Why the US failed to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese

The US failed to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese because they saw them as sub-human in comparison. The majority of South Vietnam’s population were peasants working on the rice fields. They lived in areas lacking electricity, running water, and proper sewage and waste systems. Their small homes were made out of mud, bamboo, palm leaves and grass. The Americans saw this and couldn’t understand that anyone could live this way that was ‘alien’ to the wealthy country in which they lived. As a result, the American soldiers saw the Vietnamese as inferior and commonly treated them as Sub-human. The Americans were unable to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese because of this treatment.

In addition, the US also failed to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese because they didn’t understand Vietnam as a country. Many peasants struggled to provide food for their families. In fact, most of their farming was done communally.  The South Vietnamese worked towards the community’s interests rather than the individuals. Therefore, villagers could see how Communism would help their lives, and how easy it would to be able to adapt to this policy, as they would be given a fairer distribution of land in return. However, the American’s failed to understand or even consider that Communism would be best for Vietnam as a whole, because they wanted to defeat Communism whatever the cost for America’s interests instead. As a result, the American’s and Vietnamese failed to understand each other, as they both had different views, and the American’s lacked the background knowledge to fully comprehend the situation in Vietnam, which prevented them from helping in the most efficient way.

Finally, the Americans also failed to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese because they went about fighting in the wrong way. The American soldiers fought more in South Vietnam than in the North. This meant that many peasants had to be uprooted or live like moles in caves and tunnels, completely destroying their normal way of life. In addition to this, they began to use Agent Orange, which defoliated the surrounding jungle, in addition to the rice crops feeding the population. The chemicals and bombs that the arrogant American soldiers used suited their technical superiority. However this wasn’t the right way to win the war, as it turned several friendly or neutral Vietnamese towards Communism through antagonism. Therefore, the US were unable to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese, as they caused more friendly Vietnamese to turn to the opposition because of their fighting tactics.

Overall, the US failed to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese because of their lack of knowledge on Vietnam, both its history and its current situation. As a result, the US managed to antagonise the Vietnamese who were either on their side, or neutral, and caused them to dislike and distrust the Americans, and ultimately push them towards the Communist ‘enemy’.

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