Explain why President Kennedy believed that keeping South Vietnam free from Communism was essential for the protection of the USA’s national interests. (12 marks)
President Kennedy believed that South Vietnam should remain free from Communism because he believed that if South Vietnam fell to the Communist threat then the rest of South East Asia would follow. Kennedy believed in Eisenhower’s ‘domino’ theory, that once one country became communist then all surrounding countries would follow and it would soon spread throughout the world. Kennedy needed to stop the domino theory from happening because if many countries became communist then the USA would lose trade and therefore they would lose much of the financial and political power they had in the world. Another reason Kennedy had to keep South Vietnam free from Communism was the Truman doctrine and containment policy, this was made in 1947, however Kennedy would have followed it because otherwise he could have been accused of breaking American promises.
By the time that Kennedy became president there were already examples of why containment needed to happen, it was clear that the Communism had spread into China in 1949 and the USA had already lost North Korea, therefore if the US could stop any further spread, it would reinstate any power that they may have lost through the Korean failures. Kennedy following the Truman doctrine showed that America was committed to protecting the world from any threat that arose as well as to protect America’s economic interests. Therefore Kennedy believed that keeping South Vietnam free from Communism would allow other countries to see that America was committed in looking after the worlds interests as well as protecting their own national interests.
Arguably the most important reason why Kennedy wanted to keep South Vietnam free from Communism was because it would confirm America’s power in the world, as previously stated the US lost a lot of supporters when they pulled out of the Korean war and so wanted to prove that they were powerful enough to handle the problem of Vietnam, also America was already looking strong following the success of the Cuban blockade and therefore wanted to consolidate their power by stopping any further communist threats. This would mean that if Kennedy kept South Vietnam free from Communism then it would show the world that America was capable of controlling a volatile situation which gave them power and support from the other main powers in the world which would then boost their national interests.