In it’s intervention in South East Asia in the years 1950 to 1964, the USA was more concerned to defend it’s economic than its ideological interest. How far do you agree?
this is my answer to the question...
During the years 1950-64, there were 4 presidents. These included Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. This therefore shows that 4 different presidents may have 4 different views. This in turn means that during these years there may have been change in decision such as one president may have been concerned with ideological interest, while the other may be involved in the economic aspect. With this in mind, I disagree with the statement that USA intervened due to economic interest than its ideological interest. Throughout this essay I will show why I disagree with it.
Firstly, during 1950 Truman was in power as president of USA. It can be argued that due to him, USA got involved in Asia. Perhaps Truman’s main argument for getting involved would be due to ideological reasons since it was between capitalism and communism (containing communism). The fall of China led him to move in believing that if he didn’t stop North Korea from invading South Korea, then the whole country would become a communist regime, therefore rather than unify the country together, which both leaders Syngman Rhee and Kim II Sung wanted, it had to be kept separate (although there were other reasons for interfering such as domestic issues with McCarthy’s witch hunt and pressure from the republican). Also to show that it was more to do with ideological interest, I can further argue that Truman believed, although no real evidence, that Stalin was behind all this, that he wanted to expand his empire. Therefore, even though Truman main reason of interfering is due to the fall of China into communist hands, it shows that it was due to ideological interest, he wanted to bring in democracy and capitalism and stop communism.
However, it can be argued that it wasn’t Truman didn’t physically enter the war, rather he wanted to send supplies to South Korea which eventually lead to troops and it can also be argued that the UN got involved first which again eventually led USA to get involved. Also since Truman did get USA involved in the Korean War, it meant great supply of money was needed to provide military aid towards the war. This money could either be taken from the public in America through raising taxes or from the Congress. This reason why it can be argued that the war was more concerned with economic interest is because the Korean War was the perfect tool to justify the use of NSC-68 policy, which allowed increasing the defence budget for the war and not being in the risk of losing popularity, therefore making the country economically stronger as well militarily. Also if the whole of Korea was in the hands of communism, then they would lose another trading partner therefore economically bad for them.
From my view, Truman entered South East Asia due to ideological interest rubbed off from the Cold War happening at the time. Due to the rivalry between communism and capitalism conflict occurred and if it started in Asia, then it needed to be controlled before it had an effect on USA as a whole.
After Truman lost the elections, Eisenhower took over (Republican) in 1952. During his time, he ended the war on 27th July 1953 signing an armistice with North Korea and China for a ceasefire. Therefore my second argument to prove why it was more to do with ideological interest is because Eisenhower wanted to contain communism as well. Even though he made peace with Korea and China, another problem occurred when the French were defeated by the VC at Dien Bien Phu. Eisenhower provided economic aid but no military combat troops. After the defeat of French and Indochina, the Geneva agreement was reached granting independence of Vietnam but yet split into 2 as Korea was. Again this was supposed to be temporarily, however the US wanted it to be permanent. Eisenhower saw this agreement as further backing up communism, therefore failure of the policy of containment. With this, it can be argued again that the intervention in South East Asia was due to ideological reasons since Eisenhower wasn’t getting involved due to economic reasons, if he was then he wouldn’t be supplying large amount of economic aid to South Vietnam, instead he was more concerned with the spread of communism. It can also be claimed that the Geneva Agreement just slowed the process of the Vietnam War occurring, therefore rather than getting out of Asia, it meant they had to stay longer.
Kennedy was elected president after Eisenhower. He just further carried on with what Eisenhower left off. From Kennedy’s view, US intervened in Asia due to ideological reasons. If he wasn’t worried about communism spreading, then there would be no reason to interfere into Asia let alone in Vietnam. Rather than supplying the South Vietnam with a great deal of economic aid, he did carry out a similar method as Eisenhower, he did not fully USA to anything more than an advisory role. He did however send in troops (avoided sending in ground troops) such as the ‘Green Berets’ to train the South Vietnamese to train its army in guerrilla warfare. Although the sending advisors weren’t as efficient as thought, it shows that it wasn’t mainly to do with economic reasons. He was more concerned with ideological interest, just wanted to contain communism before it caused more problems, he gave a speech in Jan 1961 warning the communist: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure that survival and success of liberty”. This clearly shows my point that ideology was more involved them economic reasons.
So far I have demonstrated that these presidents were more concerned with ideology, replace communism with capitalism, rather than getting involved in South East Asia for economic reasons. However the next president that I will be considering is L B Johnson.
After the assassination of J F Kennedy, L B Johnson took over as president. Although he carried on with the war over the period of time mentioned on the statement, even with the year, he was able to carry out many actions. I will argue that he got involved in the war due to economic interest. This is because as president he wanted to control domestic issues naming the project ‘The Great Society’, yet this would be impossible without money. Now he was in a situation in how to raise the money, this could either be by increasing taxes or going to war. Therefore it resulted for him to go to war intervening into South East Asia and also he didn’t have much choice but to intervene since if he did then he would have to put his idea of the great society aside “If we get involved in that bitch of a war my Great Society will be dead” and if he didn’t then there would be a conservative up rise which would result in his Great Society not going ahead. The reason why it brought economic success was due to military Keynsianism. This benefited Japan greatly as well as USA; the government spends money on making military equipment. Another reason why Johnson was more concerned with the economic measures was because they were doing great with trading with Japan. But Japan was considered vulnerable, that communist could easily take over therefore affecting the trade, which in turn would affect US economy. This shows that ideology wasn’t on his mind; it was more to do with the economy.
To conclude, the evidence above clearly back up my view; that I disagree with the statement and that it is not correct to say that USA intervened in South East Asia for economic interest. The evidence provided that during the years 1950-64, 4 presidents were in power and as I stated that they would therefore have different ideas, and the essay shows that the first 3, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy went into Asia for ideological reasons. They wanted to contain communism before it went too far while Johnson intervened, even though he didn’t have much choice, due to economic reasons. However, I can conclude that the statement was incorrect, because even though by the end of 1964 economic interest moved in, throughout 1950-64, everything was mainly focused on ideological reasons. This is because if communism wasn’t contained, then it would certainly affect the economy as well as USA as a great power nation since once a country falls down into communist hands, they won’t be able to trade therefore economic problems. This shows that it all starts off from ideological interest and that was the reason why USA intervened in South East Asia.