With the exception of the war in Iraq, no other war in American history has divided historians as much as the Vietnam War. You are right that some historians blame the United States for increased tensions during the Vietnam War, while others hold the USSR responsible. Let's begin with historians...
With the exception of the war in Iraq, no other war in American history has divided historians as much as the Vietnam War. You are right that some historians blame the United States for increased tensions during the Vietnam War, while others hold the USSR responsible. Let's begin with historians who blame the United States.
The most widely read historians of this stripe were William J. Duiker, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Gabriel Kolko, John W. Lewis, David Halberstam, and George McTurnan Kahin. Kahin and Lewis co-wrote The United States in Vietnam, a book highly critical of American war policy in Southeast Asia. In particular, Kahin was a staunch supporter of the Khmer Rouge communist insurgency and strongly condemned South Vietnam's goal of separation from North Vietnam.
Many of the above historians were strongly critical of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem and the support he received from the American government and military apparatus. Here are two quotes from Kahin's book The United States in Vietnam:
But to attain and keep the military initiative outside...urban strongholds, the United States has had to resort to warfare of a kind that is destroying the rural Vietnamese society it hopes to deny the Vietcong...Although Washington has declared that the first essential is to give the people security, it feels that this can only be achieved by eradicating the Vietcong from their midst. This social surgery requires military actions in contested areas on a non-selective basis...
The continuing American insistence that the war in the South is simply a case of aggression from the North has led to erroneous conclusions concerning de-escalation.
Meanwhile, historians who largely supported the American role in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War included Guenter Lewy (who wrote America in Vietnam); Norman Podhoretz (who wrote Why We Were In Vietnam); Harry G. Summers, Jr.; Bruce Palmer, Jr.; and Philip B. Davidson. These historians argued that civilian legislative leaders obstructed American military efforts to contain the North Vietnamese communist insurgency.
As for historians who believed that the USSR was responsible for increased tensions during the Vietnam War, here are a couple of quotes from Thomas J. Christensen:
“Ho Chi Minh was able to exploit Chinese and Soviet jealousies of one another to gain maximum support for his goals in South Vietnam. From 1965 until early 1968, the rivalry between Beijing and Moscow also served to scuttle multiple Soviet-inspired proposals for peace talks between the Vietnamese communists and the United States.”
As early as 1965, 50 percent of Soviet aid to communist countries was going to Vietnam, and 60 percent of this was military aid.
Christensen contends that the Sino-Soviet rivalry in Vietnam led to increased tensions in the Southeast Asian region during the Vietnam War. For more, please refer to the books I mentioned and the links below.
1) Historians and the Vietnam War: The Conflict Over Interpretations Continues, George W. Hopkins, Studies in Popular Culture, Vol. 23, No. 2 (October 2000), pp. 99-108
2) Worse Than a Monolith: Alliance Politics and Problems of Coercive Diplomacy by Thomas J. Christensen