What were the main factors that caused the Vietnam War?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There were two main causes of the Vietnam War.  One cause had to do mainly with the Vietnamese and one cause had mainly to do with the Americans.

On the Vietnamese side, the main cause of the war was the desire to have a national government that was truly independent.  Vietnam had long seen itself as a country that deserved to be independent.  Even so, it had been colonized for a very long time, first by China, then by France, and then for a short while during WWII, by Japan.  With this history, Vietnam was eager to have true independence.  The group that had the most credibility as a nationalist force was the Vietminh, led by Ho Chi Minh.  Unlike the regime in South Vietnam, this regime did not appear to the Vietnamese to be beholden to foreign powers.  To make a united Vietnam that was not (in his mind) under foreign domination, Ho encouraged a conflict against the South Vietnamese government.

On the American side, the main cause of the war was the fear of communist expansion.  Ho Chi Minh was a communist and American leaders believed that he would be controlled by the Soviet Union.  They believed that a communist Vietnam would lead to a “domino effect” in which more and more countries in East Asia would become communist, leaving the communists to dominate that area of the world.  To prevent this, the US went to war.

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