Source A is by US President Johnson, speaking in April 1965, one month after the start of Operation Rolling Thunder. It is a primary source. Johnson had a difficult job; he had to live up to be popular. The former president JFK was very popular. Johnson was a new president. He launched the direct involvement; former president only sent weapons and advisers. In the source, Johnson says USA got involved in Vietnam because “we have a promise to keep”. By saying promise he is referring to the Truman Doctrine. It is the promise made by Truman president of USA after World War Two, they promised to send money, weapons and advisers to the countries outside the Iron Curtain if they are over the threat of communism. Johnson feels that he has to carry on the promise. Americans expect Johnson to help out South Vietnamese. Americans think communism is evil, and they are the defender of democracy and capitalism. They think it6 is their job to contain communism. They have showed to the world that they will stand up over communism in Korea, Cuba and Greece; it is vital that they carry on containing communism to make America appear strong.
The source is said to public in America. It is useful because it is from the president himself who lead the war which makes it is primary source because it was said at the time the war was going on. In addition, it gives us the reasons that Johnson told the public. It also tells us the official reason of why America was involved in the war. Because Johnson took them to war, many public believed him. Direct involvement has just begun and the incidents at gulf of Tongking and Pleiku were the excuses for America to bomb North Vietnam.
The source is less useful because he doesn’t give a specific reason on why America was involved; he does not talk about the direct involvement, he is trying to justify his reasons on bombing Vietnam. He believes it is the right thing to do; he hides his private feelings. He also says the quote from the bible to back him up. “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further…” he says that the god will say he is doing the right thing. He is trying to make people feel it is the moral thing. He also means that he don’t want communism to be over the Iron Curtain. Because the views from the Vietnamese people are missing it make the source less useful. It is biased because we only get Johnson’s point of view.
The date is significant and it is said to persuade the public and it makes the source more likely to be propaganda. Johnson is desperate to put the public on government’s side. Because if the government does not get the support from the public there will be a massive protest. The source only shows Johnson’s point of view so we don’t know if the Vietnamese wanted America there. Johnson has just started to bomb Vietnam which makes it less reliable because he is trying to put the public on government’s side.
This is not uncommon because it is what the other leaders have done in the past to put the public on their side. Because it is common that makes it les reliable; the politicians can exaggerate the reasons why they have gone to the war. Propaganda has been used in World War 2 and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan and the public have to be cautious when listening to propaganda speeches. The media is trying to make the public believe that communism is bad.
The source on its own is not very useful. Perhaps if it was cross-examined with other sources we will be able to understand more about the reasons of why America got involved in the Vietnam War.
Source B is a private conversation said by us President Johnson in May 1964. The source tells us that Johnson’s fear of communism “of course if you start running from the communists they may chase you into your own kitchen” which is similar to source A in the fact that he talks about communism spreading to the West and America. He also tells us that he has a fear of losing power which he doesn’t mention in source A because it is a public conversation.
He says that the politicians and advisers are giving him pressure to start the war which means that JFK was doing is not working anymore. The source was spoken in May 1964 but then the Operation Rolling Thunder hadn’t started. The USA was only helping the Vietnamese indirectly. The date is significant because it shows that he had thought about bombing Vietnam, it wasn’t a decision which was taken straightaway. He says that he is not confident that they will win the war “I don’t think it is worth fighting for. And I don’t think we can get out” which contradict with what he has said in source A.
Source B is useful because it displays his true thoughts and feelings about going to war in Vietnam. Because the decisions to go into war are done by Johnson it makes the source more reliable. However, because the source only tells us one point of view as to why they are involved in Vietnam War; it limits its reliability and it’s not helpful if you’re looking for why they are involved in Vietnam. The source is privately said which makes it more reliable because it’s trustworthy and because there is more chance of it being the truth. It is more useful because it shows what he really think about Vietnam “we acre a hell of a lot less” it again contradicts with source A where he said we should act up on Vietnam; this makes source A less useful. But on the other hand source B is less reliable because we don’t know who he had this private conversation with.
I think source B on its own is not very useful because he doesn’t say many reasons of why they got involved in Vietnam. But it is useful in way that it contradicts with source A and helps us think more about if source A is reliable.
Source C is by Professor Noam Chomsky, he was an American critic of the war; which means that he is not going to be positive about what the government is doing. He is less reliable because we don’t know his background. He ahs got his own agenda; possibly he can be Anti-American. Because he is a professor, people are more likely to believe what he says because he is knowledgeable. However, it doesn’t mean what he says must be true. The source is less useful because we don’t know where he got the information from, to make it more useful we need to know the derivation of his information.
The professor emphasises the fact that the government didn’t go to the war to help the South Vietnamese “its our ‘official’ truth now” he is saying that this is what the public was told by the government, it was what everyone believed at that time. “It’s just not true” in these lines what the professor actually means is that President Johnson is a liar. “The US did not want an independent South Vietnam that was no longer dominated by America” in these lines the professor is telling us that USA got involved in Vietnam because they did not want to lose the control over Vietnam and they wanted took powerful to the Soviets during the Cold War.
The source tells us that the US got involved in Vietnam for trade and money because if the South Vietnamese turn communist they won’t trade with America, which means that they will have less economy. “It could not allow South Vietnam out of its orbit” in these lines what he is saying is that America want to show the world its strength and it wants to keep control over Vietnam. It is about America being selfish and its greedy motives. This supports what Johnson said in source B, he only says he cares about Vietnam in source A.
The source is said to public because he is being interviewed, the source is not very reliable because it only shows his point of view. The professor wants the public to know the truth or what he thinks is the truth. There is less chance that the media has changed the source. The source is useful because it shows us a different viewpoint about America’s involvement in Vietnam War. The fact that the professor has said it in public shows that he is trying to achieve publicity for himself by exaggerating the reasons.
The source is useful because it displays that not everybody agreed to the war and some people criticised their own government. It is also good because it shows a different opinion on Vietnam War; something we haven’t considered before. The source was spoken in October 1982 after the war has finished in the 1970’s. Chomsky is criticising the government because they have lost the war, there is more chance of public believing Chomsky than government and they will think that the government has made a mistake. It is less reliable because it is a secondary source and he doesn’t know what the real reasons were, he wasn’t there at the time nor he wasn’t part of the government.
In my opinion, source C on its own is not very useful because ewe only get one person’s viewpoint. But if it was interrogated with other sources it can be more reliable.
In conclusion, I think from all these sources I have studied source B is more useful because it shows us what president Johnson felt at that time of war and he was the one who sent out soldiers to Vietnam. But in source A he could be lying to the public to justify his reasons because he can’t say he sent troops down to Vietnam for his selfish motives. I haven’t chosen source C because I think that he is trying to gain popularity by criticising the government and that is his job.
Courtney from Study Moose
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