Using these four passages and your own knowledge, assess the view that the war in Vietnam had a more lasting impact on the USA than on the people of South-East Asia.
The Vietnam War had profound effects on the USA and the people of South-East Asia - asides from the colossal human cost of the war itself, both countries suffered immediate social, political and economic turmoil. In the long term however, for the USA the war has become something of the past, its effects no longer felt - in South East Asia this is not the case as the catastrophic events that occurred during, and after as a result, of the war are still being felt today.
For the people of SE Asia the Vietnam War had a colossal impact and caused many fundamental changes, many of which were to stay changed until today as is acknowledged by Sanders' perceptive phrase: 'the rebuilding of... economies and infrastructures... would take years.'1 Inferpretation§"A_an3£ emphasise the negative impact of the war in Asia that together provide a solid and well-rounded picture of its effects. Interpretation A is clear in stating, 'the war... savaged and badly de-stabilised Vietnam and Cambodia'2. Interpretation C begins to explore devastating post-war events that occurred due to the destabilisation mentioned by Patterson. Interpretation B is excellent in showing this destabilisations dire consequences in Asia and hints at the long term impacts to which interpretations A and C apply too little significance. First and foremost is the enormous human cost of death and social upheaval - there were 3 million Vietnamese killed and a further 15 million made refugees at different times3 throughout the war. This caused a great social change as, other than the deaths, a culture was lost -Vietnamese belief centres on the home and ancestor-worship4. By relocating peasants in an attempt to slow Viet Cong recruitment (America's 'strategic-hamlet' program claims to have moved 4.3million peasants5) their belief system was destroyed. Kolko effectively argues, 'the psychic loss was incalculable'6 - these 'forced removals'7 c contributed towards 'permanently changing... Vietnamese society': the social impact of the war on was a lasting one - a fundamental issue that interpretation A merely hints at. The war also had cataclysmic environmental pacts - 14%, or 15,000 km2, of Vietnam's forests were destroyed and agricultural yield vastly lowered8 by the S defoliation policy. The spraying of 72million litres of Agent Orange 'continues to threaten the health of the Vietnamese today'9 - it contains dioxin, which is carcinogenic 10and teratogenic. Since the war, 500,000 children have been born with birth defects.11 As a result of this environmental destruction and forced relocation, Vietnam underwent a colossal demographic change: in 1960 the urban population was 20% - 11 years later that figure was 43%. This statistic exemplifies the partial destruction of an entire culture. Interpretation B concludes that 'it was ^ the people of the region who had the real price to pay'12 — they suffered first under the Americans then later under the Communists who 'all over Indochina... began their programs of 'social engineering'.' Interpretation C supports this statement, arguing 'the victors did impose an authoritarian, repressive regime' and speaks of the 'political repression of post-war Vietnam'13 - as a result of the war political upheaval occurred. Indeed Sanders argues that the American presence, in essence a continuation of French colonial rule, 'was a major factor in
1 Sanders, V., (2005), The USA and Vietnam 1945-75, London
2 Interpretation A: Patterson, J.T., (1996) Grand Expectations: The United States 1945-74
3 Interpretation C; Schulzinger, R., A Time For War, 1997
5 The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, Chapter 2, (1971) The Strategic Hamlet Program, 1961-1963, pp. 128-159, Beacon