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Back to Cold War Conflict in Vietnam: 'The Vietnam-Era Presidency'


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Ray Osrin


Cleveland Plain Dealer

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American involvement in Vietnam was the product of the United States government’s foreign policy of “containment.” Containment refers to the financial, military and diplomatic effort to prevent the spread of communism throughout the world pursued by the United States from 1948 to 1991. The conflict in Vietnam was a proxy war of the much larger and diffuse Cold War between the US and the USSR. Fighting in Vietnam began as a civil war between communists in the North, and French-backed pro-Westerners in the South. The United States government committed itself to helping the South Vietnamese cause and preventing communist North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh from uniting Vietnam under communist rule. This commitment took many different forms in the years prior to 1964, including money, secret military presence and the training of Vietnamese armies. Beginning in 1965, the ground war escalated. By 1966 over 200,000 US troops were in Vietnam and by 1969, over 550,000. The Vietnam conflict is extremely controversial, and was so from the very beginning. Troop enlistment was made possible by the draft, which created widespread animosity among those already questioning the legitimacy of American involvement in Vietnam. Additionally, Johnson’s administration was accused of being less-than-honest when dealing with the press regarding troop casualties and battle outcomes. In this climate of hostility toward the war, the public also began questioning how long the United States would be committed to the conflict and whether there was a viable exit strategy. By the time Johnson left office in 1968, 30,000 American troops had died in Vietnam. In this cartoon, President Johnson chases the exit door of Vietnam.

Ray Osrin Collection, The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library (Reprinted by permission of the Ray Osrin Estate)