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Commitment Trap Essay

1067 words - 5 pages

With regards to Vietnam under Kennedy's presidency, there are many arguments both for and against the idea of commitment trap, Kennedy certainly escalated military involvement in Vietnam but did he have a choice? Or had his predecessors committed him in Vietnam long before he came into the Whitehouse? There is no doubt that Johnson was the one who fully placed ground troops in Vietnam in '65 and created his legacy of 'Johnson's war', but did any of the previous presidents give him any other option except to stay? Also, was there any evidence of any moments when they could've pulled out? The commitment trap theory is widely acknowledged, with regards to Vietnam, by historians as it explains ...view middle of the document...

These situations, unfortunately, have a way of snowballing.' This quotation suggests that Kennedy was committed because of Truman and his determination to prevent the spread of Communism, however, it also suggests that they will not be 'completely committed' until 'direct intervention', which would suggest all following Presidents had a chance to pull out, and Johnson, who intervened directly, was the president who crossed the point of no return.

However, it could be argued that Truman's policy was only used to help the French and that it was indeed Eisenhower's administration, rejecting the Geneva Accords, that switched this aid to France into an experiment of nation-building in what became South Vietnam, that constituted the greatest turning point in US involvement in Vietnam. Historian, David Anderson, implies that 'the Eisenhower administration trapped itself and it's successors into a commitment to the survival of its own counterfeit creation'. This suggests that by Eisenhower creating the state of South Vietnam, in an alleged attempt to expand the American Colony, he actually trapped America in Vietnam until it was over. The words 'counterfeit creation' encourages the idea that America should not have even gotten involved in Vietnam full stop, implying that equipping the French Colonialists was wrong because it encouraged a step by step manoeuvre into and around Vietnam. In Kennedy's inauguration he blamed Eisenhower for continuing involvement in America, which would imply that Kennedy was against the idea of American involvement at the start of his presidency, the fact that he decided to stay situated in Vietnam implies he was committed due to his predecessor's choices.

Another factor that would imply that Eisenhower was the president who committed America in Vietnam would be that his Secretary Of State, John Dulles, set up SEATO, the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation. The SEATO signatories agreed to help South Vietnam, which would suggest by the overall setting up of an organisation, that is inevitably for the aiding of South-Eastern countries, that Kennedy was trapped in Vietnam. Kennedy, who was already seen as too young and naive to be a leader of one of the most powerful countries of the...

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