The Vietnam War was a long and costly armed conflict between the communist regime of North Vietnam, who joined forces with its southern allies, also known as the Viet Cong, and South Vietnam and their principal ally, known as the United States of America. The war began in 1954 after the accession to power of Ho Chi Minh and his communist Viet Minh party in North Vietnam. This continued against the backdrop of what is known as an intense Cold War between two global superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union. There was growing hatred by the people in America towards the war, both before and after President Richard Nixon ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1973. After all American soldiers were withdrawn from South Vietnam, the communist forces took control of Saigon in 1975, which ended the Vietnam War. The South and North then merged and were known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
After World War II, both the United States and the Soviet Union were competing against each other for global power and domination. Afghanistan was one of the countries that sought support from the Soviet Union after Pakistan accepted military ties with the United States in 1954. In return, the Soviet Union used Afghanistan for its strategic location in order to counter the United States’ alliance with Pakistan and the other surrounding Persian Gulf States. It was in 1979 when the Soviets entered Afghanistan with the aim of establishing a key position in Asia. The Soviets wanted to use Afghanistan for trading possibilities and to have access to Gulf oil. Afghanistan was a very vulnerable monarchy at the time, led by King Zahir Shah, who was unable to merge the existing tribal society with a central government. Due to the incapability of merging the tribal society with a central government, a revolt was eventually caused against the monarchy. The Soviets imposed rigorous military and social reforms in the country that began to make enemies within the different sectors of the population soon after their entry into Afghanistan.
The Soviets initiated land reforms, which ended up troubling the tribal leaders. They also carried out economic measures that worsened the conditions for the poor, and they tried to restrict ethnic uprisings by mass arrests, torture, executions, and bombardments. Over 1 million Afghans died during this devastating period. The suppression of all these events was led by Afghan freedom fighters, also known as Mujahedeen, who were supported by the United States. After all the fighting in Afghanistan between the Soviets and the Mujahedeen, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew his forces from Afghanistan.
There are quite a few similarities between these two wars. Both wars involved major powers theoretically fighting much inferior opponents, and in each case, the major power lost due to the use of guerrilla tactics by their opponents. Both nations’ real opponents supplied the opposing side in each war, with the United States providing supplies to the Mujahideen to fight against the Soviets, and the Soviets providing supplies to the Viet Cong to fight against the United States. Each of these wars destabilized the government in the major power nations’ own country. The Soviet government fell apart, and Gorbachev soon took power in the Soviet Union. Vietnam destroyed the Johnson administration, which led to the election of Nixon. The major power countries went in assuming that the invaded country would be eager to change and adopt the governmental style and economic philosophy of the major power country.
Major power countries have a bad habit of thinking that everyone else wants to be just like them, but in most cases, this is not true. Both of these wars lasted over 10 years, and both major power nations (the United States and the Soviet Union) ended up on the losing side after the war. As there are similarities between the wars, there are also plenty of differences between these two wars. While the Soviet Union had interests in Afghanistan’s location for its trading possibilities and gulf oil, the United States had no interest in Vietnam’s location whatsoever. The United States was just largely concerned with trying to prevent the Soviet Union’s spread of Communism. The Soviet Afghan War ended when the Soviets left the territory, whereas the Vietnam War continued after the United States left South Vietnam to fight the war by itself.
After the United States left, South Vietnam was able to hold off North Vietnam for two years until the North Vietnamese troops took over Saigon, which now goes by the name of Ho Chi Minh City. There is also another difference in how the wars came to an end. People, mostly consisting of students, in the United States were starting to protest against the war in Vietnam. Former President Nixon ended the war in Vietnam because a loss in votes was at a greater cost to him than what the benefits would have been if they had ended up winning the war. In contrast, in the Soviet Union, the people had no say whatsoever regarding whether the Soviets should back out of the War in Afghanistan. Nobody really knows why Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew his troops from Afghanistan.
The citizens of Vietnam were affected differently after the Vietnam War depending on which side of the war they were fighting for. On both sides, houses were destroyed, families were split apart, and everyone lost someone they loved during the war. On April 30th, 1975, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell under the control of North Vietnam. When this happened, complete confusion took over the South, and thousands of South Vietnamese citizens rushed to the US military base located in South Vietnam in an attempt to escape from Vietnam. Thousands of South Vietnamese citizens tried to climb over the walls of the military base, hoping the United States would offer support in helping them withdraw from the country. The United States military was forced to beat the citizens off the wall.
For those citizens who weren’t able to escape the country via helicopter with the United States Army, many of them took boats and tried floating out of Vietnam. A few others tried walking through Cambodia, and others who weren’t able to escape were just stuck in a country they didn’t want to be a part of. When talking to the Vietnamese people, you can still see the effect the war had on them. The people in the North denote this day differently from those in the South. In the North, they refer to this day as a day of Liberation or Reunification, while in the South, the people denote this day as the Day We Lost Our Country. It is pretty much impossible to express the depth of sorrow and the full impact the war had on all the Vietnamese in text.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in order to encourage a pro-Communist government, nobody could have predicted the far-reaching effects that would be felt around the world decades later. What immediately followed the invasion was a 10-year civil war in the country, where Soviet troops fought against the Afghan freedom fighters, also known as the Mujahedeen. This war in Afghanistan ended up becoming a holy war and a rallying point for many Muslims within the country. The conflict drew many young men from across the Muslim population to fight on the side of the guerrillas. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, mosques, schools, and boarding houses served as recruiting stations in many parts of the world, including the United States.” The war was basically a virtual tie for about 7 years. But eventually, a turning point broke out in 1986 when the United States and Great Britain decided to supply the Afghan guerrillas with surface-to-air missiles.
This weaponry gave the ground forces of the guerillas a fighting chance against Soviet air power. The 9/11 Commission Report declares that, together with Saudi Arabia, the United States supplied the rebel Afghan groups resisting the Soviet occupation with billions of dollars’ worth of secret assistance. The Afghans declared victory in April 1988, and the Soviet troops began to withdraw in the early stages of the year after. This was all possible because of the support they received from different countries. Even though the war was over, it fueled an extremist Islamic ideology and put into place an organization out of which a powerful and deadly terrorist network was developed.
In my opinion, we all need to learn to be more respectful of the importance of recognizing the history, culture, and values of their lands and peoples. We should not be in such a hurry to convert others to our way of thinking and doing certain things.
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National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.” National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
Hauner, Milan L. JSTOR. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
The Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
Afghanistan, Vietnam, and the Superpowers.” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.