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Ho Chi Minh

Discussion in 'World History' started by YNCS, May 28, 2006.

  1. YNCS

    YNCS Ex-bubblehead

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    I won't go into the background as to why, but in 1954, French Indochina was divided into four countries: Laos, Cambodia, North Vietnam (Democratic Republic of Vietnam or DRV) and South Vietnam (Republic of Vietnam or RVN). Ho Chi Minh and the Communist Party controlled DRV while a group of anti-Communists (many of them originally from what became DRV) ran RVN. There was supposed to be an election about uniting DRV and RVN and selecting the national leadership. Ho Chi Minh, the man who led the fight that forced the French out of Indochina, was most likely to be selected as Head Honcho of unified Vietnam. John Foster Dulles, the American Secretary of State and a strong anti-Communist, got the election put on indefinite hold. When it became obvious that DRV could not get control of a unified Vietnam politically, Uncle Ho and the boys decided to take over RVN militarily.

    Ho was an opportunistic Communist who seized power, created an authoritarian government, plunged Vietnam into a war that wrecked the country and established economic policies that left Vietnam poor and backward. He mandated the invasion of South Vietnam that resulted in the deaths of over a million of its citizens. Many more, as many as two million, fled South Vietnam after the unification of Vietnam. Many criticize the Viet Cong, who were subordinate to him, for terrorism in the South.
     
  2. YNCS

    YNCS Ex-bubblehead

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    Ho Chi Minh was a charismatic nationalist who like many other bright young folks in the first half of the 20th Century, thought Communism was the future. If the scheduled 1956 elections had been held, he most certainly would have been elected President of Vietnam, since he was the most popular man in Vietnam. However, the RVN government refused to hold elections on the grounds that it had not signed the 1954 Geneva Accords.

    Ho had gone out on a limb with his senior comrades to get the Geneva Accords signed. The RVN's refusal to hold elections made Ho's decision to allow the 1954 partition appear mistaken. This gave the Communist hard-liners an opening against him. As a result, Ho adopted a radical option to unite the country quickly and at whatever cost.

    This strategy was working until 1963 when the Communists' success alarmed the U.S. and by 1964 U.S. aircraft were regularly bombing DRV and U.S. troops were entering RVN. By 1965, DRV combat units were being chewed up by American soldiers. The head of the DRV military, Vo Nguyen Giap, recognized that Americans, with their overwhelming firepower, would win in a conventional fight. This meant very few "big battles" with the Americans, but not a complete reversion to guerrilla warfare.

    By 1967 it was obvious to all that the DRV would win if they could keep substantial forces in RVN, but American air and artillery strength was making that increasingly difficult. At that point Ho and his comrades figured it would take five to ten years to get their way. This was too slow for the more radical Communists, who feared a defeat by the Americans. Under considerable political pressure Giap undertook the Tet Offense in early 1968. This massive series of attacks was intended to liberate many towns and parts of cities long enough for the locals to join the Communists in a general uprising. It was felt that the situation was ripe for an "all or nothing" offensive and a call for the people of the South to rise up and throw off their capitalist oppressors.

    Things didn't work out that way. Militarily, Tet was a disaster for the Communists. The people did not rise up, in fact many ferociously fought the VC. The VC were eliminated as a military organization. But at the same time reports of these military defeats were coming in. Ho & Company noted that the American media had declared the Communists the winners. More accurately, the Americans were declared the losers. Why? Because the American leadership had been assuring the American public for the previous year that the Communists in RVN were finished, the end was near, "we see the light at the end of the tunnel." Tet gave the lie to these statements. The American people felt deceived and wanted no more of Vietnam. The DRV took their good fortune and ran with it.
     
  3. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    Good post.
    Some people will always regard Ho Chi Minh as a great hero though, simply because he fought and defeated* the americans.

    *I know that the americans were not defeated militarily, but the Vietnam War was definately a defeat for them.
     
  4. Mr. Dictator

    Mr. Dictator A Chain-Smoking Fox

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    its almost like how people glorify Che Guevara, he had the best intentions but was still a monster

    now Ho Chi Minh became more of a monster though, after all he became a ruthless dictator, something Che didnt do
     
  5. The Yankee

    The Yankee The New Yawker Retired Moderator

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    He would be more of a hero for the fight against French imperialism post-World War II. Though you're right, plenty around the world would hail him as the driving force behind the American retreat.

    Interesting post, YNCS. How do you think the situation would have been if the United States were less involved in Vietnam? I suppose, given your mentioning of the elections or that the American forces were tearing apart the North Vietnamese on the battlefield, any other changes would have meant a sooner (perhaps even 20 years sooner with the election) victory for the Communists.

    Curious though, do you think if the United States remained committed after the Tet Offensive, would there be a victory of the South Vietnamese eventually or would another kind of Tet Offensive sometime later on would only produce the same result, only a few years later?
     
  6. YNCS

    YNCS Ex-bubblehead

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    There is little doubt that without American intervention, the DRV would have won the war much sooner that it did. While the DRV's government was fairly corrupt, the RVN government could reasonably be called a kleptocracy. Much of the foreign aid coming to RVN went straight through to Swiss banks. While many Vietnamese who came to the U.S. in the middle to late 1970s are working at lower level jobs, Nguyen Van Thieu, who was president from 1967 to 1975 had houses in gated communities in England and the U.S.

    After Tet '68 and Khe Sanh, two things had happened. The VC had been rendered ineffective as a fighting force, and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) had determined they couldn't stand up to the Americans and the better ARVN units in big battles. This was because of the overwhelming firepower, both artillery and air support, the Americans and ARVNs could call upon. As a result, from 1968 until the Americans left Vietnam, there were search-and-destroy and other euphemisms for "send a platoon out to wander around the area." Both sides did it, ambushes became common, and the body count kept on mounting.
     
  7. Koelle

    Koelle King of Kings

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    Why on earth would Ho and Che be monsters. Because they fought other monsters?
     
  8. Shaihulud

    Shaihulud Deity

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    Im curious here, what do you think the situation will be in Vietnam, if the Americans had not entered into the Vietnam war? America entered into the conflict with expressed belief that a united Vietnam, under the DRV would be disastrous for the entire South East Asia Region, I have heard some Americans expressing this belief, that they "saved" the region by blunting the DRV forces, despite losing the war. Is this the popular belief in the United States at that time? Or just the opinion of some minorities. Does anyone believe that the relatively beneign rule of the DRV in present Vietnam contradicts the then past American policy in Vietnam or that the Americans influenced the DRV during the War, frightening them into submission.
     
  9. blackheart

    blackheart unenlightened

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    Atrocities and massacres were commited under Ho Chi Minh's reign and nose, so that would probably qualify the monster.
     
  10. El Justo

    El Justo Deity

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    those are some interesting posts you've written YNCS.

    i agree 100% w/ everything.

    i can add a few tid-bits, too:

    Ho met w/ American delegates and asked for Pres. Wilson himself. i can't recall the exact year this occured but it was during one of Wilson's 2 terms. i recall reading that Uncle Ho was a fine admirer of the US Constitution and many of the symbolisms it stands for. in the end, Wilson and the Americans refused to listen or even meet w/ him on the basis of French occupation of Indochina at the time. take into account that Ho Chi Minh was just a very young man at this time.

    while the VC, NVA, PLF et als shunned out-in-the-open conflicts w/ the Americans, they did a good deal of damage the US forces at Ia Drang in 65. iirc, one of the battles resulted in the largest loss of US lives in any single day in the whole war. however, the commie losses were much higher (5 or 6 X iirc).

    the corruption level of the RVN govt and military during the war was of legend. i remember reading about a story or 2 that said that ARVN officers would dramatically pad the role calls of the units for the express purpose of pocketing the salaries of the missing soldiers. it's too bad i can't put my fingers on any stats for the desertion rate of the ARVN. i'd bet the house that it'd be off the charts. also, the combat effectiveness of a good percentage of the ARVN soldiers was far below what MACV had anticipated or hoped for.

    however, i should be fair and note that i've also found instances where ARVN forces were both brave and effective. one branch of the ARVN that comes to mind is some of the Airborne units.

    i have a good friend of mine who served 2 tours there w/ the USMC and he has told me in the past that the South Koreans and ANZAC guys were all business and very effective; although he did note that his unit had an altercation w/ some S Koreans when they failed to yield to the Yanks while on patrol.
     
  11. blackheart

    blackheart unenlightened

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    Ho tried to meet with Woodrow Wilson when the President was in Europe trying to hammer out the peace deal following WWI. Ho, at this time, was already an established member of the communist party. He did admire the US Constitution very much and is reflected in the speech of the declaration if independence he issued.
     
  12. YNCS

    YNCS Ex-bubblehead

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    Harry G. Summers Jr.'s book On Strategy discusses one reason why the U.S. lost the Vietnam War. Summers points out that the North Vietnamese had a clear, specific goal in the war, while the U.S. did not. Summers, who was a colonel in the Four Party Joint Military Commission overseeing the exchange of POWs at the end of the war, had a discussion with an NVA colonel:

    Col. Summers: "You never defeated us on the field of battle."
    Col. Tran: "This is probably true, it is also irrelevant."

    Vietnam was the first war the U.S. lost. Well, that wasn't exactly the case. U.S. forces were not beaten on the battlefield, they were withdrawn. It was actually the first war the U.S. refused to win. The price of victory was considered higher than it was worth.
     
  13. The Yankee

    The Yankee The New Yawker Retired Moderator

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    What's your opinion of Lynden Johnson's role in the war? Was he too much involved and didn't let his generals fight it with the resources given (some half a million or more Americans in theater at its height)?
     
  14. El Justo

    El Justo Deity

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    LBJ was a rotten SOB wrt to the war.

    his micromanagement of the war is weel chronicled (he is known to have stayed up late into the night hoovering over maps and pinpointing actual bombing positions).

    i think that LBJ's most egrigious error was the flow of info that he was receiving from his top generals and staff. westmoreland was feeding him with such BS ("light at the end of the tunnel", "the enemy's will appears broken", etc, etc) that in the end, it cost him his presidency (2nd term that is).

    now, i know it's hard to put all the blame upon LBJ's shoulders. however, his network of information was such a crock (the infamous "creditbility gap") that i think that this was the first major downfall that the US suffered in Vietnam. i wonder what it'd have been like had the info that the WH was getting at the time had been credible. my amateur guess would be that Johnson would've acted differently b/c no US President would willingly put American lives in danger or risk catostrophic public backlash like that.

    i was thinking about this whole scenario last night for a while and recalled a seminar i went to while i was an undergrad. it was titled JFK and the war in Vietnam. the premise of the seminar was a 'what if' JFK hadn't been assasinated. what would his polocies in VN had been like? would he had escalated like LBJ had done? or would he have sought a different solution?

    i was and still am of the mindset that Kennedy would've also escalated. there were others however who felt the opposite in that JFK would've taken a different course than LBJ. my logic on the matter was that JFK admitted that Kruschev was "beating the hell out of" him (JFK's words in America's Longest War: The US and Vietnam, 1950-1975; a great book btw). specifically, JFK was really tested during the missile crisis and the bay of pigs fiascos and that Kruschev really smacked him around (politically speaking of course). Herring noted in America's Longest War that JFK felt he absolutely needed to not back down anymore b/c Kruscheve would think that his Admin was weak and that the Yanks simply wouldn't act should the commies start to make a push for a north-south unification of Vietnam.

    of course, this is all completely speculative (ie whether JFK would've escalated at the same or similar rates). however, it is an interesting debate on an old topic.
     
  15. YNCS

    YNCS Ex-bubblehead

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    If anyone's interested, I can post an explanation as to why the American involvement in the Vietnam War was unsuccessful. However, I warn you that it's long.
     
  16. YNCS

    YNCS Ex-bubblehead

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    A couple of comments about El Justo's comments:

    American troops were not defeated in Vietnam, but the American people refused to pay the price of victory. That's an important distinction. Several presidents got sucked into Vietnam because, first, they didn't want to offend France, and, later, no one wanted to risk appearing reluctant to confront Communist aggression. And make no mistake, the North Vietnamese were the aggressors in the war.

    Once Johnson realized he could not generate enough popular opinion to get the forces he knew he needed to win the war, he simply quit politics and retired. The next president, Nixon, got elected on the promise to "get America out of Vietnam," and he did just that, although it took a long time. This is not without precedence. As early as the War of 1812, the American people showed a marked reluctance to support what it would take to win the war. In 1812, it was the conquest of Canada (or at least some parts of it). In 1952, Eisenhower got elected on the promise of "getting America out of Korea."

    It takes a lot to get Americans into a war big time, always has, and probably always will. As the casualties mount and especially if there is no dramatic progress, public support quickly wanes. In our long wars, such as the Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II, it became very difficult to keep things going on the home front towards the end.

    We still commemorate the harsh Winter of 1777-78, when Washington pulled off a seeming miracle by keeping his army together during that season of discontent. Had Washington not been able to hold things together that winter, the British would have likely won the war the following spring and summer. During the Civil War the number of Union voters eager for a negotiated settlement grew as the 1864 elections approached. Lincoln had to jump through a lot of political hoops to head off the peace movement. Even WW2, seen as "the good war," found the American people quite war weary in 1945. Despite what many feel we should have thought then, the use of nuclear weapons was enthusiastically received by a people quite tired of war and its sacrifices.

    There's little doubt the U.S. could have defeated the Vietnamese Communists, but it would have meant a risk of war with China and/or the USSR and the application of much more airpower and infantry. There might have been twice as many American dead and many more Vietnamese dead. Still, it was certainly possible. But too many of the people were not behind the war. That's how a democracy works. Sometimes you can't win, or don't want to win. That doesn't mean you're necessarily defeated, but you have to change your goals. This was successfully done in Korea, where the goals were changed from utter defeat of the North Koreans to resumption of the status quo ante. In 1964, America wanted to keep the Communists out of South Vietnam. By 1968, most Americans just wanted to keep Americans out of South Vietnam. The American people got what they wanted.
     
  17. Cheezy the Wiz

    Cheezy the Wiz Socialist In A Hurry

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    thank you YNCS for putting in to words what ive been trying to say for years. Its like i understood it, but didnt really understand it
     
  18. Sahkuhnder

    Sahkuhnder Delusions of grandeur

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    History is written by the victors, who always glorify their leaders.

    How many of the leaders in civ were in actual fact monsters and mass-murderers?

    YNCS nice work. :thumbsup:
     
  19. GarretSidzaka

    GarretSidzaka Deity

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    @YNCS

    read your history a little more and you'd find that Ho Chi Minh was actually a Nationalist first. He applied for help from France before turning to the chinese communists. The french turned him down, the the communists saw him as a golden oportunity to conquer the whole region.

    Why do i know this? my fiance just finished "Vietnam war history class" at ASU. this is a forth year class i might add.
     
  20. YNCS

    YNCS Ex-bubblehead

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    I agree that Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist. However, he was also a Communist in a place with a strong anti-Communist tradition. In China the Communists and Kuomintang fought a civil war lasting from 1927 to 1948. This ended with Mao Zedong becoming the authoritarian, totalitarian leader of China. The Vietnamese just had to look next door to see what Communism was like. Many of them were not impressed.
     

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