THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE United States in the Vietnamese war poses acutely two fundamental issues with which American foreign policy has tried to come to terms elsewhere, and which it is likely to have to face in Vietnam and elsewhere in an even more acute form. These issues are: the unqualified support we are extending to regimes whose political weakness compels us in the end to commit ourselves militarily beyond what our national interest would require; and the peripheral containment of Communist China. In order to understand the nature of the issues as they pose themselves in Vietnam, it is first necessary to take a look at the history of our involvement in the affairs of Vietnam.
That history has been determined by a number of paradoxes. The war which France fought in Indochina until the Geneva agreement ended it in 1954 was for her essentially a colonial war, no different from the wars that France and Spain had fought in Africa in the 1920′s. For the great majority of the Vietnamese, on the other hand, the war was a war for national liberation. However, for the two powers without whose intervention the Indochina war would have taken on a different character and might well have had a different outcome, the United States and Communist China, the war had nothing to do with national liberation or colonialism. As far as Communist China was concerned, the war was an attempt to extend the area of influence and domination of Communism. For the United States, too, the main issue of the war was the expansion of Communism. Certainly the United States did not support France for the purpose of maintaining French power in Indochina. The United States looked at the Indochina war as part and parcel of its over-all strategy of containing Communism throughout the world.
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