How significant was ‘The Domino Theory’ as a reason for US involvement in the conflict of Vietnam? The conflict of Vietnam was a battle between North Vietnamese forces and South Vietnamese soldiers, who had the help of the US. The highly disputed war took place between 1955 and 1975. The aim of the South Vietnamese forces was to unite the South of Vietnam with the North to form a communist government. On the other hand, the South wanted to keep the country non-communist. This was exactly why the US got drawn in. To stop the spread of communism. There is a lot of debate surrounding America’s involvement, many questioning whether they needed to intervene. Others question the high escalation of their involvement. Before the Vietnam War, the Cold War had started. It was the tense relationship between the US and the Soviet Union. The US used capitalism as their economic system, whilst the USSR used the communist system. Differences in ideologies led to a taut relationship between the two countries.
Although there was never any actual fighting between the two countries, fears of a nuclear war were established. ‘The Vietnam War was a proxy war* between the United States, the Soviet Union and China.’(11) Proxy War: A war in which a war is fought between two or more entities, one or more of whom is supported by another country, in order to achieve the goals of the supporting country. The Cold War is the biggest example there is to show how worried America were about the spread of communism. It links to why America got involved in Vietnam and The Cold War also gives evidence to support the Domino Theory, which suggests why America got involved in the first place. The Domino Theory stated that if one state in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect. The US used the Domino Theory to justify their intervention in Vietnam, but other factors also contributed. The US entered Vietnam to try and contain the spread of communism.
They can validate this because South Vietnamese forces could not defeat the opposition without help. As well as that, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which was where a US warship was attacked by a North Vietnamese torpedo boat, could also give the US a reason for getting involved. To start off with, the US sent in ‘military advisers’ to commence their participation in Vietnam. The aim of these advisers was to train the ARVN and to get them organised. The US government called them ‘advisers’ to cover up the increased escalation of their involvement. They also started a new government in South Vietnam, which was ran by Ngo Dinh Diem. Unfortunately for the US, he ran a corrupt government and was not well-liked by his people. Diem and his brother were later killed in an event the US approved. ‘After the Second World War, US leaders felt they had to do everything they could to stop the spread of communism. (1) This is because ‘When China became a communist state, the US lost their powerful position as the leader of the free world.’(2)
This started with stopping the first ‘domino’ falling, which was Vietnam. Before the US entered Vietnam, the French had built a colony, consisting of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. In 1954, the ‘Battle of Dien Bien Phu’ marked the end of France’s involvement in Indochina. This defeat for the French showed the US why they needed to increase their participation. The Geneva Conference marked a turning point in America’s involvement in Vietnam. Representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, China, France, and Great Britain came together in to try to resolve several problems related to Asia. As part of the agreement, the French agreed to withdraw their troops from Vietnam, which would be split into two, pending elections within two years to choose a President and re-unite the country. During those two years, no foreign troops could enter the country.
After agreeing all of this, the US then helped establish a new anti-communist government in South Vietnam and began giving it financial and military assistance. These are the first steps the US took in their involvement in Vietnam. In an attempt to rally congressional and public support for increased US aid to the French, President Eisenhower have a historic speech on the ‘domino theory’ in 1954. He spent much of the speech explaining the significance of Vietnam to America. He did this to show the public how much the US needed Vietnam and how big a loss Vietnam would be. He said “You have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the ‘falling domino’ principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is a certainty that it will go over very quickly.”