USA + Containment
What was Containment?
Containment was the dominant US Foreign Policy of the post 2WW world. It's focus was on containing the spread of Communism which it saw as directly opposed to 'American values' of individualism and capitalism. It was brought into life in 1950 with two important documents from the National Security Council of the US Govt (NSC-64 and NSC-68). These documents were both produced in 1950 as tensions between the two superpowers of the world dramatically increased for a number of reasons:
- 1948-9 Berlin Blockade and Airlift
- 1949 USSR acquire the nuclear bomb
- 1949 Mao-Tse Tung's Communists win the 2nd Chinese Civil war
- 1946-54 First Indochinese War between Communist Vietnamese and French army
President Truman established the message of both NSC documents at the centre of his foreign policy. These documents stated the view that the USSR was determined to destroy American values and influence. They warned about the dangers of countries turning Communist and then helping turn their neighbours Communist. This theory was called the 'domino theory' and led to US involvement in both East and South-East Asia on an unprecedented scale, and the ultimate game of high stakes poker in the Cuban Missile Crisis
The Korean War 1950-53
Click on the cartoon above to access the class googledoc on whether the Korean War was successful as an act of containment........
Click on the document above to access the original text of NSC-68 which outlines the US policy of containmnent and why it was seen to be necessary....
On June 25, 1950, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) launched a surprise attack on South Korea. People in South Korea were unaware of the upcoming attack on that morning, which started a war that would kill more than 3,000,000 lives. Seoul, the capital of South Korea was quick to be captured by the North Korean troops, due to the fact that the attack had been unaccounted for.
The war had begun with North Korean leader Kim Il Song's desire to unify the peninsula under Communist rule. Before WWII, the peninsula had been one country. The UN decided to draw a line between the 38th parallel to avoid a conflict between the US and the Soviet.
However, with the Soviets occupying the northern side and the US troops occupying the southern side, the two sides became increasingly different in their giverning systems.
South Korea was aided by the UN troops and the US troops, led under McArthur. North Korea held out for as long as they could, then turned to the People's Republic of China for aid.
When the UN and US troops had managed to push the DPRK troops up to the border between Manchuria and North Korea, a desperate Kim Il Song turned to the Chinese. With the use of thousands of foot soldiers, the Chinese were able to push the UN and US troops back to the 38th parallel.
The result was a three-year war in the peninsula, the war ending in 1953 with an armistice. However some 65 years later, the two sides still remain on a war footing with no formal peace talks in sight....
Cuban Missile Crisis 1962
By the 1960s, containment was still the cornerstone, or most important part, of US foreign policy. It had developed since the Korean War in a number of ways, mostly because of developing technology. Nuclear weapons had become easier to make, bigger, much more powerful - and both sides were using this new technology to make themselves stronger.....
Click on the cartoon on the left and access a Word document that will allow you to research how containment had evolved.
October 1962 - an American U-2 spy plane secretly photographed nuclear missile sites being built by the Soviet Union on the island of Cuba. President Kennedy did not want the Soviet Union and Cuba to know that he had discovered the missiles. He met in secret with his advisors for several days to discuss the problem.
After many long and difficult meetings, Kennedy decided to place a naval blockade, or a ring of ships, around Cuba. The aim of this "quarantine," as he called it, was to prevent the Soviets from bringing in more military supplies. He demanded the removal of the missiles already there and the destruction of the sites. On October 22, President Kennedy spoke to the nation about the crisis in a televised address.
No one was sure how Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev would respond to the naval blockade and US demands. But the leaders of both superpowers recognized the devastating possibility of a nuclear war and publicly agreed to a deal in which the Soviets would dismantle the weapon sites in exchange for a pledge from the United States not to invade Cuba.
In a separate deal, which remained secret for more than twenty-five years, the United States also agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey. Although the Soviets removed their missiles from Cuba, they escalated the building of their military arsenal; the missile crisis was over, the arms race was not.
BBC 'Cold War' - episode 10 - Cuba
Watch the documentary above and use the document in the image below to note down the important dates and events during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962
How should JFK deal with the Cuban Crisis?
Click on the box below to access the googledoc shared activity where you accept or reject the options available to the President......
These two powerpoints on the left and right are the exercises used in class to explore the causes of the CMC; and then the decisions made
JFK Presidential Museum
13 Days interactive exhibit
Vietnam - First Indochinese War 1946-54
Maps illustrating the 1st + 2nd Indochinese wars 1946-75
France began its conquest of Indochina in 1859, and by 1885, controlled most of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Vietnamese resistance to French rule continued on and off in the decades between the French conquest and the start of World War Two. In 1940, Japan invaded Indochina and defeated the French. A Vietnamese resistance movement fought the Japanese occupation, and after Japan's defeat in 1945, the Vietnamese resisitance hoped to gain independence from the returning French.
The First Indochina War (December 19, 1946 - August 1, 1954) was a major conflict in the Asian region known as Indochina, which is made up of the modern nations of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The war was fought by France, the long-time colonial ruler in the Indochina, and Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian Communist rebel forces. The United States and Great Britain supporting the French side, while the Soviet Union and China supported the rebels with equipment and training. After the Communist victory in China in 1949, the Vietnamese rebels were allowed the use of southern China as a staging point for attacks into northern Vietnam. The First Indochina War ended in French defeat following the surrender of a French army to the Viet Minh rebels in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
The First Indochina War resulted in a Vietnamese Communist victory, the division of Vietnam into the Communist North and non-Communist South, and the independence of Laos and Cambodia.
Within three years the Second Indochina War would begin.......
Map of French Indochina 1951
- click this map to watch a short video on how the the French lost at Dien Bien Phu
But why? Read the NSC-64 document below and think about why the USA would involve itself in Indochina more and more from 1950 onwards......
Report to the National Security Council by the Department of State
Top Secret - NSC 64
Washington, February 27, 1950.
Executive Secretary to the National Security Council on” the Position of the United States With Respect to Indochina
10. It is important to United States security interests that all practicable measures be taken to prevent further communist expansion in Southeast Asia. Indochina is a key area of Southeast Asia and is under immediate threat.
11. The neighboring countries of Thailand and Burma could be expected to fall under Communist domination if Indochina were controlled by a Communist-dominated government. The balance of Southeast Asia would then be in grave hazard.
12. Accordingly, the Departments of State and Defense should prepare as a matter of priority a program of all practicable measures designed to protect United States security interests in Indochina.
Vietnam - Second Indochinese War 1957-75
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.
JFK AND 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 in South Vietnam, which became more commonly known as the Viet Cong, whose opposition to Diem by 1957 saw the country plunge into another war. 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 AMERICANISATION - see video below
Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, pledged to honor Kennedy’s commitments. 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.
A WAR OF ATTRITION - see video below
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 - see video clip below
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.
MY LAI MASSACRE - see video clip below
The My Lai massacre was one of the most horrific incidents of violence committed against unarmed civilians during the Vietnam War. A company of American soldiers brutally killed most of the people—women, children and old men—in the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968. More than 500 people were slaughtered in the My Lai massacre, including young girls and women who were raped and mutilated before being killed. U.S. Army officers covered up the carnage for a year before it was reported in the American press, sparking a firestorm of international outrage. The brutality of the My Lai killings and the official cover-up fueled anti-war sentiment and further divided the United States over the Vietnam War.
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.
googledoc shared document
- Vietnam + containment...