Politics in the 1960’s

Vietnam War

Though it is mostly referred to by Americans and other Westerners as the Vietnam War, this particular conflict is known by many names. The war which took place from 1961 – 1975 is known to the Vietnamese as the “America war” to distinguish it from other confrontations with adversaries in the twentieth century (Lawrence 1).

Some scholars and individuals striving for greater detachment also refer to the conflict as the “Second Indochina War” with a view to indicating that the fighting engulfed not just Vietnam but also included Laos and Cambodia (Lawrence 1).

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The Vietnamese communists labeled it the “War of Liberation” or the “Anti-US War of National Salvation”. Regardless of the name used in referring to the war it is clear that it was a major event in the history of both countries involved.

Though the War has been written about by a large number of authors, the majority of those who have documented the event did so from an American perspective (Lawrence 1). This is mainly due to the fact that the Americans have by far allowed greater access to researchers perusing the once secret documentation about the event.

However, in recent years following the collapse of the Soviet Union between1980 – 1990 and the opening of Vietnam to the outside world in the same period it is possible to understand the motives of both countries (Lawrence 2). This is because prior to this period the records and documents maintained by the communist nations were inaccessible due to the nature of these governments. The end of the Cold War seriously altered the situation by decreasing the level and degree of sensitivity in many regions around the world.

This war has been the subject of numerous debates and the end of the Cold War signified an opportunity to attempt to unearth the issues that led to the conflict between these nations. Some have argued that the war can be attributed to a series of events that occurred in the 1940’s (Lawrence 7).

The Vietnamese people have had a long history of being under the rule of powerful outsiders. They were ruled by the Chinese as early as 111 B.C. and during the period borrowed heavily from Chinese culture (Lawrence 8). The region was also a point visited by European Missionaries in the period of around 1700 leading to the conversion of almost 7% of the population to Catholicism. This was followed by French occupation in the 18th century.

According to Jennings the role of America in World War II is what led t its involvement in Vietnam (5). This is because following French occupation, the region was occupied by the Japanese. Due to this in 1945 a number of American paratroopers landed in the country to free a number of Prisoners of War (Jennings 5). After attempts to get American help in fighting the French failed the Vietnamese eventually managed to beat the French in 1954. Soon after this defeat the communist North began to attack the Southern Part of Vietnam.

These attacks led to the formation of an alliance between the United States and the Southern part of the country led by President Diem (Jennings 21). By 1964, there were over 20,000 US troops within the country whose aim was to train and support the Southern Vietnamese army. Unfortunately, the Northern Vietnamese would respond to the bombing raids by attacking an American Base and killing eight US soldiers (Jennings 25).

This attack to the US base saw the US president order another more serious strike on the armies from the North. This air strike would be followed by another order that saw American Marine troops brought into the country (Levy 26). The marines were the first official troops sent to Vietnam and they were warmly welcomed to the country. Soon after the Marine arrivals some terrorist attempted to bomb the US embassy in Vietnam. This led to further aggression and saw the US army begin its quest to bring the rebels to book (Levy 26).

Bay of Pigs Invasion

This term is mostly used to bring to light the actions of an American backed group of Cuban Exiles. These exiles believed they were going to overthrow the leftist Cuban leader, Fidel Castro (iMinds 1). Cubans refer to the war as the Battle of Grion and it took place along one of the beaches in the Bay of Pigs area. This attempted invasion was a major flashpoint in the Cold War era and saw the world pushed to the brink of a nuclear war.

Cuba gained independence from Spain in the year 1898. In the decades the followed this, many American businesses were opened in Cuba and soon Americans were in control of industries and landholdings (iMinds 1). Due to this position some of the early presidents such as Batista were close allies of the US. This was the situation until Fidel Castro led a failed coup attempt to oust Batista. After this failure, Castro was imprisoned and exiled (iMinds 1).

Unfortunately, once Castro came into power he nationalized industry without the exception of American industries. This led both the US President (Eisenhower) and the CIA to the conclusion that Castro had brought the significant threat of socialism right to their doorstep. Following this conclusion, in 1960 the CIA began to establish a secret task force aimed at over throwing Castro (iMinds 1).

At the same time the US elections were round the corner and it became more of a priority to delay the Cuban strike at least shortly. At this time Castro had managed to get wind of the planned invasion of Cuba through intelligence that came from Cubans in America (iMinds 1).

Castro took advantage of the time due to delays to strengthen an army. Owing to increased military pressure, Castro accepted a proposal that saw the Soviet Union install a nuclear base in Cuba. This action led to one of the greatest crisis in history known as the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 (iMinds 3).

Construction of the Berlin Wall

Following the end of the World War, when Germany surrendered on 7th May 1945, the process that saw the post war division of Europe was already well underway. Both the US and Soviet Union had been unable to come up with a suitable solution for Europe (Best 242).

In the months that followed, Germany, the old enemy was divided into two parts namely, East and West. The period around the 60’s saw an increase in activity in both Communist and Capitalist countries. And the establishment of a wall played the role of a curtain that separated the communist East from the Capitalist West.

It is reported that in the 50’s the Soviet-American relationship began to sour once more. In Europe the main area of focus was in Berlin where Britain, France and America retained control over the Western part of the city (Best 240). In 1958 the Russian President Khrushchev ordered the Western troops to leave Berlin or risk evacuation by the German Democratic Republic. This because after World War II Germany was divided into sectors that were controlled by either Western allies or the Soviet Union.

President Khrushchev’s goal in this matter was to bring an end to the brain drain that was taking place due to the migration of young East Germans to the West. In addition to that he also argued that such an action would cause a rift between the US and West Germans relationship (Best 240). As a result of pressure from the Soviet Union the then German president ordered the construction of a wall separating the two regions.

Before the construction of the wall began, a blockade was established and had proven to be very effective at controlling migration. However, the first blockade had still failed in providing maximum protection and as such Khrushchev ordered that greater security had to be implemented (Rottman and Taylor 29).

Following this pressure in the early morning of August 13th 1961, West Berlin was awoken to the sound of trucks, and large construction machines. In addition to the machinery there was a heavy military presence that had surrounded the city.

The troops were unaware of what their orders were until all were in position. It turned out to be an East German operation that had enlisted the services of many nationals including girls youth organizations to provide food to the troops (Rottman and Taylor 29).

Though much of the border had already been sealed prior to the construction of the wall, the construction covered a long stretch that lay between two popular crossing points. Before the wall was erected there had been 81 official crossing points and the walls construction left only about 13 crossing points (Rottman and Taylor 30).

In addition to eliminating the possibility of people moving between the countries it became evident that the East German government had every intention to exert pressure on its citizens. This was evident in the manner that soldiers handled reporters who attempted to cover the story (Rottman and Taylor 30).

As time went on several people would join on opposite sides of the wall and begin chanting anti government sentiments. The West Berliners were under orders to maintain a distance of at least 100m from the line. The youth from West Berlin would throw stones at the soldiers and there was a lot of fighting between the parties (Rottman and Taylor 32).

Once the wall was erected there were various measures of military buildup, economic integration and political co operation were established on both sides. This action was the first of a series that would see the rest of Europe divided into two opposing blocs for the next 45 years (Best 242).

This saw the emergence of many crises all around the world such as the Cuban Missile crisis, conflict in Congo and the Vietnam War. However, due to this position the US and Soviet Union had to maintain a constant level of alertness to avert any potential attacks.

Works Cited

Best, Anthony. International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond. Oxon: Routledge, 2004. Print.

iMinds. Bay of Pigs: Crime, War & Conflict. USA: iMinds Pty Ltd, 2009. Print

Jennings, Phillip. The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War. Washington: Regnery Publishing Inc., 2010. Print.

Lawrence, Mark Atwood. The Vietnam War: A Concise International History. Oxford: Oxford University Press Inc., 2008. Print.

Levy, Debbie. The Vietnam War: Chronicle of American Wars. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company. 2004. Print.

Rottman, Roger L., and Chris Taylor. The Berlin Wall and The Intra German Border 1961-89. New York: Osprey Publishing, 2008. Print.