Sunday, April 6, 2014

Week 2 Mainstream History

Week 2 Readings Blog Entry

In the article “The American Involvement” by Sucheng Chan provides a detailed account of the Vietnam War. The years before the Vietnam War Ngo Dinh Diem who ruled as president opposed communism. For this reason America was in support of Diem and his beliefs. The U.S started off by bombing Vietnam immensely on Ho Chi Minh Trail to cut off North Vietnam’s supplies. As the war went on many casualties were felt by all sides including the U.S. As news spread at home, U.S anti-war protest spurred the nation and pressured the country to pull the troops out. Almost two billion were being spent a month on war alone. While the U.S was pulling troops out they were training South Vietnam troops to fight their war. However, South Vietnam could not fight a war where they were under equipped. They did not work well with “American style of fighting” and would ultimately lose military bases. As North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam, U.S implemented evacuation plans but did not broadcast it to keep the civilians from panicking. As Saigon fell civilians would board helicopters, aircrafts, and boats to run away from the invasion. The civilians would go to neighboring countries  to hide from the Viet Cong and ultimately end up in America. In postwar Vietnam, America has accepted hundreds and thousands of Vietnamese evacuees.
The US’s motivation for going into Vietnam stemmed from the French failing and the US being afraid of another Korea happening as they saw communist politics spreading like a threat. Afraid that Vietnam would become another bloodbath like Korea, in order to control it for its “own sake” the US went in to “help” Vietnam. The US felt that if communism expansion ended in one country it will end in another “Thinking in geopolitical terms, they envisioned countries as dominos, if one domino fell, it would set in motion the collapse of the ones lined up next to it.” ( The US hoped to stop communism expansion in Vietnam by supporting President Diem who is against communism.

Framing Vietnam article:
This article looks at the 4 major films that recount the Vietnam war. Each of them were very different from each other but things they had in common were that neither of them went above and beyond to inquire the politics behind the war. They all focus on romanticizing the American Hero who goes through aiding his soldiers in battle while fighting “psychological crisis” as the article describes. The political hand behind the war is not acknowledged in either films. Instead of focusing on the destruction one in Vietnam by the US, the films empathize with the US and the crippled condition the states were in after the war. Family and true love are emphasized in the ends of each of the film. Ironically, after destroying populations of family and friends in Vietnam, the American vision of their own family and friends still has more spectator weight than the destruction done across seas to other families and friends. This article ends with the statement that maybe only the true sufferers of the war can be able to provide accurate depictions of the war, not Hollywood filmmakers who are trying to sell and make profit off of such films. But if war accounts were only told by the Vietnamese, who the author considers true sufferers of the war, then it would leave out the American perspectives of the war. In such politically sensitive historical events, all perspectives from all angles are necessary to portray, not just one or the other.

The Fog of War Video/The Lessons of Vietnam  
Robert S McNamara, was the secretary of defense during the Cold War. In this movie and book he talked about the lessons that he thinks we should have learned from the earlier wars, and should have implemented but did not. McNamara admits that the US did wrong in the Vietnam war. He states that we thought of it as a Cold War, where the Vietnam thought of it as a Civil war. The difference in perceptions of the war made big difference in the way it was all executed. The US only caused destruction in Vietnam continuously dropping bombs and focusing on targets without regard for the residing populations in country they were attacking. McNamara and VanDeMark stress how important it is that the US communicate with other nations, it can help prevent so much destruction in these wars. Communication between nations can lead to mutual understandings politically, which in turn decide the direction of the nations, especially in cases with war on hand. Although McNamara speaks of ways the war was wrong, he also at the end says that the US going into Vietnam was justified in the end though and if they hadn’t it still would have had bad consequences for the US.

5 Questions for Class:
1. How could the US have done a better job perceiving the Vietnam war in the same way that the Vietnam were?
2. What are the images of the Vietnam war that have been portrayed to us by Hollywood/media?
3. Based off of Vietnam’s experience, how is Iraq justified by the US?
4. Which of the 11 lessons of war do you agree with or not stated by McNamara?
5.What was similar between the lasting consequences of the Vietnam war and the previous wars and the Iraq war now?

Sources: Documentary: Errols Morris dir. “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara.” (2003)
Documentary: “S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine”
Chan, Sucheng. “The American Involvement.”
Shute, Jenefer. “Framing Vietnam.”
McNamara, Robert S. with Brian VanDeMark. “The Lessons of Vietnam.” 

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