The Vietnam War

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What were the main arguments for and against the Vietnam War? If alive then, would you have supported or opposed the war, and why?

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Had I been old enough to form an opinion at the time, I would've been very much against the Vietnam War. The main reason would've been the enormous bloodshed and cost involved in waging the conflict. Over 58,000 American troops died during the war, to say nothing of the enormous...

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civilian casualties involved.

The costs of the Vietnam War were astronomical and could've been far better spent on dealing with the pressing social and economic problems at home. Indeed, the goals of President Johnson's Great Society program were undermined by the Vietnam War and its unprecedented financial cost. Defense spending reached such epic proportions that the Great Society was effectively derailed. Its association with an increasingly unpopular administration also damaged its credibility in the eyes of many.

The Vietnam War was not confined to the borders of Vietnam; it spread illegally into neighboring countries like Cambodia and Laos. Many civilians in these countries, who had nothing whatsoever to do with the war, were killed as a result of this unnecessary and unlawful extension of the conflict. To some extent, this came about as a result of the war's developing a dynamic of its own, which in turn was a product of an ideological crusade without specific military goals. The lack of a clear objective meant that the war would always have been difficult to win, and so it proved.

Supporters of the Vietnam War, however, were convinced that the United States needed to intervene in order to stop the spread of communism. This pernicious ideology had been responsible for the wholesale death and enslavement of millions. The United States had both the means and the moral responsibility to intervene on behalf of the South Vietnamese. What had happened in Eastern Europe, under the domination of the USSR, could just as easily happen in South-East Asia.

Where the two points of view may have converged was in the lack of distinct political objectives in waging war. However, different conclusions were drawn from these premises. For those against the Vietnam War, it meant that the United States should have nothing to do with the conflict; irrespective of its policy goals, the war could not be won. Hawks, on the other hand, saw the lack of clear objectives as leading to a timid engagement which repeated the mistake of the Korean War in not going all-out for final victory.

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The Vietnam war was pivotal in U.S. policy regarding its role as “policeman” to the world; two important terms during the Cold War are “area of influence” and “domino effect.”  Some U.S. decision-makers in the Nixon administration argued that if Vietnam turned communist, thereby coming under the Soviet area of influence, all the other small Eastern countries would fall “like dominoes” into the Soviet camp—Cambodia, Indonesia, etc.—and that intervention in Vietnam would prevent such a “domino effect.”  This argument raised the stakes and convinced many older generations, who had seen the victory of WWII as proof that force was the only international language, that the tiny country was worth “saving.”  But the U.S. was not prepared for the kind of ground offensive/ jungle fighting the intervention would take—long-distance bombing of naked targets was more the style of the military after the Korean conflict.  Immediate needs included a swelling of “grunt” troops, warm bodies, what is now called “boot on the ground.”  When a draft-by-lottery system was put in place, youth protested, not only for their personal inconvenience, disruption of education plans, etc., but because they were not sympathetic to the notion that the U.S. should be a “police force” in the world, nor that the Vietnamese people wanted to be "saved."  The arguments for and against the war were emotional and personal, not logical and political.

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