President Lyndon Johnson rose to presidency following the assassination of President Kennedy. It was under his tenure that America declared war on Vietnam, a war which had severe consequences on both America and Vietnam. Perhaps the shoes left by President Kennedy were larger than Johnson expected, and hence in his attempt to fill the space, he ended up making probably the worst mistake in his political career. This paper seeks to look into the Vietnam War and its implications. The paper will look into the political, social and military outcomes of the war. By looking into these outcomes, the paper will address the lessons learnt by America and will compare it to the war on Iraq.
Political, Social and Military Outcomes of the Vietnam War
In order to have a clear picture of the results of this war, it is imperative that one understands America’s involvement in the war. The United States entered the war, in an attempt to stop communist countries and ideas from taking control of South Vietnam. The Vietnam war was fought between the communist North Vietnam (which was supported by many of its communist allies) and the government of South Vietnam (which was supported by the United States and other anti-communist nations). This was America’s involvement in the war (Robert; 1975). During President Kennedy’s term, it was a policy that 1000 American troops would be withdrawn every year. As soon as Johnson took over, this policy was reversed and the number of troops was actually increased. Johnson is quoted as having said that "the battle against communism must be joined... with strength and determination." (Herring; 2001)
What then were the political implications of the war on America? The war on Vietnam basically killed Johnson’s political career. According to polls carried out in 1965, both hawks and doves were against the war on Vietnam. This was for the simple reason that America was the one losing. Although the war did not have a major impact on Johnson’s popularity, it split the Democratic Party (Johnson’s party) into two groups. It has become a convention that Democrats posses Dovish traits while Republicans posses the Hawkish traits. Johnson’s loyalists would be said to have the hawkish traits in the Democratic Party while those against were the Doves. As a result the Democrats lost the confidence of the electorate and therefore lost the next election to the Republicans.
What were the social outcomes? As a result of the war, many soldiers returned to America disabled for life, some lost limbs and others were poisoned by chemicals like Agent Orange. This reduced their productivity in the society as their expected disability adjusted life years had been curtailed. Many others returned from the war addicted to drugs and many others endured mental problems as a result of their partaking in the war. This was probably the greatest social outcome of the war. The worst of them all was that veterans of Vietnam were often overlooked, rejected, and even separated against by the public and their government, until recently (Herring,2001).
The military outcome was the most intense of them all. For starters more than 2 million men and women served during the war. Close to 58,000 were killed as a result of the war. This was a major impact on the war as many people thought twice about joining the service. It is important to note that this war had already cost the American taxpayers about $150 billion. This war led to the massive loss of lives for many of the military personnel and it was therefore more costly than beneficial (John; 1999)
What lessons were learnt from the War?
As a result of the war, there was a war powers resolution approved by congress in 1973. This resolution provides that war powers are divided between Congress and the President. Following the Vietnam War, Congress searched for a way to assert authority to decide when the United States should become involved in a war or the armed forces is utilized in circumstances that might lead to hostilities. It was thought that due to unchecked presidential powers, the president led America to the dogs by making some impromptu decisions. Presidential powers with regards to authority over the armed forces were therefore curtailed and checked by congress (John,1999).
Relationship to the War on Iraq
Just like the Vietnam War, the president of America carried out his constitutional rights, although influenced by personal reasons, by declaring war against a foreign nation. There exists three main similarities between the Vietnam War and the War on Iraq, both wars were unpopular and have therefore attracted mass criticism from the international community, both wars were used as political tools and campaigning strategies, it is therefore no surprise that they were effective, both wars involved and resulted to major casualties of both civilians and soldiers. If drastic measures are not taken, the war on Iraq has the potential of blowing up to become another Vietnam War. America invaded Iraq under the pretext that Iraq produced weapons of mass destruction. 6 years down the line, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. I am therefore of the opinion that American troops in Iraq should be withdrawn at some convenient rate.