History Book Review on Where the Domino Fell
In the Preface section, the focus is on Americans’ ambivalence about Vietnam, which can be attributed to their country’s failure to solve or address the warring situation in Vietnam. I believe many Americans were of the opinion that massive deployment of technological force would have helped address the situation in Vietnam whereas others felt that sending more troops was essential to the ending the war. Today, Americans have different stands on whether brain or sinew should be used by the US forces against the superior firepower of enemies in Vietnam.
From a personal viewpoint, one of the key characters in the book is Ho Chi Minh, who was the leader of Vietnamese communists (Olson and Randy 2). He opposed and was strongly against the Chinese Mandarin domination, and this saw him collaborate temporarily with the French to suppress the Chinese domination. Later, Ho Chi Minh opposed the French Catholic elite intervention on the grounds that it resulted in increased poverty, oppression, and torture of Vietnamese. Minh’s main interest was to see the French abolish their harsh treatment, oppression, and torture of Vietnamese people. Ho Chi Minh later opposed American involvement in Vietnam on the grounds that it saw an increase in the oppression, suffering, loss of life, and torture of Vietnamese people. Minh was the soul of the expatriate Vietnamese community with members of the community seeking him out and ignoring other leaders such as Phan Chu Trinh, and this is why the people of Vietnam cried when he died (Olson and Randy 7).
From the book, I can learn that the Vietminh was a political organization formed purposefully to liberate Vietnam and resist the oppression from external forces such as the Chinese and the French. The Vietcong was a derogatory term used by Diem, head of the Ngo family, to refer to the Vietminh, which was an organization formed to liberate Vietnamese from oppression and torture (Olson and Randy 59). The ARVN were soldiers who worked under Diem to arrest and torture those who opposed the Ngo family.
I think one of the reasons why the French wanted to reestablish themselves in Indochina was the push by the empire to return to colonial status after the defeat of Japan (Westheider 23). The US agreed to France’s request to have Indochina back again because US believed strongly that French assistance was necessary for developing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as well as the rebuilding of West Germany. A key occurrence at Dien Bien Phu was the falling of the French-held garrison in May 1954, which saw the French pull out of the region. However, the US learned from the French experiences in the region and supported the French to overcome resistance and nationalist uprisings in the region.
I can also highlight the involvement of US presidents such as Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon in the war. Each of these was involved in the war to protect Vietnam from invasion by other countries such as Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as retaliating to the attacks targeted at US forces by resistance movements such as the Vietcong. For instance, President Nixon could not accept defeat of the US forces in the war, and thus, pushed for retaliatory attacks.
I see several examples of cause and effect in the Vietnam War story. For instance, the French oppression, suppression, and torture of Vietnamese led to uprisings and attacks that resulted in the war. After 30 years of the war, the eventual winner was the US as it gained control of Vietnam and defeated other forces such as Japan, China, and Cambodia. Also, the bombing of Laos and Cambodia came as a result of the efforts to eliminate Vietcong sanctuaries; a move that people strongly opposed
Olson, James S, and Randy W. Roberts. Where the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam 1945-1995. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
Westheider, James E. The Vietnam War. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007.