Since the late 19th Century, the USA got involved inglobal affairs despite adopting a strict isolationist prior to thetwo WorldWars. After the Second World War, the USA increased herinvolvement in global affairs, especially in the wake of the cold warwith USSR. A myriad of reasons exist to explain why the USA changedher policy from isolationism to global involvement. The majorcontributor to USA’s global involvement is war. Being part of theUN Security Council, the USA has somehow felt that it is responsiblefor world peace. However, the public perception regarding these newpolicy changes has not always been positive. In this analysis, thepaper will look at the motivations behind the USA’s involvement inglobal affairs including the cold war and the crisis in Vietnam. Theanalysis also explores the attitudes associated with the globalinvolvement.
After the end of the Second World War, Russia and the USA were theonly countries left standing, at least economically. The UK, Germany,and France were all in economic turmoil after the war took a toll ontheir economies (Osgood 101). Meanwhile, the economic turmoil inthese world powers had created a power vacuum in the domination ofworld affairs. The three former powers were too engrossed inrebuilding their countries to even think of getting involved inanother international strife. The power vacuum presented an excellentopportunity for the USA and Russia to assume global domination. Inorder to beat Russia at assuming the control of global affairs, theUSA found herself further involved in world affairs. Her primaryconcern was that Russia was quickly gaining popularity in the worldarena. The USA had to do something to stop the progress.
Apart from beating Russia at the race to global dominance, the USAwas also keen on stopping the spread of Russian communist ideologiesto developing nations. The USA could not imagine a world in which shehad to do business with majority of countries who were communists.Looking at it from another perspective, the USA wanted to curtail theencroachment of communism in order to dominate over other countriesby imposing its ideologies on them. On the media, the USA claimedthat a world with communism would impair the growth of the worldeconomy. Alternatively, the USA urged nations to try out capitalism.The USA was quick to spot young nations that had just attained theirindependence and influence their leaders to adopt capitalistideologies.
The Cold War with Russia motivated the USA to be further involved inworld matters. At some instances, the war almost turned violent.There was a lot of speculation on the media about the possibility ofboth countries going to actual war with the other. If the arms racewas anything to go by, the looming cold war was an indication of apossible conflict between the USA and Russia. The red scare and othergovernment propaganda about the infiltration of Russian agents in theAmerican population further increased tension within the Americanpublic (Morgan 414). Luckily enough for the citizens of bothcountries, the rivals did not go to war. However, some nations wereunlucky because the two powers tested their might on their lands. Onesuch unlucky country was Vietnam.
According to the ushistory.org (1), the war in Vietnam was thelongest in the history of the USA. The conflict marked theinvolvement of the USA in world affairs for over a decade. Promisesby the USA to South Vietnam to keep the Northern communist forcesfrom advancing south kept flowing up to the Truman presidency.Meanwhile, Russia and Communist China were supporting the forces inNorthern. Although they were not involved in the conflict militarily,the fueled the offensive launched by North Vietnam by funding itsmilitary and supplying them with modern military equipment. Thecommunist allies figured that if they supported the Northern forces,they would have won the war by spreading their communist ideologiesto the Southern state. On the other hand, the USA was not willing torelent because she knew that if South Vietnam turned communist, thenthe communists would be motivated to dominate the rest of Asia.
Meanwhile, there was growing dissent in the USA regarding herinvolvement in global affairs. Attitudes were changing to oppositionof the move. Contrary to modern day propaganda regarding the publicon the decision to invade Vietnam, most of the USA citizens were insupport of the move (ushistory.org 3). Save for a few antiwarprotests, the general public opinion was that the USA was justified.However, it appears the ignorant masses did not know the exact reasonbehind the invasion of Vietnam by the USA. The government publicrelations wing assured the masses that the war aimed at liberatingSouth Vietnam from the agents of oppression that were the communistNorth Vietnam. What the USA government failed to tell its people wasthat the war was by extension a battle of supremacy between thecapitalist USA and the communist Russia. It therefore follows thatthe general attitude was in favor of the USA joining the Vietnamcrisis. In addition, only one vote in the congress was opposed to theidea.
The general attitude of support against the invasion of SouthVietnam by North Vietnam forces was exported overseas when the USAmilitary set foot in the war torn country. The military wasconditioned to believe that the communist forces were evil, and thatthey stood for an oppressive cause that was communism (Osgood 95). Itdid not take long before the USA military in Vietnam began to gainground. The seemingly triumphant North Vietnam forces were surprisedat the zeal with which the American forces were fighting. It did nottake long before they began to retreat. The communist forces resortedto unconventional warfare tactic in order to survive the Americanoffensive. In a speech by former president Lyndon Johnson (utexas.edu6), he refers to the tactics used by the communist forces as savage.The communist forces would indiscriminately attack civilians. Theywould also hide among civilians and then launch attacks on Americancamps in the dead of the night.
After the war took longer than anticipated, the general mood in theAmerican public began to change. Instead, they began to oppose theUSA’s involvement in the conflict. In what they termed asunnecessary war, Americans wanted their government to cut its lossesand move on. Several lobby groups began to hold protest in oppositionof the government’s role in Vietnam. One particular individual thatwas not particularly amused by the USA’s role in Vietnam was Dr.Martin Luther King (Americanrhetoric.com 3). In his speech, hequestions the morality of the war in Vietnam. He said, “….sendingtheir sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to diein extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of thepopulation”.
It did not take long before Americans took their attitude ofdisapproval of the war international. Several cases of desertion bythe military were reported all over. The African Americans within themilitary ranks also felt that they were being misused by the racistmilitary (Westheider 5). The military personnel had exported thegeneral public opinion in the USA to their overseas zone of conflict.Draft-dodging, street protests and disunity in the congress did nothelp the morale of the military forces either.
Even though the USA has been instrumental in world affairs, therewere always concerns about these developments. The primary concern inthe global involvement issue is costs. USA citizens were worried thattheir government spends billions of dollars on overseas conflictsthat have zero threats to the national security of their country. Forinstance, when President Johnson took over the realm of power afterthe death of JF Kennedy, his primary domestic policy was to eradicatepoverty. He signed assented into law the economic opportunity Actthat sought to attack poverty at its roots (alphahistory.com 2).After a year in office, he was glad at the progress he had made thusfar. However, the war in South East Asia had a negative impact on hismanifesto. “Funds he had envisioned to fight his war on povertywere now diverted to the war in Vietnam”(alphahistory.com 3). By1968, he had lost hope of leaving a legacy of domestic reforms.
The issue of the sovereignty of other countries is also a majorconcern. Under international law, a country should not invade anotherunless provoked. However, in most countries that the USA has invadedthere was no provocation. In justifying the involvement of the USA inthe Vietnamese war, Lyndon Johnson says that it was the role of theUSA to stop the spread of communism in the South East subcontinent(ablongman.com 4). The question that arises from the speech is whogave the USA the mandate to monitor the political ideologies thatAsian countries choose to adopt?
In conclusion, the role of the USA in the world should be supportingpeace and human rights through the right bodies. Currently, only theUN and other regional organizations have the mandate to get involvedin the affairs of other countries. From experience, it is quite clearthat military invasion by the USA does more harm than good.
Ablongman.com. President Lyndon Johnson`s Defense of the U.S.Presence in Vietnam (1965). Web,http://wps.ablongman.com/wps/media/objects/2661/2725147/documents/doc_d061.html>Accessed July 10, 2016
Alphahistory.com. The Vietnam War. (2016). Web,<http://alphahistory.com/vietnamwar/hello-adblock-user/>accessed July 10, 2016.
Americanrhetoric.com. Martin Luther King Jr. Beyond Vietnam — ATime to Break Silence. April 1965. Web,<http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm>Accessed July 10, 2016
Morgan Lynda. Reparations and History: The emancipation generation’sethical legacy for the 21st Century. Journal of AfricanAmerican history fall (2014) 99(4).
Osgood Kenneth. Hearts and minds: the unconventional Cold war.Journal of Cold war studies, (2002) 4(1) 85-107
Utexas.edu. President Lyndon B. Johnson`s Address to the NationAnnouncing Steps To Limit the War in Vietnam and Reporting HisDecision Not To Seek Reelection. March (1968). Web,<http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/archives.hom/speeches.hom/680331.asp>Accessed July 10, 2016
Ushistory.org. 55,The Vietnamwar.Web,<http://www.ushistory.org/us/55.asp>accessed July10, 2016
Ushistory.org. 56e. Lyndon Johnson`s "Great Society. Web,<http://www.ushistory.org/us/56e.asp> Accessed July 10, 2016
Westheider James. African Americans and the Vietnam War. Blackwellpublishing 2006.