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Val123's avatar

Can you explain exactly how the US pulling out of the Vietnam war created a void, or a vacuum that took the country down?

Asked by Val123 (12593 points ) June 27th, 2010

Our neighbors are Laotian. They had a big Laotian bar b que last night and invited us. I don’t know if I had a good time because I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying except, “You eat! You drink! You eat! You drink!” I ate. I drank. I not feel good today!

Seriously tho, they spoke English but not among themselves. I got into a brief conversation with a guy and I asked him what brought him to America. He said, “Well, I came in 1973…” I went “Uh oh…” when he was 12. He said that when the US pulled out of the war (he says, “You know..the Vietnam war?” Yes, I know.) it left a void that just collapsed in on itself. His family escaped and came here.
Can you explain that to me? What happened that would cause people to leave their native home where they’d lived for countless generations?

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39 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

The Government of South Vietnam was corrupt and remote from the Vietnamese people, and was Catholic while the broad population was mostly Buddhist. That government was onlt standing due to the presence of US arms. When we withdrew, it didn’t take long for the Patet Lao in Laos, the Kmerh Rouge in Cambodia, and the Viet Cong in N. Vietnam to assume control.

This made it very dangerous for anyone who had assisted the US/ S. Vietnam side. They were forced into reeducation camps and often killed. In Laos, the Hmong tribesmen who fought on our side were abandoned to the tender mercies of the Patet Lao. The lucks ones escaped, and many have settled in Fresno, CA. They expected a hero’s welcome here in the States, but were just relegated to welfare rolls. It is a very sad story. It is interesting to note that the betrayal of the Hmong came on George Bush the Elder’s watch.

Val123's avatar

So, basically, if you were South Vietnamese you could expect to probably be killed? You and your whole family?

CaptainHarley's avatar

South Vietnam was fully capable of defending itself when the US pulled out. The problem was that South Vietnam was an agglomeration of disparte parts: Chinese, Catholic refugees from the North, Bhuddists from the South and North, Montangyard and Humong tribesmen, etc. There was no sense of nation, no cohesiveness, no unifying committment to democracy. When the US withdrew and the North began a massive ground attack, the Country essentially became an “every man for himself” sort of place. Easy pickings for a North Vietnamese Army united by both a sense of its nationality and by the communist ideology.

Val123's avatar

@CaptainHarley Thank you. Gosh. That must have been horrible for the people.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Indeed. Simply looking at the massive numbers of Vietnamese who fled by boat, braving storms, sharks, pirates, and who knows what all, is enough to convince even the most skeptical.

Val123's avatar

How do you think it would have been different if we were never involved in the war?

CaptainHarley's avatar

I spent almost three years in Southeast Asia, two of them in Vietnam. For a goodly portion of that time, I was involved in what they now term “nationbuilding.” It is my considered opinion that, had we not become involved, the North would have invaded and conqured the South very quickly. There would have been a mass exodus from the South to neighboring countries. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand would now all be client states of China.

Was it worth the expense and the dead and maimed soldiers, not to mention the disruption caused to our own society? I honestly don’t know for sure, but probably not.

dpworkin's avatar

The North and South would have united peacefully under Ho Chi Minh, before all the lives were lost and the whole tragedy commenced, instead of afterward.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Whether or not we became involved, there would have been suffering and dislocation.

Val123's avatar

@dpworkin Why do you say that?

dpworkin's avatar

We know for absolute certain that we created enormous suffering and dislocation. We have no idea what would have happened if we had told the French “sorry”. Ho Chi Minh was trying to be our client after WWII, and he always hated China with a passion, so your propaganda might conceivably be incorrect. @CaptainHarley.

CaptainHarley's avatar

So now it’s “propaganda” just because you don’t agree with it. You’re a real piece of work, dude.

dpworkin's avatar

It’s propaganda because it is one-sided. Instead of personal invective, why not argue the point about Ho’s hatred of China, and his wish to be a client of the USA?

CaptainHarley's avatar

China is a traditional enemy of Vietnam and most Vietnamese have little truck with them. As to Ho Chi Minh’s interest in becoming a client of the US, I seem to remember hearing about that, but it has little or no bearing on the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Where Southeast Asia is concerned, China is the 500 pound gorilla in the room. The departure of the French ( without a corresponding increase in American committment ) would have left a power vacume in the region, a vacume that China would have been almost compelled to fill. That’s why the analysis indicates the inability of Southeast Asian states to stand up to China would have resulted in them becoming client states, whether in name or simply in effect is immaterial.

dpworkin's avatar

This is the so-called domino theory, long the bugaboo of Cold War military planners, which collapsed into obsolescence sometime during your tour of duty. Time to read some new books, instead of just dredging up from your memory what your officers lied about.

CaptainHarley's avatar

So you say. I disagree.

ETpro's avatar

@CaptainHarley I just missed the ramp up of military activity in Vietnam. I got out of the Navy just before we really got deeply involved. So I haven’t been there. But I have studied it in some depth. I believe @dpworkin is right that Ho would have prefered a rapprochement with the US, and that the bloodbath was completely unnecessary. When the US rejected Ho Chi Min’s overtures, he turned to his old nemisis, China because he reasonbed that the Vietnamese people had kicked China out of there back yard time after time over the millennia, and if need be they could do it again.

If the domino theoiry was correct, it is not at all clear why it dod not play out after we pulled out. Thailand certainly didn’t fall to the Chinese.

dpworkin's avatar

@CaptainHarley You disagree that it is a good thing to read and to learn? Sounds about right.

dpworkin's avatar

(But just in case you still have some sliver of curiosity about real history, try reading “Fire in the Lake” by Francis Fitzgerald.)

CaptainHarley's avatar

@ETpro

We could make an excellent case for the reason for Thiland not falling was the time we bought it by intervening in Vietnam.

dpworkin's avatar

Your reasoning on this subject dates from 1968, and hasn’t been taken seriously since 1975.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Like I give a shit? Just because something is ( relatively ) old does not mean it has been invalidated.

dpworkin's avatar

I am sure that you don’t give a shit, which is why you remain stuck in the past, like that bomb-thrower in the other thread. Neither of you want to learn anything new, and for some odd reason you are proud of it. Chacun a son gout.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Yes, I suppose you’re right. I am “stuck in the past.” It’s why I subscribe to and read cover-to-cover Scientific American, Discover, Scientific American Mind, and others. I should be beaten to a pulp and tossed into the Mosh Pit at a heavy metal concert. : )

dpworkin's avatar

No, you should check out Fire in the Lake at your public library, read it with an open mind, and start a new journey of education. Even if you end up disagreeing with it, it is a powerful, fascinating book.

philosopher's avatar

@CaptainHarley
Intelligence is never irrelevant.
I value the information.
I was young and do not remember all the details.
Lurve,Lurve.

CaptainHarley's avatar

The town in which I live is too small to have a public library, but I will buy a copy and read it cover to cover.

philosopher's avatar

@CaptainHarley
You have life experience and intelligence.

dpworkin's avatar

Here it is $0.01, plus $3.99 shipping.

ETpro's avatar

@CaptainHarley I will have to take your word for it that one could make a strong case that our intervention in Vietnam saved Thailand. I submit we could easily have done the same by stationing 20,000 men in Thailand near the border and making it clear it was off limits to communist invasion. But if yuou can make a case for why Vietnam was a great idea, have at it. I will certainly listen.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I cannot make a case for Vientnam being “a great idea.” Like many things, what seemed like a good approach at the time has proven to be problematic in retrospect.

ETpro's avatar

@CaptainHarley How true. I was too politically naive to realize what was up with the Gulf of Tonkin attack. I never dreamed what was really happening till years later. 20/20 hindsight.

Val123's avatar

Vietnam should never, ever have happened. We were so damn paranoid about Communism then, we just lost our minds. It started in 1955, which I believe was during the McCarthy era.

dpworkin's avatar

Don’t forget, when Diem and his brother and wife made peace overtures to the North, Kennedy had the CIA take them out. We insisted on fouling ourselves in that morass, and we insisted on backing the wrong horse.

Val123's avatar

@dpworkin Cite please? I’m not sure what you’re talking about. From the little I scanned, Ho Chi Minh did indeed want the rest of the country to recognize his country as a nation. Roosevelt (?) ignored him. The thing was, he wanted to create a “democratic communist” government. Which I don’t quite understand…..

dpworkin's avatar

He still needed a geopolitical champion after the War to stave off China’s revanchism. Roosevelt ignored him, Truman ignored him, Ike sided with the French, and Kennedy bombed the North with Napalm in 1962 with US pilots flying planes with Vietnamese markings. Of course he wanted Vietnam to be independent – he was a patriot. And, yes, he was also a Communist. So what? What am I supposed to be providing a citation for exactly?

Val123's avatar

The war started in 55. It didn’t start with Kennedy.

The “so what” about communism is you have to remember the USA’s paranoia about anything that remotely smelled like Communism, whether it was right or wrong. The McCarthy era and all.

A cite for “when Diem and his brother and wife made peace overtures to the North, Kennedy had the CIA take them out.” I’m not saying it didn’t happen. I’d like to learn more about it, please.

dpworkin's avatar

It’s a matter of history, it is rather well-known, you can probably learn more about it on Wikipedia.

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