AP World History
March 22, 2013
The War in Vietnam
The war in Vietnam is represented very differently among sources, and extreme differences can be seen in the points of view of Chris Harman (“A People’s History of the World”) and of Jerry Bentley and Herbert Ziegler (“Traditions and Encounters”). In particular, they disagree on the issues of American involvement in the Vietnam War and on the most important events that occurred.
Harman and Bentley-Ziegler have opposing opinions when it comes to their summaries [details] of the Vietnam War. Harman’s perspective details cruelties done by the Americans to the Vietnamese, and he starts out his summary with details that lead up to America’s overconfidence in the war. “‘We have 30 Vietnams’, Robert Kennedy told a journalist. On the face of it he had reason to be confident,” (Harman 571). The United States had always succeeded in war thus far, with guerilla movements being defeated in Latin America and any reoccurrence of the Cuban Revolution being shut down. In the mid-1960s, the CIA pushed generals to destroy the most powerful Communist Party in the Third World in the Congo. America, as Harman describes, was seemingly invincible, until its involvement in the Vietnam War.
In the 1950s, France had already been at war which divided Vietnam into the North and South. France was backed by the U.S. who funded a majority of the war effort and helped take over South Vietnam. But according to Harman, “The US was trapped in a war of attrition from which there was no easy way out,” (Harman 572). He sees the Vietnam War on the whole as not only a waste of time, men, and resources for the Americans, but also a cause of “huge fissures …in US society” (Harman 572).
In contrast, Bentley and Ziegler view the topic from a much more broad-based point of view. They do not point out America’s earlier winnings, but rather focus on events occurring inside Vietnam at the time and the United States’ as well as other countries’...