aid money to crack down on communists and other opponents

The Vietnam War

  • By the early 1960s, the Diem regime was unable to maintain control of widespread discontent in South Vietnam; Diem was killed in 1963 and the U.S. assumed absolute control of South Vietnam
  • As rebellion grew in the South, under attack from U.S. forces, North Vietnam eventually moved into the South to try to liberate the country from U.S. occupation

The Vietnam War

  • Ultimately, they failed, as the Communists had the full support of most of the country and could use guerrilla tactics to outlast the U.S.

The Vietnam War

  • Even at home in the United States, the injustice of the war was obvious; it was clear that Vietnamese people didn’t want them there, and Americans openly asked how it could claim to giving freedom to Vietnamese when it couldn’t give freedom to African-Americans

The Vietnam War

  • If you haven’t already watched it, the Netflix documentary on the Vietnam War is good, and the first episode gives an overview of this history, with interviews and video footage
  • We will return to Vietnam later in the course; for now, the point is that the west tried to refuse Vietnamese freedom, because it didn’t like what they would do with that freedom (communism)
  • Thus, Vietnamese people were forced to fight multiple wars against multiple enemies (Japan, France, the United States) to achieve its independence

Conclusion: The Bipolar World

  • These cases illustrate what the Cold War was all about: a world torn between two poles, the capitalist United States and the communist USSR
  • In an all-out ideological battle for the future of humanity, and with communism the more popular choice overall, the west had to go on the offensive to try to maintain a mostly capitalist world

The Bipolar World

  • But this often exposed the fact that the ‘freedom’ the west was offering was hardly the ‘freedom’ people wanted… it shouldn’t require mass murder to convince people to be free
  • And yet, the USSR failed to seize the moral high ground: it shrunk into the background as people around the world fought for their freedom, and its prestige diminished as people looked to China, Vietnam, Cuba for hope


Author Since: November 30, 2020

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