Americas Foreign Policy Strategy During and After the Cold War Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Causes, Course, and Consequences of the Vietnam War against the USA

As the world’s superpower, the United States got involved in the Vietnam War but left the country with a mortifying conquest, appallingly high fatalities, the public in America cuttingly divided, and the leaders unsure of the way forward regarding foreign policy. The Vietnam War is in history as American’s most protracted and enervating war that the country ever lost and had an overarching impact and consequences on multiple facets of the American life including foreign policy, domestic politics, and the economy.

Causes of the Vietnam War

The U. S. immersion in the Vietnam War was primarily caused by the communist containment policy developed when the Cold War began in combination with aspects of Wilsonianism (Thayer, 2016).  Two ideological superpowers divided Europe at the end of WW2. President Truman had anticipated that Eastern Europe that was newly conquered would hold free elections and establish their course of government, but his hopes were shuttered by Stalin’s resistance to open his markets and the Marshall Plan. The U.S. was unwilling to make concessions to the Soviet totalitarian government, and the communist ideology was fundamentally opposed to capitalism.

America served as a crusader and was morally obligated to establish an international environment that allowed for democracy and free markets to flourish by stopping the communist ideology from spreading. Democracy in the modern day is based on classical liberal thought and Christianity, which are against communism and socialism (Thayer, 2016). Truman and other leaders of the West were convinced that democracy was superior in the moral sense to other government forms and considered communism a threat to the idealist dream of harmony in the world.

The First State of Union Address by President Wilson underscored the importance of treaties, state’s trustworthiness, and international laws as the precursors of global order. The Western leaders such as Eisenhower and Truman also widely believed in the Domino Theory in the sense that if one country fell to communism, then the neighboring nations were at a risk of conversion (Emerson, 2014). If this series continued, it would place the United States’ security at risk. However, the United States failed to recognize the intricacies of communism. For instance, the communist government in China was different from the Russian communist state, and the two even became enemies.

The Vietnam War was enabled by the United States’ fear of the ‘domino theory.’ The Truman doctrine provided that the U.S would help governments that resist communism. The American presidency regarded North Vietnam’s government led by Ho Chi Minh, the National Liberation Front (NFL) and the Vietminh as proxies of global communism (Emerson, 2014). On the other hand, Americans and the U.S. policymakers were avid anti-communists. Communists desecrated human rights, scorned democracy, pursued military bellicosity, and established state economies that are closed and hardly transacted with nations that
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embraced capitalism. According to Americans, communism was transmissible and just like dominos communist countries would be lined up to the end. In China, the Communist Party assumed power in 1949, and the U.S feared Vietnam would turn into the next Asian domino. It was the primary cause for the decision made in 1950 by Truman’s administration to support the French as they fought Vietminh.

Other factors justified the U.S.’ involvement such as Truman believed that by supporting the French in Vietnam, other non-communist developed countries would receive a boost whose fates were surprisingly tied to the Vietnam’s preservation and spread all through Southeast Asia due to the domino theory (Thayer, 2016). The involvement of the Washington in Vietnam was also a reassurance to the British who had correlated their recovery after the war to reviving the tin and rubber industry in one of Vietnam’s neighbors, their colony of Malaya. With the help from the United States, French could focus on recovering economically at home and ultimately recall their officers from Indochina to supervise the rearmament of West Germany.

As the Vietnam War progressed, most of these ambitions were sidelined, and Washington could not just stop. Eisenhower acknowledged that if the U.S. withdrew from the war, it would deliver the country to a communist region, a risk that Americans were not willing to take. For instance, if elections scheduled in 1956 in Vietnam were held, 80% of the voters would have voted for Ho Chi Minh (Thayer, 2016). The various ideologies on the same between Democrats and Republicans also made the U.S. leaders not to stop the war to avoid backlash. The Vietnam commitment was passed from administration to administration, and the motives kept changing through the years. The U.S. presidents including Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy had promised to stand by South Vietnamese allies and giving up on them would have been regarded unreliable, and its credibility jeopardized.

Each president’s temperament, personality, and experiences had an essential part in extending the commitment of the U.S to the war. For Instance, Eisenhower controlled the involvement of the United States since he was apprehensive about Washington fighting a land war in Southeast Asia. President Kennedy was focused on proving his resolve to his Communist adversaries and the American people, particularly after making several errors regarding foreign policies just after assuming office (Thayer, 2016). As a Southerner, Johnson likened winning the Vietnam War to a successful hunting expedition, and he pushed harder than the two. In early 1965, Johnson was set to engage in a limited war as he began the North Vietnam’s bombing and sent Marines to South Vietnam.

Course of the Vietnam War

President Truman approved a program of military and economic help to the French in May 1950 who participated in the battle to maintain the dominance of their Indochina colony, comprising of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The French forces were conquered in 1954 by the Vietnamese Nationalist Vietminh army that was led by a communist. The outcome compelled the French to assent to the establishment of communist North Vietnam and a non-communist South. The U.S was not in agreement with this arrangement. President Eisenhower’s administration proceeded…

Sources Used in Documents:


Appy, C. G. (2016). American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity. Penguin Books.

Emerson, G. (2014). Winners & Losers: Battles, Retreats, Gains, Losses, and Ruins from the Vietnam War (reissue). WW Norton & Company.

Thayer, T. (2016). War without fronts: The American experience in Vietnam. Naval Institute Press.

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