Did Vietnam halt the spread of Communism?

More than just a possibility. Our record there was shameful, but then, what’s new?

You’re also right that it spread “communism” by making Soviet intervention attractive in a number of places. Our problem with Vietnam was that it was a popular socialist nationalist govt … a very bad example to developing countries looking to shake off colonialism and also a bad example to the American electorate. In spite of Roosevelt’s pledge to Ho of post war self-determination, we militarily and politically supported the continuation of French colonialism as a good antidote for nationalism.

When the French finally proved not up to the task in spite of our deep involvement, we took it over ourselves. We denied them nationwide free elections promised in the Geneva Convention Agreements which we refused to sign and in 1956, set up our own little Diem. The story goes on from there. See this http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/vietnam/timeline.htm"]Vietnam timeline
from 1945 on.

Eisenhower was the first to speak of the consequences of “falling dominoes.” Losing an Asian countries or a few to communism would mean:

That didn’t happen.

I can tell you it is generally accepted by the Thais that the Vietnam War saved them from communism. After Vietnam fell, then Cambodia and Laos, the Thais were getting more than a little nervous, especially considering the inroads made in northeastern Thailand by the local Communist Party. Even into the 1980s, there were parts of the Northeast the government dared not go, because they were communist strongholds. I can remember this.

(Ho Chi Minh stayed in the Northeast from mid-1928 to late 1929. The house he lived in has been designated a historic site, and there are fully grown trees he planted himself. Geographically, much of northeastern Thailand is actually closer to Hanoi than to Bangkok.)

Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos all fell after the US pulled out, but Thais credit the US with keeping the tide at bay long enough to improve much of the infrastructure of the Northeast – building roads and hospitals, introducing electricity – and maybe take some of the attraction away from the communists. This has always been the poorest part of Thailand.

The Thais really do credit the US with this, although these days it tends to be the older geenration. Younger folks may not be quite so aware of it anymore. But it helps explain why Thailand has always been such a pro-American place. They liked Bush just fine.

I have never been to Thailand and I know that the flesh industry is a major human rights topic and there’s a lot of poverty, but from what I’ve read it seems that it is to some of the other Southeast Asian nations something like the U.S. is to Mexico and central/South America and the Carribean- a much richer and more stable country that people flock to legally and illegally to escape the hellholes they live in. Is this the case?

In Vietnam: The Necessary War (which is well worth reading for many different reasons) Michael Lind argues it was a war worth fighting even if it could not be won and even if the South Vietnamese regime was not worth fighting for – because of the global implications. It was but one theater in the Cold War. In the '60s and '70s, the Western and Communist blocs were fighting for the allegiance of the non-aligned Third World countries; that was essentially a political battle, a battle of perceptions. It was far from clear, at the time, which side represented The Future. If the Communist side appeared stronger at a crucial moment, that might lead to a “bandwagon effect” which would swing more and more countries around to their side, success feeding on success. The Vietnam War was necessary simply to shore up American/Western credibility, to make clear we would not give up easily. You might disagree that that was strictly necessary, you might even disagree that the Cold War as a whole was worth fighting or worth winning, but it is at any rate a very well-reasoned thesis and not to be rejected out of hand.

Few countries grow organically from a pre-industrial revolution state to the market economy without first washing socialism/communism through the system. It seems as necessary to the process as oligarhy is the proto-capitalism stage of economic development.

All those countries in SE Asia were already communist - including Vietnam. Proping up one artificial, discredited regime after coup after coup merely legitimised what the US did for domestic consumption only.

The people never believed in the *governments" of the south, what they stood for or what they offered up - at least no where near what they did the ‘other side’.

So, like Kabul and President Karzai then - not hearts and minds so much as culture, history and way of life.

Pretty much, although it’s not the MOST stable and prosperous country in the region. Hands down, that distinction goes to Singapore, a fully modern country. I believe Singaporeans don’t even need visas to visit the US; that makes them, Japan and Israel the only Asian nations the US does not require visas for.

And Malaysia is much more stable – Thailand’s had many military coups over the decades, the most recent one three years ago, and it feels like we’re sitting on top of a powderkeg right now – while Malaysia has had none. Of course, you had a strongman in charge for a long time, Mahathir, be he was genuinely popular among much of the populace. Malaysia is possibly more prosperous than Thailand, too.

As for the flesh trade being a “human rights” issue, there is a lot – and I mean A LOT – of misreporting going on – some of it intentional to sell a story, some of it sincere but misguided – and I personally know quite a few bargirls who can’t stand the “do-gooders,” so to speak, and wish they would just mind their own business. What “problems” there exist are limited to the wild border regions and the brothels that service the lowest paid of the locals.

The domino theory really isn’t about military but poltical will, though at the time few people realized this.

The US got out of Vietnam when the North and South signed an agreement. The North broke the agreement and invaded. Congress, just getting over Watergate was in no mood for anything, much less to put money or troops back in.

The South’s government thought the USA would come back, at least with money or supplies, which didn’t happen. Even the North Vietnamese were take aback at how quickly they made gains

There was no political will. This example could also apply to after WWII. While Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria were certain go Communist, the Hungarians and especially Czechoslavakia had a real chance to be democracies. But the allies showed no political will to help Hungary which went Communist and after Czechoslavakia went Communist, there was an uproar, 'cause that shouldn’t have been.

Then later came wars in Greece, and Truman stepped in with the Truman Doctrine and Greece didn’t go Communist, although that didn’t translate to democracy.

This showed where there was will Communism could be halted and that is what started this domino theory.

The issues got clouded 'cause a lot of these places, it wasn’t so much about Communism it was about decolonization. Ho Chi Min expected the American to be on his side. Indeed Stalin was greatly able to play off Churchill against FDR and Truman because America was so anti-colony. As Churchill remarked without our colonies Great Britian goes from a world class power to a second or third rate power.

Would Thailand went Communist? I think there is a chance that if Ho Chi Min got into control of all Vietnam earlier Communism would’ve taken root in Vietnam, Cambodia and Loas, and we may have seen the Vietnam War taking place in Thailand.

America would’ve had interest in not letting the Thais fall, and the British had a beaten a war in Malaysia and Indonesia with Western backing got rid of Sukarno who was definately a pro communist.

So the domino theory showed, if you had the political will you could takes steps to stop it.

I think without Vietnam it was more likely that we would’ve seen other proxy wars elsewhere. Perhaps the Soviets would’ve supported Katanga (unlikely but…) or Biafra in their bids to be independent African nations with proxy wars lasting much longer.

Lee Kwan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore and a highly respected political thinker, believes that Vietnam bought time for non-Communist governments in SE Asia, which at the time were weak and fighting domestic communist insurgencies themselves, to get their act together so that communist demands would be less pressing. The dangers of a communist takeover in Singapore and Malaysia was certainly nontrivial at the time; in fact Lee’s party had to hitch its wagons to the Communists temporarily in order to get anything done at all. Reading his memoirs gives a quite frightening picture of their political strength and ruthlessness.

Yes. Again, the communists did already have de facto control of a good chunk of northeastern Thailand. The government pumping a lot of infarstructure money into the area – no doubt a lot of it American money – helped squelch the communists.

Many American air bases were in northeastern Thailand, too. They flew out, bombed North Vietnam, then returned for the cocktail hour. In fact, until very recently, there was still an active VFW post in Nakhon Ratchasima, site of a huge American base. It may still be there too, but I’ve not heard of it for a while. The members were all US servicemen who settled in the area after the war. I remember it having quite a good restaurant. For the servicemen stationed anywhere in Thailand, the war was a picnic.

And there was a large contingent of Thai troops fighting in Vietnam, too. Older hands than myself have told me when local singers in Bangkok crooned Beatles tunes, which were very popular in Thailand, they changed the lyrics in “A Day in the Life” from “The English army had just won the war” to “The Thai army had just won the war” to raucous applause.

Well, I think it’s well-established that there is a lot of “white slavery” nowadays – in Europe, in India, in Africa – so it’s not surprising that sex businesses everywhere get tarred with the same brush; and, of course, people are always ready to believe the worst of a Third World country like Thailand, even if it is a place where prostitutes are practically respectable.

Yes, they even have their own informal union here, the Empower Foundation. And I know a reporter who covers child prostitution in Southeast Asia, and he can’t stand the organizations in Thailand. The situation has been cleaned up so much here that they only exist to keep getting funding. And of course, Westerners keep on giving.

The difference between the sex trade in Thailand and, say, neighboring Cambodia is like night and day. There, it truly is dismal. But you’re right, it’s all just “Southeast Asia” to most folks.

If we had won in Vietnam do you think that Cambodia and Laos would have become capitalist societies? Would they have halted their march towards communism or are you saying that we would have had a launching pad for even more wars in Cambodia and Laos?

There has been another incarnation of the domino theory in our recent foreign policy. When we invaded Iraq, it was based on the idea that democracy could domino throughout the middle east if we won Iraq the same way we thought communism would domino throughout southeast asia if we lost Vietnam.

I don’t know that our war in Iraq has caused its neighbors to embrace democracy any more than they would have without the Iraqi war.

Let’s change the terms of the hypothetical a little: Under the Geneva Accords, Vietnam – all of it, North and South – was supposed to have internationally supervised national elections in July 1956. But it was clear Ho Chi Minh would win in a landslide, so Eisenhower blocked it.

If Ike had allowed the elections to go forward and Ho had led the new national government, the war would have been avoided; but how would that have affected the prospects of Communist movements in other countries in the region?

And, under those circumstances, would Ho’s 'Nam have been a Soviet (or Red Chinese) ally, or non-aligned, like Tito’s Yugoslavia, or even U.S.-friendly?

Thanks for the summary.

When Communist is a synomym for anyone who’d like to have a say in the distribution of his resources, a successful Vietnam might well have led SE Asia into our friendly orbit. Had we told the French to kiss off, honored Roosevelt’s pledge of self-dermination and rewarded their service against the Japanese with some rebuilding aid, we’d have had a good and influential friend in the area. imo

I think Laos probably would not have become communist. The insurgents were too heavily dependent on North Vietnam. Cambodia, though, is a tough call. The Khmer Rouge were a complete wild card. US resources would have been freed up from Vietnam to try to address them, though.

The war in Iraq if anything probably slowed democracy movements in Arab nations At the very least, 2 neighboring nations which had insurgent democracy movements that had been fighting for over a decade did not see their governments overthrown and replaced with democracies within a few months of the Iraq war like we saw in SE Asia.

Cambodia went communist within a week of the US pullout. Laos went communist due to Vietnamese intervention within a few months. I don’t know what would’ve happened had we stayed. I do not think the war in Vietnam was really winnable. We had been there for 17 years and we got involved after the French gave up after 8 years.

However I do think we were keeping a lid on anti-colonial and nationalistic communist insurgencies, and once we left those movements had the power to overthrow 3 governments within a few months. I do not think we could’ve won but like Siam Sam is saying maybe the US and French kept other nations in the region propped up enough to be able to deal with communist insurgencies on their own.

I think Vietnam is more or less a capitalist society now. From what I know of them they are more communist in name only, their economic system is more western.

Seeing how the USSR doesn’t exist, Vietnam being a communist nation doesn’t really phase me. The desire to roll back communism was (to my understanding) a desire to deprive the USSR of political allies (and to protect the economic interests of corporations).

Even if this is correct it doesn’t exactly slap down the anti-war movement of that era, who saw all those guys drafted and sent thru the meat grinder not to defend the US from any serious threat of invasion but for the sake of political posturing on the world stage.

As for the Cold War, you know that it wasn’t exactly a war and wasn’t exactly fought and wasn’t exactly won because the Soviets didn’t exactly surrender to us.

More like 25 years. US military advisers arrived and set up shop in 1950.