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If you are expected to list exactly five causes of US involvement in Vietnam, I would suggest that you check your textbook and/or your class notes to find out what five causes you are supposed to identify. This is because different people can come up with different lists of five causes. Overall, I would say there was only one real cause of US involvement. This was the desire to stop the spread of communism worldwide. It is possible to split this up into five causes, but the desire for containment is the overriding cause. Here is one list of five causes, all of them caused by the basic fact that the US felt that the spread of communism had to be stopped:
- The United States believed that the Vietminh, led by Ho Chi Minh, were communists under the direction of the Soviet Union and/or China. In other words, the US thought that a communist Vietnam would be a puppet state of the USSR, doing its bidding.
- The US wanted to help France remain powerful. France had been severely weakened in WWII and the US wanted to fix that. They wanted France to be economically and militarily strong so it could serve as a US ally in the Cold War. It felt that France would be helped if it could keep its empire. Therefore, the US initially got involved in Vietnam to help France keep it as a colony.
- France was defeated by the Vietminh. Even with American help, France was unable to defeat the Vietminh and it eventually gave up control over Vietnam in 1954.
- The country of South Vietnam, created after France left, was politically and militarily weak. The US would have preferred to let South Vietnam fight its own battles, but the government was unpopular and the South Vietnamese army did not fight well. This made the US feel it had to step in.
- North Vietnam attacked US forces directly in the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. When this happened, President Johnson asked Congress to authorize him to use whatever force he felt necessary in Vietnam. Once Congress complied, American levels of involvement rose dramatically.
This is one way to list five causes of US involvement in Vietnam. Please check your class materials as there are other possible lists of five causes.
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