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Last updated: 02/23/11 at 08:43 PM
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The history chanel says, "In 2002 the new U.S. president, George W. Bush, argued that the vulnerability of the United States following the September 11 attacks of 2001, combined with Iraq's alleged continued possession and manufacture of weapons of mass destruction (an accusation that was later proved erroneous) and its support for terrorist groups—which, according to the Bush administration, included al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks—made disarming Iraq a renewed priority." President Bush gave Saddam 48 hours to leave iraq. He chose not to so Bush launched an attack on a bunker complex. Acording to "About" the website "Troops in Iraq - Total 47,000 U.S. troops as of Nov 30, 2010. All other nations have withdrawn their troops. U.S. Troop Casualties - 4,439 US troops; 98% male. 91% non-officers; 82% active duty, 11% National Guard; 74% Caucasian, 9% African-American, 11% Latino. 19% killed by non-hostile causes. 54% of US casualties were under 25 years old. 72% were from the US Army. US Troops Wounded - 32,033, 20% of which are serious brain or spinal injuries. (Total excludes psychological injuries.)
Using passenger planes as weapons, nineteen terrorists damaged the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City, killing nearly 3,000 people in the process. The terrorist network al Qaeda carefully planned the attack to protest American foreign policy in the Middle East. SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Foreign Policy.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2010. Web. 17 Feb. 2011.
Imperialism and Colonialism
The Vietnam War has roots in Vietnam’s centuries of domination by imperial and colonial powers—first China, which ruled ancient Vietnam, and then France, which took control of Vietnam in the late 1800s and established French Indochina. In the early 1900s, nationalist movements emerged in Vietnam, demanding more self-governance and less French influence. The most prominent of these was led by Communist leader Ho Chi Minh, who founded a militant nationalist organization called the Viet Minh.
The First Indochina War
During World War II, when France was occupied by Nazi Germany, it lost its foothold in Vietnam, and Japan took control of the country. The Viet Minh resisted these Japanese oppressors and extended its power base throughout Vietnam. When Japan surrendered at the end of World War II in 1945, Ho Chi Minh’s forces took the capital of Hanoi and declared Vietnam to be an independent country, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
France refused to recognize Ho’s declaration and returned to Vietnam, driving Ho’s Communist forces into northern Vietnam. Ho appealed for aid from the United States, but because the United States was embroiled in the escalating Cold War with the Communist USSR, it distrusted Ho’s Communist leanings and aided the French instead. Fighting between Ho’s forces and the French continued in this First Indochina War until 1954, when a humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu prompted France to seek a peace settlement.
The Geneva Accords of 1954 declared a cease-fire and divided Vietnam officially into North Vietnam (under Ho and his Communist forces) and South Vietnam (under a French-backed emperor). The dividing line was set at the 17th parallel and was surrounded by a demilitarized zone, or DMZ. The Geneva Accords stipulated that the divide was temporary and that Vietnam was to be reunified under free elections to be held in 1956.
The Cold War and the Domino Theory
At this point, the United States’ Cold War foreign policy began to play a major part in Vietnam. U.S. policy at the time was dominated by the domino theory, which believed that the “fall” of North Vietnam to Communism might trigger all of Southeast Asia to fall, setting off a sort of Communist chain reaction. Within a year of the Geneva Accords, the United States therefore began to offer support to the anti-Communist politician Ngo Dinh Diem. With U.S. assistance, Diem took control of the South Vietnamese government in 1955, declared the Republic of Vietnam, and promptly canceled the elections that had been scheduled for 1956.
The Diem Regime
Diem’s regime proved corrupt, oppressive, and extremely unpopular. Nonetheless, the United States continued to prop it up, fearful of the increasing Communist resistance activity it noted in South Vietnam. This resistance against Diem’s regime was organized by the Ho Chi Minh–backed National Liberation Front, which became more commonly known as the Viet Cong.
In 1962, U.S. president John F. Kennedy sent American “military advisors” to Vietnam to help train the South Vietnamese army, the ARVN, but quickly realized that the Diem regime was unsalvageable. Therefore, in 1963, the United States backed a coup that overthrew Diem and installed a new leader. The new U.S.-backed leaders proved just as corrupt and ineffective.
Johnson and U.S. Escalation
Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, pledged to honor Kennedy’s commitments but hoped to keep U.S. involvement in Vietnam to a minimum. After North Vietnamese forces allegedly attacked U.S. Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, however, Johnson was given carte blanche in the form of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and began to send U.S. troops to Vietnam. Bombing campaigns such as 1965’s Operation Rolling Thunder ensued, and the conflict escalated. Johnson’s “Americanization” of the war led to a presence of nearly 400,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam by the end of 1966.
Quagmire and Attrition
As the United States became increasingly mired in Vietnam, it pursued a strategy of attrition, attempting to bury the Vietnamese Communist forces under an avalanche of casualties. However, the Viet Cong’s guerrilla tactics frustrated and demoralized U.S. troops, while its dispersed, largely rural presence left American bomber planes with few targets. The United States therefore used unconventional weapons such as napalm and the herbicide defoliant Agent Orange but still managed to make little headway.
The Tet Offensive
In 1968, the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong launched a massive campaign called the Tet Offensive, attacking nearly thirty U.S. targets and dozens of other cities in South Vietnam at once. Although the United States pushed back the offensive and won a tactical victory, American media coverage characterized the conflict as a defeat, and U.S. public support for the war plummeted. Morale among U.S. troops also hit an all-time low, manifesting itself tragically in the 1968 My Lai Massacre, in which frustrated U.S. soldiers killed hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians in a small village.
The Antiwar Movement
Meanwhile, the antiwar movement within the United States gained momentum as student protesters, countercultural hippies, and even many mainstream Americans denounced the war. Protests against the war and the military draft grew increasingly violent, resulting in police brutality outside the Democratic National Convention in 1968 and the deaths of four students at Kent State University in 1970 when Ohio National Guardsmen fired on a crowd. Despite the protests, Johnson’s successor, President Richard M. Nixon, declared that a “silent majority” of Americans still supported the war.
Vietnamization and U.S. Withdrawal
Nonetheless, Nixon promoted a policy of Vietnamization of the war, promising to withdraw U.S. troops gradually and hand over management of the war effort to the South Vietnamese. Although Nixon made good on his promise, he also illegally expanded the geographic scope of the war by authorizing the bombing of Viet Cong sites in the neutral nations of Cambodia and Laos, all without the knowledge or consent of the U.S. Congress. The revelation of these illegal actions, along with the publication of the secret Pentagon Papers in U.S. newspapers in 1971, caused an enormous scandal in the United States and forced Nixon to push for a peace settlement.
The Cease-fire and the Fall of Saigon
After secret negotiations between U.S. emissary Henry A. Kissinger and North Vietnamese representative Le Duc Tho in 1972, Nixon engaged in diplomatic maneuvering with China and the USSR—and stepped up bombing of North Vietnam—to pressure the North Vietnamese into a settlement. This cease-fire was finally signed in January 1973, and the last U.S. military personnel left Vietnam in March 1973.
The U.S. government continued to fund the South Vietnamese army, but this funding quickly dwindled. Meanwhile, as President Nixon became embroiled in the Watergate scandal that led to his resignation in August 1974, North Vietnamese forces stepped up their attacks on the South and finally launched an all-out offensive in the spring of 1975. On April 30, 1975, the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, who reunited the country under Communist rule as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, ending the Vietnam War.
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Vietnam War (1945–1975).” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2005. Web. 17 Feb. 2011.
World War II divided Korea into a Communist, northern half and an American-occupied southern half, divided at the 38th parallel. The Korean War (1950-1953) began when the North Korean Communist army crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded non-Communist South Korea. As Kim Il-sung's North Korean army, armed with Soviet tanks, quickly overran South Korea, the United States came to South Korea's aid. General Douglas MacArthur, who had been overseeing the post-WWII occupation of Japan, commanded the US forces which now began to hold off the North Koreans at Pusan, at the southernmost tip of Korea. Although Korea was not strategically essential to the United States, the political environment at this stage of the Cold War was such that policymakers did not want to appear "soft on Communism." Nominally, the US intervened as part of a "police action" run by a UN (United Nations) international peace- keeping force; in actuality, the UN was simply being manipulated by US and NATO anti-Communist interests. With the US, UN, and South Korean (ROK) forces pinned against the sea at Pusan, MacArthur orchestrated a daring amphibious assault on Inchon, a port on the western coast of Korea. Having made this landing, MacArthur crushed the North Korean army in a pincer movement and recaptured Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Instead of being satisfied with his rapid reconquest of South Korea, MacArthur crossed the 38TH Parallel and pursued the North Korean army all the way to the northernmost provinces of North Korea. Afraid that the US was interested in taking North Korea as a base for operations against Manchuria, the People's Republic of China secretly sent an army across the Yalu River. This Chinese army attacked the US/UN/ROK forces. Only after the appointment of Lt. General Matthew Ridgway as commander of ground forces did American morale improve and the initiative begin to swing against the Chinese Communists. Although President Truman hoped to end the war quickly and pressed MacArthur to be more tactful, the brilliant strategist went against presidential orders and continued spouting incendiary lines about his hopes to reunify Korea. After gaining the support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Truman relieved MacArthur of command. The move was extremely unpopular in America; MacArthur was perceived as a popular war hero. Only the support of the JCS saved Truman from impeachment after the firing. Ridgway took MacArthur's command and held off the Communists with strong fortifications and entrenchments just north of the 38TH Parallel, sending occasional offensives against the Iron Triangle, the Communists staging area for attacks into South Korea. Peace negotiations dragged on at Kaesong, then moved and continued to drag at Panmunjom through 1951 and 1952. The US tried using strategic bombing to intimidate the Communists into negotiating a peace treaty, but they wouldn't budge, particularly on the issue of POW (Prisoner of War) repatriation. Neither side wanted to appear weak, and so the talks went on, occasionally breaking down for months. Only after Eisenhower, who was a war hero and was unafraid of Republican criticism (since he himself was a Republican), became President, could the US make substantial concessions to the Communists. In 1953 a peace treaty was signed at Panmunjom that ended the Korean War, returning Korea to a divided status essentially the same as before the war. Neither the war nor its outcome did much to lessen the era's Cold War tension. 1 SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Korean War (1950-1953).” SparkNotes LLC. n.d.. http://www.sparknotes.com/history/american/koreanwar/ (accessed February 17, 2011).
Most historians believe that the causes of World War II can be traced to World War I (1914-1918). Americans had fought in that earlier war to "make the world safe for democracy." Those were the words and goals of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. But the peace treaties that ended World War I did not make the world safe for democracy. Instead, they caused bitterness and anger that led to World War II. Germany and its allies had been the losers in World War I. Germany was stripped of one sixth of its territory and forced to pay huge reparations (payments by a defeated country for the destruction it caused in a war). After World War I, Germany suffered from high unemployment and runaway inflation. German money became almost worthless. Many Germans seethed in anger at the peace treaty. A League of Nations was set up after World War I to keep the peace. But the U.S. did not join, and other countries were too busy with their own problems to worry about Germany and other trouble spots. Then, in the early 1930s, the world was hit by an economic depression. Workers lost their jobs, trade fell off, and times were hard. People looked for leaders who could bring about change. ("World War ll : an overview". Teacher Were Teachers Come First.Scholastic Inc.2011-1996. web. 17 February 2011)
The spark that set off WW1 was the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Serbia, Russia, France and Britain were all linked by treaties as were Germany and Austria- Hungary. Woodrow Wilson wanted the U.S. to remain absolute neutrality this was broken when unrestricted submarine warfare threatened U.S. commercial shipping. America was forced into war in April 1917.