Johnson's Decision on U.S. Troops in Vietnam Essay

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Historical Significance of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Controversial Decision to Send U.S. Troops into Vietnam in 1965

Essay on Johnson's Decision on U.S. Troops in Vietnam Assignment

The historical significance of the decision that was made was in the fact that it led to the Vietnam War—the conflict that defined that latter half of the 1960s and the first few years of the 1970s. It defined the presidency of Johnson and of Nixon. It shook the U.S. domestic front to its core as protests erupted all over the nation regarding the war, the nature of the war, the purpose of the war, the actions of U.S. soldiers during the war, and the rights of people at home—people who felt like they were now being spied on, locked up or harassed simply for protesting the foreign policy of the United States government.[footnoteRef:7] The government began to be despised as fewer and fewer people believed in or trust it. With the release of the Pentagon Papers, in which the actual data and statistics that the government had on the War—facts and statistics that differed from what the public was being told—a veritable inferno of anger erupted across the country. Johnson’s role in the whole issue had been important. Kennedy had sought only to send a small contingent to the region—a big difference from starting out an all-out war. Kennedy had learned the good that could come of détente. Johnson ignored such lessons and sought rather to make his mark by entering into a contest of wills with the Vietnamese—a contest the U.S. would eventually lose. The main outcome of this was that the U.S. was no longer viewed as the most dominant world player in terms of military might—particularly since it could not even over power tiny North Vietnam. Johnson’s decision ultimately was one that led to the U.S. looking vulnerable not only to other countries but also to its own citizens. A nation that had once been very sure of itself now seemed to be questioning its own moral character and military ability in a changing world as a result of Johnson’s decision to enter Vietnam. [7: David E. Kaiser, American tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the origins of the Vietnam War (Harvard University Press, 2000), 167.]

Outline

I. Introduction: Context
  • a. Johnson’s decision to enter into Vietnam was one that changed the course of American history.
  • b. He used the Tonkin Gulf Incident as an excuse to wage war with Vietnam.
  • c. The end result was that America became less powerful
  • d. Thesis: When Johnson decided to send troops to Vietnam, he crossed a line between the country pursuing self-determination and the U.S. throwing down a gauntlet towards the Soviet Union—and changed the course of American history by making the country look extremely vulnerable.
II. Body: Controversy
  • a. The controversy surrounding Johnson’s decision was that it was based on faulty intelligence.
  • b. The Gulf of Tonkin Incident was not well-substantiated.
  • c. Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara even confessed there was no evidence indicating North Vietnam had actually fired on the U.S.
  • d. There were certainly other options open to the U.S. and to Johnson:
    • i. Diplomacy
    • ii. Further investigation
    • iii. Détente ala Kennedy’s approach
III. Conclusion: Significance
  • a. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost on both sides as a result of the Vietnam War, which Johnson instigated by sending American troops to Vietnam.
  • b. The War was bad for America because it brought so much chaos to the domestic front:
    • i. Protests
    • ii. Anger
    • iii. Distrust of the government
  • c. The country eventually ended up looking weak when it failed to win a war that Johnson predicted would be over shortly.
Bibliography
  1. 88th Congress of the USA. “Tonkin… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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