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The Vietnam War as History Essay

“You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win. ” Such were the words of Ho Chi Minh referring to France and America in their wars in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh was a Vietnamese revolutionary, who later became Prime Minister (1946–1955) and President (1946–1969) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). He led the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War until his death. Six years later, the war ended with a North Vietnamese victory, and Vietnamese unification followed.

The former capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in his honor. The Vietnam War, or the 2nd Indochina Wars, was the longest military conflict in United States history. Furthermore, according to Richard M. Nixon (1985), “No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now. ” In Elizabeth Jane Errington’s book entitled, The Vietnam War as History, it probes the events in Southeast Asia in the thirty years after 1945 through the lenses of history.

It is a compilation of the most current academic interpretations on the origins and effects of the Vietnam War. The contributors hypothesize and discuss diverse aspects of the Vietnam conflicts and clear away numerous fallacies and myths which still surround the war. They seek to understand how and why events in Southeast Asia came about as they did, and the impact they brought about both regionally and globally. The book sheds light on the lessons learned from the war.

It is, of course, expected for people and nations to achieve knowledge of certain things from past experiences, especially when it is an agonizing one. In this case, however, there are at least two problems. First, there is no accord on what should be learned. The people are still divided in their beliefs as to the meaning and significance of the war—many years after it was considered over. Secondly, in attempting to comprehend something out of the recent past, Americans on both sides of the debate have badly misused or misinterpreted history itself.

What indeed did we learn out of this conflict—this bloodshed and waste not only of resources but also civilian lives? To most people, there should not be “Vietnams” anymore. The United States government can do whatever they want to aid nearby countries or even those halfway-around the globe but cannot fight the war for them. An example is America’s aid in militarization and modernization (otherwise known as Americanization) of the South American drug-war. Most believe that when the government sends the guns, it will not take long before it sends the sons.

Every time, the United States government tries to help a certain country it raises a specter of another Vietnam that will ensue. On the other hand, conservatives believe that Vietnam was a noble cause—and it could have been won. In subsequent conflicts involving Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia, they believed that the fundamental error in the Vietnam conflict is not the fact that the United States government interfered; rather it was the failure of the latter to win the seemingly endless Vietnam guerilla war.

Reading this book will give us a better understanding of the Vietnam conflict—what caused it to happen and its repercussions to other Asian countries and ultimately the whole world. This book also sheds some light on what has been learned from Vietnam, suggest why these “les¬sons” lack validity, and then specify some ways we might learn more valuably from a recent, painful incident Reference Errington, E. J. (1990). The Vietnam War as History. New York. Praeger Publishers.


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