This article will feature in issue 37: Oppression and Resistance

The Vietnam War occurred from 1955-1975, pitting North Vietnam and the Viet Cong against South Vietnam who infamously received vast amounts of aid from the USA. The war can be seen as a battle between the Communist ideology of the North and the capitalist ideology of the South. This can lead to the belief that it was a proxy war within the cold war as the North Vietnamese received aid from the USSR and China who had their own agendas, much like the USA. 

However, this view weakens when one considers that the war continued after America withdrew their troops in 1973, proving it was a war primarily fuelled by nationalism rather than foreign interference with this nationalist spirit being what caused the North Vietnamese victory in 1975. Robert McNamara, Defense Secretary of the USA at the time admits himself that “we saw Vietnam as an element of the Cold War, not what they saw it as: a civil war. We were wrong.” In this case, was it a civil war? This is also difficult to see as, by 1979, 480,000 American troops were in Vietnam, and the war is estimated to have cost America $168 billion. How could it be a civil war when one side was mostly funded, equipped and given ground troops by another country? 

What is visible is seeing the Vietnam War as a colonial war wherein Vietnam is resisting colonial oppression from America. This was not for the first time as just a few years earlier Vietnam had been the first country to expel their colonial power when the French were forced to leave in 1954. It is also certain that America was exerting their power to propagate capitalism due to their belief in the domino theory, wherein they thought the fall of one country to Communism would cause a domino effect on other countries, rendering the South Vietnamese as only functionaries for American strategies and policies. Even Americans themselves tired of their level of involvement as Nixon won the presidential race in 1969 with his promise to end the Vietnam War with “peace and honour.” It is also important to note that America’s interference was in juxtaposition with the values of liberty and protection that they were claiming, solidifying that their involvement was due to their own agenda. This is clear in America’s infamous use of chemical weapons that mostly hurt civilians including agent blue which was sprayed over crops to decrease food supply and napalm gel that set people alight. Henceforth, it is clear that the Vietnam War was primarily a colonial war. 

By Simrun Nijjar