It is said that the intervention of the United States can be explained using hegemonic war theory. They were to intervene so that their military would not be seen as incapable of fighting in this war, and to maintain their prestige as a super power. The involvement of the United States in this war was not only seen as a way to stop a war that was escalating but also to gain power and respect. The main goal was to put an end to the rise of communism portrayed by a dictator who skillfully manipulated the nationalism of his people. Descriptive realism on the other hand, is defined as war without any regard for morality. Instead it lies on the basis of power, security and national interest. This is the theory that truly defines the Vietnam war. Moreover, the intervention of the United states in this war was to ensure that economic factors such as trading, did not cease. If communism subsided than the United States would no longer have ties with Vietnam. This was the important factor that drove the United states to intervene. By this reasoning, the actions that were taken by the United States were viewed as harsh and many people died needlessly, so that economic factors such as trading would continue.
Hegemonic war can be seen through the rise of a dominant power. Gilpin states,
“as a relative power increases it attempts to change rules of governing in the international system, division of spheres of influence and international distribution of territory.” With a dominant power on the rise it poses a threat to other states, thus forcing these other states to enter and try to put a stop to this disequalibrium. In order to stop this imbalance between states other dominant powers try to restore the equilibrium. This is done by dominant powers imposing changes in its political system policies that attempt to re-establish a balance of powers. This unequalness of powers Gilpin states is due to, ” increasing disjuncture between existing powers, governance and redistribution of powers within a system”. If this can be resolved through the changing of policies to restore the balance of power than war is not an issue. However, if a resolution can not be met than a hegemonic war is the result. In a hegemonic war the main goal is to restore an equilibrium. War is the determination of a new hierarchy that will ultimately subside. Gilpin states that war will decide ” who will be primarily served by this new international order and who will govern the international sys”. Therefore making victory and defeat a way to reinstate a clear-cut hierarchy of prestige that reflects the new distribution of powers.
Hegemonic war theory is one theory that is seen in the Vietnam war. The United States intervened in the Vietnam war as a way to maintain credibility in its military power as well as to keep it’s title as a superpower. This intervention can be seen as an example of what hegemonic war theory tells us to look for. This theory is based on the principle that war is fought to gain something more than it already has, it is faught to restore an equilibrium. The United States entered this war to help South Vietnam in the war against North Vietnam. It tried to stop South Vietnam from falling into the hands of a communist regime. It went in to stop the war but one may say that it made matters worse. However, a state may enter a war with the means to gain, it may leave with nothing accept what it entered war with. The United States did not gain anything in this particular war and it did suffer many casualties, however, to prove the point above the United States did leave this war with exactly what it entered with. The United States entered to help South Vietnam from being taken over by North Vietnam. Since it did not succeed it left the war with no losses however, one might say that the many deaths that the United States suffered are considered huge losses!
The credibility of the United States military would fall drastically if action was not taken against the communist-nationalist regime. In order to save face the United states had to take action. As a super power the United States could not just fall out of the war. This could be viewed as a weakness in its military capabilities. If this were to occur the United States could be faced with even greater problems. It could be viewed by other countries as incapable of intervening or simply disregarding the matter. Both cases would ultimately bring down the power and security of the United states and its rank as a Super Power would slowly diminish. Therefore actions had to be taken. The United States put an attack on Cambodia. They bombed Cambodia in order to destroy Vietnamese Communist strongholds there. This can be seen as a horrendous act on the part of the United States but something had to be done.
Counter argument to hegemonic war
Realism emphasizes the danger of the international system, where war is always a possibility and the only source of order is the balance of power. To keep power and stability with in a country or state war at times may be inevitable. Realists emphasize power and security issues . Therefore if war is needed to sustain national self interest, so be it. The only important thing after a war has already begun is to be certain of victory. Realists believe that once in a war anything must be done to ensure a victorious end. During these times morality with in a war may not exist
Counterargument to military incapacity
The United States enter war where they have an economic interest at stake. Throughout history the united states only entered a war if they were bound to lose something. If communism took over Vietnam then the trading that went on between the United States and Vietnam would inevitably come to a halt. This is in fact the major reason that the United states intervened in Vietnam. It was an economic factor that made the United States realize what had to be done and had little to do with the fact that their military’s incapacities to go to war would be seen as unstable. Although the United States will never admit to its economic factors of entering a war, the reasons for there intervention in the Vietnam war was to maximize their gains. They had to ensure that trading would still exist between the themselves and Vietnam.
The intervention of the United states in the Vietnam war, was not to maintain just prestige and power but for economic gains. This is the reasoning behind the true factors that drove the United states to enter in the battle of Vietnam. It was because of this that the United States needed to step in. They had to ensure that their economic gains through trading with Vietnam, would not cease.
Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1968
Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000: Political Science
1993-1999 microsoft corporation. All rights reserved
Wells, Tom: The War Within, Los Angeles
University of California Press, 1994