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USA in Asia Revision for Summer 2014 exam

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andrew mountford

on 5 May 2015

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Transcript of USA in Asia Revision for Summer 2014 exam

USA in Asia Revision for Summer 2014 exam
Answering questions on Topics 2,3 of USA in Asia
Jan 2009

• How far was fear of the spread of Communism responsible for the USA’s increasing involvement in the affairs of south-east Asia in the years 1950–64?
• Why was the USA unable to defeat Communism in south-east Asia in the years 1965–73?

June 2009

• How significant was China’s intervention in deciding the course and outcome of the Korean War?
• How far was opposition within the USA responsible for the United States’ withdrawal from the Vietnam War?

Jan 2010

• Why did the United States become so deeply involved in the Korean War in the years 1950–53?
• How far was the growing conflict in Vietnam in the 1960s due to the policies of President Kennedy?

June 2010

• Why did the USA become increasingly involved in south-east Asia in the 1950s?
• To what extent were changing attitudes among the US public responsible for the reduction of the number of US troops in Vietnam in the years 1969–73?

Jan 2011

• How accurate is it to say that the Korean War was a conflict without winners?
• To what extent can the Tet offensive of 1968 be described as the key turning point in the Vietnam War in the years 1965–73?

June 2011


How accurate is it to say that Eisenhower and Kennedy must share responsibility for the escalation of US involvement in south-east Asia in the years 1954–63?

Why did it take Nixon so long to withdraw from the Vietnam War?

Jan 2012

• To what extent was the outcome of the Geneva Conference responsible for growing US involvement in south-east Asia in the years 1954–63?
• How accurate is it to say that the Tet Offensive of 1968 was the most important reason for US withdrawal from Vietnam?

June 2012

• Why did the Korean War last so long?
• To what extent was growing opposition in the USA responsible for Johnson’s failure to defeat the communist forces in Vietnam in the years 1963–68?

Jan 2013

• How far was fear of communism responsible for growing US involvement in south-east Asia in the years 1954–64?
• Why, despite a massive increase in the number of American troops in Vietnam, did the USA fail to win the Vietnam War in the years 1963-68?

June 2013

• How successful was US involvement in the Korean War (1950–53)?
• How accurate is it to say that the USA withdrew from the Vietnam War mainly because the human and financial costs were too high?

Topic 1 - Korean War 1950-1953
Topic 2 - USA in Asia 1950s
Topic 3 - Escalation in Vietnam 1954-1968
Topic 4 - De-escalation and Vietnam 1968-1973
To what extent was the outcome of the Geneva Conference responsible for growing US involvement in south-east Asia in the years 1954–63?
To what extent was the US failure to win the Vietnam War in the years 1965-1968 due to the inappropriate tactics of the Johnson Administration
Factors responsible for growing US participation in SE Asia
- Outcome of Geneva Conference
- Failed state building in South Vietnam (Diem in particular)
- Domestic factors in US politics
- Growth of insurgency with support from DRV and PRC and USSR

Argument - Less significant than domestic factors exacerbated by rising insurgency from Viet Minh (outcome of Geneva was in a sense a good result for the US but obviously failed to really solve problems for US)
1. Outcome of the Geneva Conference
Point - The Geneva Conference of 1954 split Vietnam into a Viet Minh (communist/nationalist) controlled North and a non-communist 'free' south which int the context of the Cold War encouraged increasing US patronage of South Vietnam.
Evidence - US supplying huge support for non-communists (Emporer Bao Dai and French Empire) through MAAG est. by Truman before French defeat at Dien Bien Phu and so already in essence sucked into quagmire.
Outcome of Geneva encouraged US to continue this because of the country being split (good result for US considering strength of Viet Minh)
State building through Eisenhower in South Vietnam including encouragement of South to no participate in the planned 1956 elections and incorporating the South into newly established SEATO
Explanation - The outcome of Geneva encouraged US to continue participation in the region though in reality the growth of US participation would be caused by growing threat to South Vietnam and the failure of US state building so the outcome itself not entirely responsible.
2. Failed state-building in South Vietnam
Point - More significant than the outcome of the Geneva Conference itself was the USA's failure to sponsor and foster a viable alternative to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
Evidence - Although South Vietnam started out OK with radical communist policies in the North causing immigration into South Vietnam in the long term in resting on the traditional elites in South Vietnam who colluded with French Imperialism and trying to impose liberal democratic vision in country without radical land reform US were unable to build viable state.
Cancellation of 1956 elections probably symbolic of this
Diem concentrated power in his hands became a liability - antagonizing Buddhist majority (Thic Quang Duc self immolation 1963) and peasantry (Strategic Hamlents Programme on US advice 1962) - to the extent that US prob complicit in his removal in 1963
Also clear failure to develop effective military ARVN despite US aid as shown at Battle of Ap Bac 1963
3. Domestic factors in USA
Point - The nature of the anti-communist strain in US media and political discussion meant that continued commitment to fighting a growing communist threat in the region became a political necessity.
Evidence - Eisenhower initial talk of 'roll back' - although in reality Eisenhower more immune to the soft on communism challenge (McCarthyism spirit)
Also later talks of Military Industrial Complex
Particularly acute with Kennedy who wanted to eradicate the soft on communism Democratic image
(famous 1960 address 'pay any price' to stop spread of communism)
Immediately steps up military aid (NSAM 52 1961)
Increases US advisers from 1,000 to 16,000 by 1963
Note existence of domestic lobby groups like 'American Friends of Vietnam'
PG 4 - Growth of what US viewed as 'communist' threat in South Vietnam and across Indo-China
Point - the growing NLF insurgency in the early 1960s represented what the US believed to be an increas spread of communism in the region and was instrumental in increasing US presence in the region.
Evidence - Note continued 'Malayan emergency' dating back to 1948
Also rising Pathet Lao communist in Laos
NLF formed in 1960
Supported by Ho Chi Minh trail with support from PRC and USSR as well as DRV
Guerrilla techniques proving effective in draining peasantry's support for Diem (Strategic Hamlets)
Battle of Ap Bac 1963
General Tips for topic 2
McCarthyism and domestic context v. significance (less confidence in CW) - in parts move toward 'roll back' (NSC 68 1950) and Hawkish approach
Malayan Insurgency worth noting
SEATO 1955 worth noting
Geneva Conf
Focus on domestic context
Spread of 'communism'
Aftermath of Korea
Vietnam after (and before Geneva)
General tops for topic 3
Go back to debate as to why each President can be seen as being responsible for Vietnam quagmire

Possible factors
Inappropriate tactics
Growing anti-war movement in USA
Effectiveness of Viet Minh Guerilla tactics
Tet
Argument - tactics undoubtedly failed to win the hearts and minds. However, it is hardly surprising USA sought to use their military advantage and assumed they would win in this fashion, therefore the real failure can be located in the success of the NLF's guerrilla strategy combined with their popular support.
1. Inappropriate tactics
Point - The US and General Westmoreland's attempt to maximise the 'body count' of the NLF rather than winning the battle for hearts and minds contributed significantly to the US failing to win in Vietnam 65-68.
Evidence: Westmoreland's belief that US were winning in 1967 clearly mistaken as the US followed conventional military wisdom in believing that killing lots of insurgents would win them the war (not suited to guerrilla struggle)
1965 Battle at La Drang actually v. successful for US but drew them into false image of Search and Destroy being effective
Belief that large scale bombing would bring NLF and DRV to the negotiating table completely misplaced - carpet bombing Operation Rolling Thunder 1965 + Steel Tiger
Use of Napalm and Agent Orange
Explanation: The tactics pursued followed the conventional military wisdom and, although Nixon would later tinker with these tactics, would probably have reaped much greater rewards if not for the wider success of the NLF's guerrilla tactics have proven effective.
2. Strength of the enemy
Point - As with the French before the NLF, with support from the DRV, USSR and PRC were able to defeat militarily and economically stronger enemy through the successful use of guerrilla warfare.
Evidence - Leadership of General Giap (going back to Dien Bien Phu)
NLF support from Ho Chi Minh Trail which US were never able to fully stop
NLF use of booby traps and psychological warfare
Use of support of local peasantry
Use of tunnel networks and using weapons against enemy
Learning from La Drang
Frustrations clearly got to the US soldiers as was shown in events like the My Lai massacre
Ultimately despite high body count were able to maintain support of the peasantry and be in a position to launch Tet in 1968 which makes Westmoreland's claim in 1967 appear ridiculous
3. Growing domestic opposition to war
Point - Right-wing commentators blamed US domestic opponents for America's inability to defeat the enemy abroad though in reality until 1968 Johnson had overwhelming public support for the war and was unable to win it.
Evidence - support for the war until 1968
Growing anti-war movement encouraged by draft and youn student 'New Left' anti-war protestors as well as more militant CR movement in late 1960s frustrated by Johnson's failure to build Great Society
MLK criticism of VW 1967
Muhammad Ali burned draft card 1967
1967 over 100,000 present at Lincoln Memorial in opposition tot he war
1968 the turning point - TV War Walter Cronkite - 'What the hell is going on?'
Explanation - as most people supported at start can be linked back to increased body bag count of US deaths linked to the effectiveness of guerillas struggle (all made worse by also highly economically expensive US tactics)
Point 4 - Tet
Point - The Tet Offensive of 1968 proved to be a significant turning point in the war and a psychological defeat for the US contributing to their failure to win the war.
Evidence - Unexpected attack shown on all US TVs - most US deaths in 1968 16,500 - attack on US embassy in Saigon - killing of NLF soldier live on TV by US 'allies'
Major attack on city of Hue
Proved to be a massive military failure for the NLF as a deviation from guerrilla tactics
Explanation - ultimately Tet compounded US failures - the successful prosecuation of geurrilla war had allowed the NLF to retain support in the countryside and launch the surprise attack. It wasn't a turning point in changing the balance of power (US losing before) but in a sense was another nail in the coffin.
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