From 1954 to 1975, Vietnam was partitioned into North and South along ideological differences. North Vietnam was ruled by a totalitarian communist regime firmly supported by a militarily strong Soviet Union and a populous Red China. South Vietnam adopted a Western-styledrepublic.
Right from the start, in 1954 North Vietnam had a large army with 240,000 regulars and more than one million militiamen, equipped, trained, and buttressed by the two leading countries of the communist world--the Soviet Union and Red China, with an express aim to conquermilitarily South Vietnam, as part of an overarching plan to stain and taint the world red with Communism.
Meanwhile South Vietnam's republican government presided over a nascent army equipped and trained by the United States. The peace enjoyed by the people in South Vietnam after the partition was brief. Soon the people found themselves sucked into a civil war initiated by North Vietnam.
In order to stop the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia, the UnitedStates gave military and economic assistance to South Vietnam in its fight against the divisions of the regular army of North Vietnam sent to the south and against the guerrillas put in place by North Vietnam.The civil war was never between the forces of equal strength. North Vietnam enjoyed unstinted and committed support from the communist world while the assistance provided by the United States and its allies was hampered by pro-communist and misguided anti-war elements . Not long after the U.S. Congress had voted to discontinue aid to South Vietnam, the war ended with the triumph of the Vietnamese communists.
Recent disclosures (see Henry Kissinger's On China, Penguin Press, 2011) have indicated that the U.S. was willing to leave Vietnam as part of the secret negotiations to establish diplomatic relations with China for establishing trade between the two countries and for forming a quasi-alliance to stop the expansionist policies of the Soviet Union.
The following figures are some of the economic and human costs of the war:
The monetary aid provided to South Vietnam by the United States during the war amounted to 26 billion dollars, including $16 billion for military and $6 billion for economic assistance.
The total war costs for the U.S. came up to $900 billion, three times of its expenditures in World War Two. There were no published figures from the communist side, but estimates ranged in hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars.
The human casualties were simply staggering:
Vietnam: of course, bore the heaviest casualties. Out of the total population of 24 million in 1954 and 49 million in 1975,almost 6 million (1,500,000 military personnel and 4,500,000 civilians) weredead or wounded – 1/8 of Vietnam’s population in 1975.
North Vietnam:1,100,000 military personnel dead or missing, 600,000 military personnel wounded, 2,000,000 civilians dead or wounded.
South Vietnam: 320,000 military personnel dead or missing, 1,200,000 military personnel wounded, 2,000,000 civilians dead or wounded.
South Vietnam's Allies:
The United States: 58,200 dead, 1,900 missing, 300,000 wounded.
South Korea: 5,000 dead, 11,000 wounded.
The Philippines: 552 dead.
Australia: 426 dead, 1360 wounded.
Thailand: 351 dead, 1,200 wounded.
New Zealand: 55 dead, 212 wounded.
Once again, there were no figures available for human casualties for North Vietnam's communist allies : The Soviet Union, China, The Eastern European countries, North Korea, Cuba..., specially The Soviet Union and China.
Next to Vietnam, the United States was the country most impacted by the Vietnam War. Besides the 58,200 dead, 1,900 missing, and 300,000 wounded, it was estimated that up to 5 million Americans of the ages between 20-40 did the active military services among about 6 million personnel served their tour of duty in Vietnam during the war. Thus, this could be stated that about 6 million American families did have direct connections with Vietnam, a country at that time they knew very little about.
Thirty-seven years after the war ended, these 6 million Americans and the 1.5 million Vietnamese who fled Vietnam and settled in the U.S. have probably multiplied to 10-15 million strong out of the total population of 313 million. It is not far-fetched to assume most of these 10-15 million people regard Vietnam with nostalgia and the 85 million Vietnamese living in Vietnam with affection. Among those, a number of them are holding positions of authority in the armed forces and federal government (for instance, Senators John McCain, John Kerry, Congressman Chris Smith,..).
The Vietnamese have a tradition of taking care of their kin and kind, no matter how far away they are. The Vietnamese-Americans have upheld that tradition. Every year they have remitted tens of billions of $U.S. dollars to help their relatives and friends in Vietnam despite of the fact that they had been severely mistreated by the Vietnamese Communist Party and its government , stripped off their assets, expelled from their homes and persecuted to the point millions of them had to flee Vietnam by walking across land to reach Thailand, and taking to sea in small and unseaworthy boats to seek freedom, resulting in more than a million of them perished at sea or atthe hands of the Thai pirates.
Up to now, the tie between Vietnam and the U.S. is mostly based on individual blood ties and emotional attachment. The totalitarian, single party, corrupt, nepotism-laden, communist system of government in Vietnam has prevented the tie from deepening and flourishing.
Once Vietnam restores full democracy, there is no reason why those 15 million strong American “relatives” together with more than 3 million Vietnamese expatriates in the U.S. and other countries such as Canada, France, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand and their host sympathizers will have no compelling reasons to rebuild Vietnam and assist in its fight tothwart China's efforts to take over Vietnam! The recent signs and activities from the American people (statement of Senator John McCain in his visit to Vietnam on 19 Jan 2012) and authorities (Assistant U.S. State Secretary Kurk Campell’s visit to Vietnam on 02 Feb 2012 as well as pronouncement of U.S. State Secretary Hilary Clinton and the despatch of US naval vessels into South China Sea before) in response to China’s actions in South China Sea show this “family tie” sentiment.
The only route Vietnam must take is to transform itself into a multi-party system democracy with due respect to freedom and basic human rights.
Only then, corruptions, abuses of power by public figures and factionalism which are rampant within the Vietnamese Communist Party are stamped out.
Only then, the strong “emotional and family ties” between Americans, as well as other nationals, and the Vietnamese from inside Vietnam and all over the world will be fully enhanced and utilized.
Only then, Vietnam will be free, its economy thriving, its people prosperous, and China’s territorial expansionist ambitions against Vietnam will be stopped.
February 04, 2012
Hung Nguyen, Quang Long Le, Khoa Ba Ngo