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In 1954, Vietnam brutally defeated France in the battle of Dien Bien Phu, thus ending a nine year war. The US had supported France under the policy of containment, and began their involvement in Vietnam. As the United States got progressively more involved, it got worse and worse, and eventually turned into what is now called the Vietnam War. Support of the policy of containment quickly diminished, as Americans questioned the validity of their presence in Vietnam, due to bad media which caused nation wide anti-war movements and lowered the morale of American troops, causing the inevitability of American defeat.
The policy of containment had been in use for many years by that time, and Americans felt it was their duty to stop the spread of communism. In the beginning of the war, many people believed the United States was doing what was morally right by entering Vietnam. Barry Goldwater backed this up in his speech by saying, “we are at war in Vietnam and we must have the will to win that war….the security of all Asia hinges on this crucial battle” (F). Americans, however, did not obtain this will due to the lack of support.
Goldwater goes on to say that the United States was at risk of “committing to communist domination its resources and its people” (F). Vietnam and its surrounding countries were vital traders of important raw materials to the free world and losing these materials to communists could have been dangerous. President Reagan says in a speech that “it is time we recognize that ours was, in truth, a noble cause. A small country free of colonial rule sought our help in establishing self-rule and the means of self-defense against a totalitarian neighbor…” (E). Though people supported the containment policy in the beginning, as the war dragged on, people started to wonder whether or not it was even worth it.
Americans were fed up with the war and began to question why they were there in the first place. Many felt that President Johnson’s reason for entering Vietnam was not a valid one. Earnest Evans claims that “the reason for the loss of public support for the Vietnam war was that the Unites States never had a convincing case for intervention in the first place” (T). Johnson’s secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, stated that, “this important war must be fought and won by the Vietnamese themselves” (H). The American people did not find it comforting that the Secretary of Defense was against the war. Lewis H. Lapham writes, “…the war was never honestly declared and because, at the end of it nobody…could say why 58,000 American soldiers were dead and another 300,000 wounded” (B).
The United States never officially declared a state of war on Vietnam therefore many Americans did not support the war. The Catholic Bulletin says that “our waging the war, not our losing it, disgraced us in the men’s eyes…We tried to bend an ancient and civilized people to our will, and we failed…” (C). The roman catholic church was completely against the Vietnam war not only because they are against war in general but also because the United States had not declared war therefore it was sin. Many people also thought that without a declaration of war the actions of American soldiers were immoral. Americans were confused, and surely did not find comfort in the shocking media that came back into their living, which caused many anti-war movements.
Footage of American soldiers pushing Vietnamese out of helicopters and killing women and children made proud Americans who were at home watching the news, ashamed of their own country. Lewis H. Lapham wrote, “Most Americans had been content to think of themselves as honorable people unerringly drawn to the side of what was true and noble and right…” (B). Many anti-war movements began to explode all over the United States. When the American troops found out that the American people weren’t supporting them, it critically lowered their morale.
An American soldier writes to his mother, “I tell you, it’s horrible to read a paper and see our own people aren’t backing you up” (K). this sentence singlehandedly illustrates the effect it had on the troops morale. Richard Nixon addressed all of this by saying, “…they saw much of it on television…many of who were seeing war for the first time were so shocked at what they saw that they said this war immoral when they really meant that all war was terrible” (G). The rising numbers of American fatalities and the awful media changed American’s positions on the war. The combination of all the negative aspects of this war, eventually lead to the defeat of the United States.
Though Americans supported the containment policy in the beginning, that support quickly expired, as people protested the cause for being in Vietnam, due to horrific media that decreased troop moral and caused anti-war movements; it was inevitable that the United States lose the Vietnam War. The war might have turned out differently if it had had the full support of the American people.