The Korean War showed the American government that the communist threat was not restricted to Europe.
Two regions in particular, appeared vulnerable to communism, Indo-China and Latin America. Indochina had been colonized by the French in the late 19th Century but had been lost to Japan during the Second World War. Resistance groups set-up to fight the Japanese often contained supporters of the communist party and after the allied victory in 1945, France attempted to reestablish control.
Western governments feared that if France was unsuccessful in this, communism might spread throughout the whole of South East Asia.
The same reasoning was applied to Latin America after guerrilla fighters, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, overthrew Fulgencio Batista, the right-wing dictator of Cuba in 1959.
- To justify his support for South Vietnam, President Dwight Eisenhower and Vice-President Richard Nixon put forward the 'domino theory'.
- It was argued that if the first domino is knocked over then the rest topple in turn.
- Applying this to South-east Asia he argued that if South Vietnam was taken by communists, then the other countries in the region such as Loas, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia, would follow.
John F. Kennedy was elected president of the United States in November, 1960. In the first speech he made to the American public as their President, Kennedy made it clear that he intended to continue Elsenhower's policy of supporting Ngo Dinh Diem and his South Vietnamese government. He argued that if South Vietnam became a communist state, the whole of the non-communist world would be at risk. If South Vietnam fell, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Philippines, New Zealand and Australia would follow. If communism was not halted in Vietnam it would gradually spread throughout the world.
Kennedy went on to argue: "No other challenge is more deserving of our effort and energy... Our security may be lost piece by piece, country by country." Under his leadership, America would be willing to: "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty."
Just a Thought