Ironic Benefits Of War
Many American citizens in 1959 viewed the Vietnam War as a righteous battle against communism, similar to the Iraq War today however now many view this war as a necessary battle against terrorism. Looking at America’s overall goal in Vietnam, it is evident that we did not come close to keeping South Vietnam from collapsing, who fell to communist rule in 1975 (Frankum 210). America’s involvement in the conflicts of Vietnam and Iraq were so discordant that our government, people, and military were constricted. Yet both wars were fought with the knowledge that America may change the invaded nation, which brings a precarious question; what makes the government believe that they have the right to go into a country and change it to the way they want it to be? The government already has enough problems to fix in the homeland, wasting time trying to mend problems in other countries will never allow America to move forward as a unified country. The separation and disruption the Vietnam War caused in America is still very much in the public conscience, in various books and films, which makes one wonder, if America hadn’t set the standard of invading Vietnam, would troops be in Iraq today? America’s involvement in the Vietnam parallels the Iraq War with each war being as destructive, unjustified, invasive, and costly as the other. Despite America’s “noble intentions,” the Vietnam War proves to be the greatest challenge to American democratic idealism since the Civil War (Vietnam). The Vietnam and Iraq wars brought unnecessary pain and suffering during a time in which the country could have been improving.
The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, contained ten years of America’s unnecessary commitment. The Vietnam War was a military battle fought in Vietnam from 1959 to 1975, involving the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front (NLF) in dispute with United States forces, and the South Vietnamese army. In total over 55,000 American servicemen were pronounced dead or listed as missing, the presidency had changed three times, and the American people waged antiwar battles at home against the United States government (Frankum 215). The Vietnam War is now known as the longest military conflict in United States history, so when looking at all the time spent there, many hope America accomplished the ambitious endeavor, sadly the answer is no. America entered Vietnam in 1965 with high hopes of keeping the Southern Vietnamese from falling to communism which it eventually did in 1975. Then twenty eight years later, on March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush invaded Iraq, with half of the nation already questioning his status in office and that same amount or even more uncertain as to what our objective was. After the attack on the World Trade Center President Bush became consumed by ridding the world of terrorism, one of his main targets being Iraq. However, Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the attack on the World Trade Center, it was planned and executed by terrorists from Afghanistan (White). Bush even admitted on CNN during a news coverage in August of 2006 that “Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11”(Bush). In the same news coverage, Bush also stated the main reasons of invading Iraq was because they “had a lot of resentment” towards our country, had built up “hatred”, and possibly had weapons of mass destruction. Yet, after five years he finally admitted that Iraq never possessed weapons of such kind. Overall, America wasted large amounts of time and money on foreign soil, put America though turmoil at home because of attempts to fix countries half way across the world, and disunified the nation over continuous heated debates over both wars.
Our unwarranted involvement in Vietnam and Iraq was not only unjustified but it was not our government’s vexation to bear. By entering both countries, a large part of our nation’s population became divided due to the differences in opinions and objectives for each war. Vietnam was already waging war before America embarked, and yet America willingly went to war over the fear of communism, while ignoring the future of our country and how our own society and economy would end up. Likewise to the Vietnam War, America invaded Iraq on its own whim, however this time on the basis of ending terrorism. The United States is so respected because it is democratic and we make decisions as a people, instead of being controlled by one individual. However, both decisions to go to war were unjustified and radical; involvement in Vietnam had no outcome that could possibly better our country and Iraq War being fought today still causes damages to our country. The government also ignoring the fact that our supposed objective was to help the country they invaded yet in both instances they come out with no beneficial outcome. Not only were American citizens upset with entering both countries, the opposing countries also saw it as invasive. Many organizations against the wars were formed which divided the nation even more and eventually convinced many people that the decision to enter both wars were corrupt.
Out of both the Vietnam and Iraq wars, the only thing America gained was a bad economy. Not only returning from the wars but during each war the country’s economy struggled; deficit spending by the United States government lead to an increasing number of national debt and the devaluation of the U.S. dollar because of the need for war materials (White). It is evident that perfection in a government proves to be naÃ¯ve, however if the government keeps ignoring essential aspects that can completely alter the economy, America would become completely disfunctional, which is exactly what we were after both wars. America is still recovering trillions of dollars of debt on a decision to better Vietnam and Iraq, even though a welcoming was not given by one of those countries.
Not only was the economy suffering, the people in America had to deal with casualties in families and widespread debt. Both wars cost vast amounts of money and lives that affected families nation wide. In the Iraq War 4,001 U.S. troops have so far been killed and 29,320 have been seriously wounded (White) contrasting with the Vietnam War that lost 58,000 U.S. troops were killed and 304,000 seriously wounded (Vietnam). However bad those numbers may seem, looking at the U.S. government’s spending in Iraq and Vietnam will make you cringe. For the Vietnam War the American government spent in total $150 billion (White) however for the Iraq War, they spent over $600 billion of U.S. tax payers funds, and President Bush has requested another $200 billion for 2008, which would bring the cumulative to a grand total of $800 billion, the average monthly spending in Iraq coming out to about $12 billion (White). The Vietnam War suffered in casualties opposed to debt in the Iraq War but both wars had and still have an extreme pull on the economy and left many in a struggle financially. As for all the veterans that survived the Vietnam War, they were left distraught with severe trauma that many could not get past. Some problems include; anxiety, depression, panic, rage, irritability, shame, guilt, and many more (Vietnam). These veterans suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that left families, friends, and even doctors at a loss of how to cope with these men. More than two in three Vietnam veterans suffered from full or partial PTSD upon returning from Vietnam (Vietnam). Post traumatic stress disorder affected many soldiers in the Iraq War also, and are still occurring among many of the men still stationed there. Surveyor Dr. Matthew J. Friedman, executive director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD, pulled a survey that showed one in eight Iraq War veterans have symptoms of PTSD, yet later stated that these estimates are conservative and it may be too early to determine the extent of mental problems (Returning).
Many argue that the Vietnam War was necessary to stop the spread of communism and the Iraq War was necessary to stop the spread of terrorism and restore their economy. It has been argued even further to say it was time well worth spending in Iraq and Vietnam. When analyzing these points one must understand that at that point in time America was deathly scared of communism and instilled an idea in their heads that if not for entering the war at that moment, then communism would make its way around to other countries and finally reach America. However, our government made the fatal mistake of failing to look in the long run and see that America was already a strong nation and by entering a war that would not certainly end communism the government weakened every aspect of the economy. In accordance, Iraq was completely uninvolved in the terrorist attack on 9/11, the accusation of concealing “weapons of mass destruction” was completely false, and having now realized that the only weapons they did have were from a purchase from the United States to them several years before.
America did not reach its overall goal in Vietnam or Iraq, however the government spent billions of dollars, lost thousands of young men and women lives, divided citizens in the home land, and put the economy through wide spread turmoil. What beneficial factor did we gain out of going to these wars? Sadly, there is no legitimate answer to that question. The Vietnam and Iraq Wars were fought with the intentions of bettering the invaded country, however we have yet to come out with a substantially improved state. Altogether, the American government’s unjustified and invasive behavior lead to an annihilative economy and distressed citizens. Hopefully one day our government will understand that we must fix home-land issues rather than wage war in foreign countries and will someday come to terms that they must engage a different approach in our foreign policy matters.
Bush, George W. Address. CNN. Presidential News Conference. The White House, Washington D.C. 23 Aug. 2006. 20 Mar. 2008
Frankum, Ronald. Vietnam War for Dummies. Wiley Inc, 2008.
“The Vietnam War- America’s Longest War.” Vietnam War. 2007. 13 Mar. 2008
White, Deborah. “Iraq War Results and Statistics.” About.Com. 9 Mar. 2008. 13 Mar. 2008
“1 in 8 Returning Soldiers Suffer From PTSD.” MSNBC. 2008. 20 Mar. 2008