The cold war started shortly after the Second World War: in 1946. It was however not a physical war fought in battlefields and with weapons and infantry but rather a long period of tension and hostility between the two superpowers that emerged in the aftermath if the world war: the United States of America and the Soviet Union.
The Vietnam War
John F Kennedy was the president of the United States from 1961 till he was assassinated in 1963. His presidency came at a time when the US had sent its troops to back Southern Vietnam forces that were fighting against Northern Vietnam forces: backed by the Communist countries led by the Soviet Union. John F Kennedy view towards the Vietnam War was one with many contrasting policies. Kennedy saw the need to send troops to Vietnam in order to help combat the spread of communism that was being fuelled by the Soviets but at the same time he was of the idea that ultimately the war was not a united states one to fight: inevitably the Vietnamese had to be at the forefront of the struggle for democracy. JFK sent in American personal as advisers and in order to offer assistance to the Vietnamese.(Melvyn P. Leffler, 2009) This passive policy towards the war led to the Southern Vietnam forces being left to run in a manner that was corrupt and inefficient: leading to many losses. Before he was assassinated, JFK had put in place a strategy that was to see the removal of 1000 United States forces from Vietnam by the end of 1963. However he was assassinated before this could take place. His successor was Lyndon Johnson.(Schwab, 1998)
Lyndon Johnson had a more hands on approach to foreign policy. Initially he had wanted to focus less on Vietnam and more in the greater battle against communism. However he was quick to see the importance of the war in the fight against communism. He stopped the planned withdrawal of troops from the region and instead increased the involvement of the US in the war. Johnson’s view was that the US had to win the Vietnam War in order to show the Soviets that they had the upper hand both diplomatically in terms of foreign influence as well as military power. His approach to the issue however was flawed in that he did not conduct adequate research and campaigns both on the home front and in the foreign lands: this led to widespread criticism of America’s involvement in the war especially after the number of US casualties in Vietnam began rising sharply. Johnson stuck to his policy of winning the Vietnam War even though it meant the use of American troops at the forefront rather than just as advisers as JFK had done. (Hanhimaki, 2003)This full scale involvement coupled with the fact that the South Vietnam army was rife with corruption, lack of training and equipment as well as a host of other problems, meant that the US suffered many losses through its escalated participation in the conflict. All in all it was viewed that Johnson’s policies were flawed in many ways and were the cause of the increase in resentment towards the war. The drop in popularity for the war and the president that was at the forefront are seen as the major reasons why many American’s saw the war as a failure: too many US troops were killed with lack of a commensurate gain in any front.(Thomas Paterson, 2009)
In the comparison of these two leader’s foreign policies, Kennedy: with the more laid back approach to the conflict would have steadily withdrawn troops from the region: leaving the war mainly in the hands of the indigenous people of South Vietnam. Kennedy sought a wider range of responses to diplomatic conflicts and it’s in this view that it’s most likely that he would have continued with his planned withdrawal plan: steadily removing troops from Vietnam and leaving only the most necessary advisers.
JFK’s diplomacy as shown during the Cuban missile crisis would have proved to be an asset in the Vietnam War. During the Cuban Missile crisis, even in the aftermath of botched assassination attempts against the Cuban regime and heightened tension between the two powers in which the US saw the Soviets as getting ready to launch an attack on them through their southern neighbour. Kennedy did not respond to the Soviet threat through aggressive action rather Kennedy sought the use of dialogue and diplomatic negotiations and in the end the crisis was solved and nuclear war abated( Joseph M. Siracusa, 2002)
The effects of this crisis as well as how it was averted made the US and Soviet Union, as well as many other upcoming superpowers realise that they had to come up with ways in which to mediate and resolve problems between themselves without going to war. They also saw the need to stop the nuclear arms race and the development of more destructive weapons as the employment of these weapons in a war situation would lead to similar retaliation and the ensuing war would most likely eradicate a good chunk of the global population. Numerous treaties were signed that were meant to reduce the number of weapons that different countries had.(Thomas Paterson, 2009).