Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Vietnam and the Chinese, French and the US: a history of rule by outsiders
With a population of over 86 million, Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world.
The people of Vietnam regained independence and broke away from China in AD 938.
It was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century.
Efforts to resist the French eventually led to their expulsion from the country in the mid-20th century, leaving a nation divided politically into two countries. Fighting between the two sides continued during the Vietnam War, ending with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.
French Indochina: the French administration imposed significant political and cultural changes on Vietnamese society. A Western-style system of modern education was developed, and Christianity was propagated widely in Vietnamese society.
Developing a plantation economy to promote the exports of tobacco, indigo, tea and coffee, the French largely ignored increasing calls for self-government and civil rights.
In 1941, the Viet Minh — a communist and nationalist liberation movement — emerged under Ho Chi Minh, to seek independence for Vietnam from France as well as to oppose the Japanese occupation.
To support South Vietnam's struggle against the communist insurgency, the United States began increasing its contribution of military advisers.
US forces became embroiled in ground combat operations in 1965 and at their peak they numbered more than 500,000.
Communist forces attacked most major targets in South Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive, and although their campaign failed militarily, it shocked the American establishment, and caused them to think that the communists could not be defeated.
Communist forces supplying the Vietcong carried supplies along the Ho Chi Minh trail, which passed through Laos and Cambodia. US president Richard Nixon authorized Operation Menu, a SAC bombing campaign in Laos and Cambodia, which he kept secret from the US Congress.
Its own casualties mounting, and facing opposition to the war at home and condemnation abroad, the U.S. began withdrawing from ground combat roles according to the Nixon Doctrine; the process was subsequently called Vietnamization.