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Paper Topic:

The Bitter Heritage, Vietnam and American Democracy(1941-1968), by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Schlesinger , Arthur M , Jr . The Bitter Heritage : Vietnam and American Democracy , 1941-1966 . Boston : Houghton Mifflin , 1967

Arthur Schlesinger 's The Bitter Heritage is a short , insightful analysis of the Vietnam War 's many negative effects on both that nation and the United States . Written at the height of the conflict (and before the Tet Offensive , which convinced many that the war was futile the book traces the history of American involvement in Indochina and argues that what should have been a political problem became an unwise military commitment created by hubris and

misinterpretation . In addition , Schlesinger calls for a gradual withdrawal and rethinking of how to approach what by 1966 was already a quagmire

The book starts with a chapter tracing the American involvement in Vietnam , beginning in 1941 , when the Japanese invaded what was then a rubber-rich French colony and Franklin Roosevelt responded by freezing Japanese assets in the United States - thus helping provoke the attack on Pearl Harbor . While the anti-imperialist Roosevelt wanted Vietnam independent after a short trusteeship , his wishes died with him and Truman and Eisenhower both committed themselves to restoring French control , paying 78 percent of the First Indochina War 's costs (5

After the French defeat in 1954 , Schlesinger maintains that Eisenhower and Kennedy both supported the corrupt , unpopular Diem regime in South Vietnam , wrongly believing it part of a greater Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union and China when it was primarily a nationalist war for independence and reunification . Hoping to maintain Western control , the United States supported Diem despite his being elitist anti-democratic , and out of touch with South Vietnam 's large peasant population , which increasingly supported Ho Chi Minh (Schlesinger adds that the Hanoi government initially gave virtually no support to rebels in the south until 1960 ) As the insAmerican troops as advisors ' turning what began as a political problem into a military one that simply kept growing . Still , in 1963 Vietnam was not a large , urgent problem

The rest of the work is Schlesinger 's analysis of what was then the present situation , as of 1966 the United States had over 400 ,000 combat troops in Vietnam with no end of the conflict in sight and the war escalating without viable results . He claims that Vietnam is a triumph of the politics of inadvertence (31 , meaning that American leadership had basically blundered into a large conflict by misreading the conflict as a simplistic Cold War matter , believing in its own propaganda that Ho was the initial aggressor (in truth , he says , South Vietnamese insurgents began the second war , and misusing its military might where political skill would have proven more effective

As a result , Schlesinger argues that the United States was actually doing far more to destroy Vietnam than to help it he claims , Our strategy in Vietnam today is rather like trying to weed a garden with a bulldozer (47 . In addition , he notes that the stalemated conflict had cost the United States considerable prestige among world nations...

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