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M3D1 HIS 352

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South Vietnam Under Diem

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This discussion addresses the following outcomes:

  • Analyze Kennedy’s actions in escalating US involvement in South Vietnam (CO#1, CO#3);
  • Examine popular discontent in South Vietnam and the relationship between this discontent and the Diem regime’s policies (CO#1, CO#3);

From the outset, Ngo Dinh Diem was in a difficult situation as leader of South Vietnam. He knew he needed US financial and economic assistance to consolidate and retain power in South Vietnam. However, in accepting US aid, he gave rhetorical ammunition to opponents (including the NLF) who sought to characterize him as yet another Vietnamese subordinate to colonial overlords. The years spanning 1961-1963 were years of tumult in South Vietnam. Various domestic crises, an uncertain relationship with the US, and a growing insurgency were three of the primary problems Diem faced. His performance in responding to these problems were very consequential in US assessments of Diem. Kennedy, in particular, initially believed Diem to be “the best man available” for the job of leading South Vietnam. In spite of this, Diem’s inglorious demise served as commentary on his performance as leader of South Vietnam as well as the prospects for immediate US success in South Vietnam.

In this activity, you will examine Ngo Dinh Diem’s rule of South Vietnam as well as US assessments of Diem’s decisions and fitness to successfully rule South Vietnam.  Prior to completing this discussion activity, be sure to view/listen to the Module 3 Notes Presentation (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. and read Herring, Chapter 3, Viet Cong Program (1962) [PDF File size, 88 KB], Kennedy’s Letter to Ngo Dinh Diem (1961) [PDF File size, 93 KB]. After doing so, consider the following questions as you craft a post of at least 250 words:

  • Do you think Diem responded appropriately to the Buddhist protests? Why or why not?
  • Why were Ngo Dinh Nhu and Madame Nhu problematic in the minds of US policymakers?
  • Was Kennedy’s approach to Diem and South Vietnam in general sensible? If not, what “sensible” options existed at the time?
  • How did Kennedy, in not committing fully toward escalation or extrication, implicitly lead the US toward an increased involvement in Vietnam?

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