Vietnam War: How did the U.S. get involved?

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The Vietnam War had countries from extreme geographical locations participating in the war. In particular, the France, America, Vietnam, China, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) participated in the war. Moreover, the war was fought in two phases with the first phase beginning in 1945 and ending in 1954. Consequently, the region enjoyed a peaceful but unstable government from 1954 to 1965, but a second phase of the war began in 1965 and ended in 1975. It is notable that historians in America are drawn to debate the war because their country was an active, perhaps the most involved country in the war. Most importantly, historians continue to debate on why America joined the war. In an effort to contribute to the discussion, the upcoming paragraphs examine why America participated in the first phase of the War and concludes that credibility, the Domino theory, and cold war are the main reasons.

The Cold War

             America was pushed into the Vietnam War because of the cold war. The cold war involved the United States of America and USSR, which had nuclear weapons. As a result, the two countries feared a head-on confrontation because such a confrontation could result in huge losses to either side. This fear of a head-on conflict forced America and the Soviet Union into seeking allies across the world with an aim of increasing their influence and power. Vietnam just happened to be one such country because the Soviet Union had already established its presence in Vietnam, which forced America to counter USSR’s presence. As evidenced, Laurie and Vaart (2016) reveal that majority of the people in France and America saw the Indochina as a global Cold War between the Soviet Union and America. In short, America decided to participate in the Vietnam War to reduce the Soviet Union’s Influence on the country.

            Vietnam had been a French colony, but France lost a war with Vietnamese locals, hence their authority in the country. Critical to the discussion is the reality that the Vietnamese, under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, defeated the French military. Most importantly, Ho defeated the French after receiving support from China and the Soviet Union. This is the foundation of why the Cold War between the Soviet Union and America forced the U.S. into the war in Vietnam. Specifically, America viewed the Soviet Union’s support for Ho as a move by the Soviet Union to increase her supremacy in the region. In support of this, Nguyen (2014) argues that reveals that America lived in fear of losing her superpowers to USSR, a fear that spurred the Cold War, which in turn drove America into participating in the Vietnam War. Clearly, the Cold War between America provides a lucid explanation as to why America joined the war.


            Another reason explaining America’s participation in the Vietnam War is credibility. Hunzeker and Lanoszka (2016) reveal that America’s credibility is an important element explaining why America goes to war. Specifically, the authors argue that security guarantees like the bilateral defense treaties allow the country to generate more power by uniting with like-minded countries. Further, their partners have faith in them because the American army is known to win wars. Moreover, Kennedy, an American Congressman during the first Indochina War, argued that China would move to dominate small countries if America is not aggressive in protecting small nations. This implies that American policy-makers believed that their country had a moral responsibility of protecting small nations. In short, America’s credibility to the world might have influenced her decision to join the war under discussion.

            Apparently, America’s credibility and her perceived military superiority are known to influence her decision to join wars. This too was the case for the war in Vietnam.  As evidenced, Laurie and Vaart (2016) argue that the French made it known to Harry S. Truman that they would neither tolerate American policies in Europe nor aid them in dealing with an increasingly combative Soviet Union if Washington did not support French activities in Indochina. As a result, America started funding French activities in Vietnam, but the financing alone did not guarantee victory. This forced America to consider the idea of a military presence in the War. In addition, America was concerned that losing the war in Vietnam would make the country lose her global credibility of being the father to look up to when faced with problems. As a result, the cost of winning the Vietnam War was too attractive for America to resist.

The Domino Theory

            The domino theory is also another reason explaining why America participated in the Vietnam War. According to Leeson and Dean (2009), President Dwight Eisenhower explained the falling domino principle in a 1954 conference. The President described the foundation of the theory as to tackle the first problem with an unusual efficiency and all other similar problems would be easier. Regardless, obstacles should always be expected when dealing with a problem the very first time. This theory contributed to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War because America was hoping to use the domino principle to send a message to both foes and allies. Specifically, America intended to scare small nations from making allies with their enemies and encourage them to be allies to America. Clearly, President Eisenhower’s foreign policy on the subject convinced America into the war in question.

            It is clear that the domino theory contributed to America’s participation in the Vietnam War. However, it is still not clear how the theory is specific to the case of Vietnam. Laurie and Vaart (2016) posit that America joined the War in Vietnam in a bid to curb the spread of communism. Specifically, Ho Chi Minh who won a war against the French was a communist. As a result, America believed that allowing communism to thrive in Vietnam could encourage other countries to embrace communism instead of capitalism. This could have detrimental economic effects to America because America was, and is still a capitalistic nation. On the contrary, America believed that thwarting the spread of communism in Vietnam would discourage the spread of communism and encourage the spread of capitalism.


            In conclusion, it is evident that America was pushed into the Vietnam War because of the domino theory, the cold war, and credibility. For example, America wanted to send a message to the world that she is a credible ally who could solve many problems. This owes to the fact that France counted on America’s support to claim her former colony: Vietnam. Another reason for America’s participation in the war was the domino theory. According to the theory, America could encourage the spread of communism by allowing a communist Vietnam to continue thriving under communism. Ultimately, the cold war between America and the Soviet Union made America’s believe that USSR’s aid to Vietnam was meant to empower the Soviet Union. In short, the domino theory, the cold war, and credibility are the main reasons explaining why America joined the War in Vietnam.


Hunzeker, A. M., and Lanoszka, A. (2016). The Efficacy of Land power and American

Credibility. United States Army's Senior Professional Journal, 45(4), pp. 17-26.

Laurie, D. C., and Vaart, A. (2016). CIA and the Wars in Southeast Asia 1947–75. Journal of the

American Intelligence Professional. Retrieved from

Leeson, T. P., and Dean, M. A. (2009). The Democratic Domino Theory: An Empirical

Investigation. American Journal of Political Science, 53(3), pp. 533–551.

Nguyen, B. V. (2014). The Vietnam War Was the Price too high for The United States of

America? University of Gent. Retrieved from:

November 13, 2023


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