000674031 1 A Plan of Investigation (2 Marks

)

To what extent did the US government contribute to the assassination and military coup of Diem in Vietnam in the year 1963? By 1963, President Kennedy and his military advisers had dedicated vast amounts of funds and resources to the Vietnam conflict. By August, they believed that President Diem was misusing these resources; plans to spark a military coup ensued. Many blame this period of American interference for the assassination of President Diem. The aim of this investigation is to justify or derail these allegations by measuring the cause and effects of the coup. The investigation will cover the plans made by the American government, the correlation between these plans and the actions in Vietnam, and the brief period after the assassination. An analysis of these sections will indicate that although the US indirectly contributed to the end of the regime, it was a failure to communicate cohesively that brought about the regime's end. Most of the research will be from secondary sources, both electronic and print, and from the autobiography of Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense in 1963. B 1. Summary of Evidence (5 Marks) United States' plan for reconstructing Diem's Regime

At the beginning of the Vietnam War, the United States and South Vietnam relied heavily on abundant communication between the United States' Defense Department and President Diem. However, by late August, President Diem's new domestic policies made it difficult for the United States to maintain a close alliance (Vietnam Passage). Thus, the leading military advisers, along with President Kennedy, began brainstorming ways to deal with these problems (CNN Cold War).

000674031 2 There were two major opinions about how to handle Diem, and consequently, how to handle the remainder of the Vietnam War efforts. Max Taylor, a leading military advisor to JFK, believed the best course of action was to persuade Diem to change his policies (McNamara 53). Those who supported this idea agreed that the resources sent to Vietnam were leverage against Diem (54). However, the opposition argued that this would allow for actions against the Viet Cong to cease (Newman 411). They believed that without a coup, the war could not be won. With this idea, plans for the removal of Diem began (Chomsky 73). On August 28, a cable was sent to Ambassador Lodge in Saigon to "come up with ways of building anti-Diem forces," (Chomsky 73). With this order, Lodge held meetings with the generals of the South Vietnamese forces to establish plans for the removal and replacement of Diem (McNamara 56). On October 2, the McNamara-Taylor Report was published, again arguing that there were more options other than the military coup; the men reinstituted the idea of reconciliation and pressure (Memorandum). Again, the advisory council and Kennedy readdressed the necessity of the complete removal of Diem. Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, was sent to Saigon to evaluate the current opinions of Diem, both amongst the military and general public (McNamara 68). New reports were made and new cables were sent daily addressing the on-going plans in both Vietnam and the United States, but by November 1, 1963, the generals committed to the coup and by the next day, news of the death of Diem and his brother was announced (Chomsky 80) (Prados).

000674031 3 2. Correlation between actions taken in DC and in Saigon

October 5 was the day of two significant events that directly led to the coup. First, the CIA Station Chief, John Richardson, who was close to Nhu, returned to Washington; this gave the appearance that Richardson was backing away from the Diem regime. (Newman 411). Secondly, General Don made the announcement that "action to change the government must be taken or war will be lost to the Viet Cong because the government no longer has the support of the people," (411). At this point, Lodge sent a cable to Washington claiming that the generals were too advanced in their plan to remove Diem that the US could not thwart the coup (McNamara 81). 3. Time period after the coup d'etat

Many historians believe the assassination of Diem and his brother were unnecessary effects of the coup. On November 2, it was announced that the two men had committed suicide (Jeffers 95). Later, the two men were found shot several times, and Nhu was also stabbed several times (83). When asked to comment, General Mihn told the Americans that there was "no other choice but to kill" them; Diem was too respected for the new regime to have power if he remained alive (84). Lodge sent a cable saying that this coup would shorten the war, and President Kennedy made the announcement, that although Diem's death was regretted, plans to win the Vietnam War would continue as planned with the new regime (Presidential Recordings Program). C. Evaluation of Sources (4 Marks) Two of the sources used were: McNamara, Robert S. In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. Random House New York, 1995.

000674031 4 This book is the memoir of President Kennedy's Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. The purpose of the memoir is to produce record of, and evaluate, the actions taken by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. This book is significantly valuable to the writing of this paper because it brings to light previously classified information about the war efforts. However, because McNamara was so intimately involved in the war efforts, the primary source has the obvious limitation of bias. The title alone, In Retrospect, suggests a level of repentance. In his preface, McNamara claims, "We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this nation. We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why," (1). Chomsky, Noam. Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture. South End Press Boston, MA, 1993. Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at MIT, wrote this book in response to his dissent to the Vietnam War. The purpose this secondary source was foremost to historically recount the progression of the war, and it was deemed valuable in this analysis due to its high level of detail. However, there is blatant bias in the work as well. Chomsky originally established himself as a prominent critic of US foreign policy during the Vietnam era ("Government in the Future"). This criticism can be seen even in the first line of the book, "The chapters that follow deal with a crucial moment in modern history, the escalation of the US war in Vietnam from state terror to aggression from 1961 through 1964, setting the stage for the far more destructive assault that followed," (1), This same syntax is found throughout the rest of his book as well.

000674031 5 D Analysis (5 Marks)

The first area to analyze is the disagreements of the US officials, which led to the chaotic and disorganized planning period before the coup. Primarily, it is pertinent to understand that Ambassador Lodge was stationed in Saigon at the time of the arrangements, and therefore did not have immediate access to the conversations between the military advisors and the president back in Washington. It is difficult to say whether his lack of presence in Washington had a great effect on plans made, but information is available to suggest that because Lodge was in Vietnam, he only received portions of the information required to make his decisions. This is where the failure to communicate begins to break down the cohesion of the war effort. McNamara claims that those in Washington that supported the coup sent cables to Lodge that suggested orders to initiate plans for a coup had come directly from the president (56). He goes on to claim that only days later, Lodge would receive cables that suggested the exact opposite (McNamara 57). This problem will later lead to the incongruence between the happenings in Vietnam and in Washington. Historians Chomsky and McNamara have differing interpretations of Lodge's motivations when creating plans with the generals in Saigon. Chomsky describes him as hesitant because of his "fear of failure; he believed that it was possible to lose the Southeast Asian position," if the US lost her position in Vietnam (80). McNamara describes Lodge as the exact opposite; he deems Lodge unprepared for the decisions he makes when he claims "(Lodge) sent a cable asking to act immediately but had still not talked to Diem about possible changes in (his) policies," (65). This disparity between these two accounts suggests that there was a lack of attention on Lodge. McNamara claims this as one of the major issues that led to the coup (70).

000674031 6 The second area to analyze is the correlation between the events in Washington and in Saigon, or rather, the lack thereof. In order for the regime to be successful, the US government and Diem would had to have been working towards similar goals. But because the US still could not decide if the removal of Diem was necessary, the generals decided to continue with their efforts to over throw him (McNamara 60) (Newman 412). Historian John Newman believes that without specifically discouraging the generals, "the US was tacitly encouraging a coup." The last area to analyze is the shock and then sudden lack of emotion towards the death of President Diem and Nhu. Newman reported Kennedy's sorrow for the brothers as unseen since "his sorrow for the bay of pigs" (414). However, Newman also claims that the speed at which Kennedy and the remainder of his staff were able to move on from the tragedy proves that this was to be expected. He reports that a cable was sent to Lodge stating, "the US would not thwart a regime change or deny economic or military assistance to the new regime if it appeared effective to the military effort," (412). With this information, Newman assumes that although the deaths of the brothers were tragic, the US was satisfied with the results of the regime change. The results of the regime change had little effect on the overall outcome of the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, the war did not end sooner, as Lodge predicted, and it did not cost any less for the Americans or the Vietnamese (McNamara 85). However, it did lead to the greater involvement of the US in the Vietnam conflict, because after the removal of Diem and Nhu, the US had more control over how the war was operated. E Conclusion (2 Marks)

Indecision and a failure to communicate were the biggest mistakes made by the US government. Because there was a division amongst the American officials as to the proper way to handle Diem's lack of cooperation, a rift was formed. The result of the rift was mixed signals being sent

000674031 7 to Lodge in Saigon, and therefore creating mass confusion. Out of this confusion came plans by a third party (the generals) to remove Diem. It cannot be claimed and thoroughly supported that the United States is solely to blame for the coup and assassination of Diem. However, it is quite clear that the Americans did not expound enough effort to ensure that all parties involved were in agreement with one another. It is this negligence that supports the idea that the United States contributed indirectly to the permanent removal of Diem. Yet it is also possible to claim that the Vietnamese generals had enough motivation to overthrow Diem without the chaos within the United States government. Even so, it is likely that the outcome of the Vietnam War would still be regrettable.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful

Master Your Semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master Your Semester with a Special Offer from Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.