Essay: Vietnam Ho Chi Minh's Dream

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Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh's Dream of a Unified Communist Vietnam

Today, Southeast Asia is seen as a hub for international business. The increasing emphasis on globalization and free trade between the western and eastern hemispheres is bearing a determinant impact on the outlook for such nations as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Inclined by the success of nearby neighbors Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, these have begun to present themselves as venues for profitable investment in technology and production endeavors. However, the type of economic independence now gradually emerging in these settings would be hard won, only a recent development in a far more protracted history of occupation, resistance and violence. Modern day Vietnam is a stable if only now developing nation, independent and a rare entity in its steadfast commitment to the socialist title which it earned through its 1975 reunification of its North and South. It is this reunification, a realization of the dream of North Vietnam leader Ho Chi Minh, that drives the focus of our discussion.

Indeed, it may even be said that this unification which so many American soldiers gave their lives to prevent is responsible for a regional stability has in turn invoked a ripple effect in Southeast Asia, promoting in what was once the bloodstained region known as Indochina, a positive trend of economic growth and very gradually refining political orientation. Indochina, incorporating neighbors Cambodia and Laos in Vietnam's tangled web of European imperial ambitions, militant political divisions and ideological confrontations, would be set upon its path by the arrival of French-Catholic missionaries in the early twentieth century. This was true as early as 1625, when Alexander Rhodes, a Jesuit scholar, "gained the approval of the College of Propaganda at Rome for his scheme to recruit from the French clergy a missionary society which would be dedicated to the task of providing manpower and funds for training an indigenous Catholic hierarchy for the church in eastern Asia."

This crucial event would sow the seeds for a colonial occupation that would not take hold in any official capacity until 1860, when the French initiated a full-scale military effort to retain political authority there. Here would begin the chapter which leads Southeast Asia to modern day. The French occupation of that which had come to be identified as French Indochina would last directly up to the dying days of colonialism. The splintering effect of World War II and the exhaustion of European powers had made the notion of colonialism, in its aftermath, an impossibility. The postwar era would be marked by two correlated patterns in the spread of socialist ideology and the decolonization of territories which had functioned under European authority for, in some cases, centuries. Indeed, the impulse for independence would be particularly pronounced at this juncture. As Young (1991) reports, "in August 1945, most Vietnamese believed their country was at last independent of all foreign rule and at peace . . . For that entire period, Vietnamese had struggled against French rule in sporadic uprisings that sometimes achieved the intensity of full-scale guerrilla warfare."

These effects would provoke a movement for independence in the traditionally, fiercely independent Vietnam, where a fomenting communist movement noted the opportunity in France's relative weakness to declare itself extricated from its colonial authority. Under the leadership of communist revolutionary and ardent Vietnamese nationalist Ho Chi Minh, the northern-based political party achieved recognition by the French government as a legitimate governing authority. Yet, even as Ho Chi Minh negotiated the terms of his nation's independence from the century of colonial rule, "French authorities on the scene were attempting to set up Cochinchina as an independent state separate from the rest of Viet Nam and under French protection."

This site would become the seat of operations first for the French during the First Indochina War from 1946 to 1954, and then, as Saigon, for the Americans during the Second Indochina War from 1965 to 1975. This latter conflict is frequently referred to as the Vietnam War amongst American scholars, and is marked as one of the most salient military failures in American history.

The war in Vietnam is a narrative of internal divide and foreign occupation. Though the period known as the Vietnam War was predicated on a civil divide between North and South, it was spurred into full-scale, country-wide battle by the intervention of the United States. It is thus that three capital cities would serve as the seats of leadership and decision-making as the war spiraled out of control in the mid-1960s. In the Hanoi capital of North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Cong proceeded with efforts to impose the dream of unification under a communist banner upon the South. In Saigon, the transition of leadership to D?

ng V-n Minh would create a deeply unstable seat of support for the efforts of the United States in Vietnam. In Washington D.C., an aggressive desire to stimulate full-scale resistance against communist pressures in the South would provide an impetus for most of its decisions.

Perhaps central among the leadership decisions to be made would be that resolved in Washington D.C., where in 1963, the Kennedy Administration and the CIA decided to move forward with an assassination of Ngo Din Diem, president of South Vietnam. Designed as a move to insert itself directly into the political leadership of South Vietnam, it would actually throw into chaos any form of stability preventing the permeation of communism. Accordingly, Mullen (2008) reports that "no federal law then or now criminalizes U.S. involvement in the assassination of a foreign official. While the involvement of the CIA in and White House approval of the plot against Diem may have been questionable, it was not illegal. Nor was his death the end of the U.S.'s problems."

This would leave Saigon in the throes of uncertainty and would strengthen the position of the North by eliminating what Ho Chi Minh perceived as his staunchest enemy in Diem.

The popularity of the communist movement in Vietnam as a whole bade well for his dream at this juncture to unify the country. Its influence in its neighboring states, coupled with the heightening drive by the North to seize authority in the south, presented a fair case that all of Indochina could fall under the pale of Soviet communist doctrines. Its vested interest in helping to push Vietnam toward a reunification under the umbrella of the Northern authority would be motivated by the form of imperialism which was emerging in the vacuum left by the process of decolonization. Nation-building, as its two superpower perpetrators referred to it, would be a method of imperialism characterized by its allegiance to a strict ideological canon based on a defined philosophy for proper governance.

In many ways, it directly reflected the recent history of France in Vietnam. Here, the North Vietnamese (NVN) had vanquished another foreign invader and in doing so, had gained greater confidence in their ability to unify the nation and to outlast the American invaders. As Schultz (2000) reports, "the NVN rulers and people were still exulting and living in the aftermath of their having won independence from colonial oppression by militarily defeating the French in 1954.' There was still popular support for 'the Hanoi regime's effort to build a progressive and economically sound nation.' This was the case . . . even though North Vietnam had carried out a very harsh land-reform program in the latter 1950s."

For a nation which had so badly demanded agrarian reforms and other extensions of the public interest in state affairs as to provoke a coalescence of parallel communist nations, a move toward socialism appeared a practical one to the North Vietnamese and to their Soviet patrons. This would invoke them to train, arm and fund the Northern military with the implicit understanding that, in eventuality, it would attempt to annex its southern half. This points us toward a key decision in Hanoi, which would be to accept the heightened challenge from the Americans for full scale confrontation. Thus, "in early 1964, Hanoi decided to follow Bui Tin's recommendation and escalate the war in the South."

Naturally, this would play a complicating role in America's interest in Southeast Asia. America had adopted a strategy of containment in its desire to prevent Soviet Union from spreading its influence. Thus, it had become an overarching U.S. policy in the wake of World War II to dedicate its resources and attention to sites where communism appeared to be on the brink of emergence. As early as the middle of the First Indochina War, Vietnam appeared a theatre for such a threat. Thus, even with the dispatching of the French, the U.S. remained in South Vietnam, another key decision from Washington leadership that would impact the nation's immediate future.

Washington's methodology represented a transition from France's colonialist ideology, but did not present much in the way of a break from its imperialist motives. The United States had begun in earnest to dedicate itself to the establishment of bastions… [END OF PREVIEW]

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