With the assassination of Diem, is America at a turning point in its relationship with Vietnam?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I do think that a fairly strong case can be made that with the assassination of Diem, there is greater American attachment to Vietnam.  While there is much in way of skepticism about how American involvement in the region escalated under President Kennedy, I do think that the assassination of Diem was something that moved American fingerprints on the region into view.  President Kennedy and his administration were literally divided and conflicted about how to feel on the assassination of Diem.  On one hand, the killings of Diem and his brother rid the nation of a corrupt and brutal regime.  Yet, at the same time, the American involvement in the region helped to mitigate the idea that the United States had nothing to do with what was going on in the region.  The actions of American diplomats such as Lodge being unable to really extricate America from the Diem assassination became representative of how American interests in the region were making a political and eventual military situation even more difficult to fathom.  Adding to this is the moral implication that American influence helped to kill a sitting ruler of a nation.  Regardless of what follows, it is in this where a strong case can be made that America, rightly or wrongly, began its process of "owning" the Vietnam conflict.  Consider the words of Maxwell Taylor, Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, to this point:

There was the memory of Diem to haunt those of us who were aware of the circumstances of his downfall. By our complicity, we Americans were responsible for the plight in which the South Vietnamese found themselves.

In this statement is a clear indication that the assassination of Diem and his brother was influenced by the United States.  In playing a part of dislodging a sitting administration, the nation, rightly or wrongly, ended up creating a fulcrum point that helped to move the relationship between America and Vietnam to the juncture where American involvement in Vietnamese affairs both politically and militarily became almost inevitable.


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