It is July 1965, and President Lyndon B. Johnson has made the decision to send troops into Vietnam. U.S. strategy in Vietnam demands a necessary escalation of force. American policy, stemming from Cold War doctrine, and events in Vietnam since at least 1954 have gone unchecked for too long.

Yet, U.S. policy is destined to buckle under a misaligned political elite and an angry and disenfranchised public.

In the present, we often reflect on the Vietnam War, through a lens that reveals the entire war. Armed with a point of view that leans on the fall of Saigon and the South Vietnamese government to the Việt Cộng – National Liberation Front (NLF) forces. We frequently look back and Monday morning quarterback how the United States was unable to prevent the collapse of South Vietnam and easily identify the key turning points in the conflict. Comfortably, we sit removed from the uninformed, yet critical decision points, and blind curves to reflect on the impact a decade of war had on American society.

Regardless, the U.S. at first forceful and then misguided, attempted to maintain its commitment to South Vietnam, even after the war became a stalemate, and many top officials concluded that it could not be won with reasonable costs.

We Started with a Commitment

Initial support for President Johnson in his decision to send military ground troops to aid South Vietnam was not popular but it was accepted. America had adopted a strong stance against Communism and understood the need to respect and support President Johnson’s decision. Not doing so was counterintuitive to the America desire for the free progression of a democratic world.

America learned many valuable lessons from World War Two – primarily that delay is not a sound strategy when dealing with a determined aggressor. For Vietnam, it was seen as a very naive and foolish strategy to ignore Communist aggression in Vietnam. America was not going to simply stand by and hope that the situation would happen to sort itself out. The Cold War policy of containment demanded that we step up and backup stated America policy, to support freedom and democracy across the globe.

Yet, support was not total, and many argued that countering aggression with aggression is futile. Albeit, by not countering Communist action in Southeast Asia, and Vietnam specifically, America ran the risk of not responding to a wider pattern of political, social, and economic aggression from both the Soviet Union as well as the Republic of China. In contrast, had America adopted a non-aggressive stance against Hitler, we would have watched as the whole of Europe and Africa was swallowed by the socialist engine of fascist Germany. To think that Hitler and the Axis Powers would have been content to stop with Europe and Africa is both foolish and misguided. By taking action when America did; American planning idealized to fight one battle, in an effort to prevent future conflicts on a wider scale.

The plan for Vietnam was whimsical, in that America was offering support to South Vietnam, and in-so-much as an effort and sign of good faith for all American allies in Asia and NATO -stopping a possible Communist juggernaut from expanding. Albeit, the nature of the conflict in Vietnam appeared so simplistic and straight forward from American shores, but it was not so simply put in practice on the ground in Vietnam.