The United States in Vietnam's Quicksand .Without reviewing the contributing causes leading to the U.S.-Viet Cong war (22), we can note that from World War II to the mid-1960s, the United States was directly or indirectly involved in a seriesof internal crises in this pivotal Asian country.After the Geneva Conference of 1954, when Indochina was parti-tioned into the State of Vietnam (South Vietnam) and the DemocraticRepublic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), as the first independent leaderof South Vietnam, President Ngo Dinh Diem, a Western-oriented andWestern-educated figure, became gradually estranged from the Viet-namese masses, suspected of his ties with, and active encouragementby, the West, and because of the ripe nepotism of his administration.By 1959, Communist-led Viet Cong forces - materially and morallyaided by North Vietnam and by Red China - opened a drive to subvertDiem's Government. As the months passed, in spite of growing as-sistance - reaching $ 1,5 million daily by the early 1960s and in-cluding an American military « advisory group >> that numberedabout 16,500 - the Vietcong steadily consolidated its position. Fi-nally, at the end of 1963, a military-led coup d'état , evidently sup-ported by the American agents, overthrew the Diem government;within a few weeks, another coup, also carried out by military of-ficers, again shifted control of the country's political affairs. Mean-while, officiais of the Kennedy and Johnson Administration began toconcede publicly that the conflict in Vietnam was becoming acute andthat prospects for a Western victory were progressively unfavorable.Peking called upon Communist groups throughout Asia to emulatethe Vietcong and declared that in the contest in Southeast Asia the« U.S. paper tiger had been punctured and exposed ».For American policy-makers, the struggle in Vietnam had proveda frustrating and baffling experience. After expending well over $ 3billion, by 1964 Washington found prospects for victory dimmer than(22) A good summary of such details can be found in : Robert H. Fer-rell, American Dilemma : A History , W.W. Norton, New York, 1969, Chapter 31,« Vietnam », pp. 852-878, « Additional Reading », pp. 877-878 ; Cecil V. CrabbJr., American Foreign Policy in the Nuclear Age , Harper & Row, New York,1965, Chapter 13, « Asia - New Nations and Ancient Problems », pp. 299-337,especially pp. 330-337, «Notes», pp. 335-337.484 -This content downloaded from 126.96.36.199 on Tue, 07 May 2019 21:44:35 UTCAll use subject to
they had been at any time since 1954. The main difficulty involved was,at that time, the realization that American power is finite, not infinite.The « illusion of American omnipotence » had conditioned the Ame-rican mind to expect that once the resources and energies of the U.S.were directed toward the solution of an international problem, theproblem would sooner or later be « solved » in a manner acceptableto Americans.