Evaluate the reasons for Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War
By Vanessa Song.
The defeat of the German and Japanese in WWII did not bring upon the expected times of peace, but instead a new conflict called the Cold War arose between those of Democratic and Communist countries. During the post-war period, Communism was viewed as a threat to Australian democracy because of the way rights and freedoms were taken away from citizens. The most vital reason upon which the Australians decided to fight in Vietnam was the Perceived threat of communism, followed by the ANZUS treaty of 1951 and the SEATO treaty of 1954, closer ties with our 'Great and Powerful friends' particularly the United States, Forward defence, the request from the Vietnamese Government and finally support for non-communists in Vietnam for Humanitarian reasons.
PARAGRAPH 2 – The Percieved Threat Of Communism
An exceptionally important reason for Australia's commitment in Vietnam was the percieved threat of communism. Australians had a dominant fear of communism and this fear was enforced and fed by the Australian Government and Media, things like the obsession of Reds under the bed which was the allusion that the 'reds' (communists) were everywhere and plotting a revolution, as well as the use of propaganda as a political platform, Australia had experienced 20 years of the Liberal Govt. enforcing the fear of communism, and there was also a belief and fear of the Domino Theory, which meant that if one country fell to communism, one by one, so would those around it, Australia's fears were worsened in 1949 when China fell to communism. "Get Smart" the tv series was a form of propaganda against communism, the communists painted as the "bad guys" and the Democratics as the "Good guys", other forms of propaganda include "The Red River" and "Nearer, Clearer and Deadlier". Even the reasons mentioned below all link back to the percieved threat of communism, the Percieved threat of Communism is definitely the most vital reason upon which Australia decided to fight in the Vietnam War.
PARAGRAPH 3 – Closer Ties with The U.S
Another reason that is not as vital, but still important is the desire for closer ties with our 'Great and Powerful friends' particularly the United States. During this time of war and indecision, Australia needed to ensure it's safety and engage in closer ties with our 'Great and Powerful Friends' particularly the United States as well as "Cultivating our relationship with the United States" as stated by Percy Spender. Lyndon Johnson, the president of the United States at the time introduced the 'More Flags Campaign' in order to involve more countries in the Vietnam war, Australia was one of the first countries to volunteer to fight, in order to build up credits with the U.S, to help ensure Australia's security from future threats. The United States was a country of great power and influence, also known as a world power, Australia also desired for closer ties with the U.S in concern of the 'Domino Theory' and fears that communism would reach Australia. The desire for closer ties with the U.S, although not as important as the percieved threat of communism is still a major reason why Australia fought in the Vietnam War.
PARAGRAPH 4 – Alliances – ANZUS and SEATO
Of Slightly less importance but still linked to the reasons above was the question of alliances such as; ANZUS and SEATO. The ANZUS treaty was signed in 1951and involved; Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The SEATO treaty of 1954 was created in order to combat the threat of communism, the countries that were involved included; The U.S, Australia, New Zealand, Brittain, France, The Philipines, Pakistan and Thailand. Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam could not sign the treaty because they were included in the sections of the 1954 Geneva Convention. Although Vietnam was not a signatry of SEATO, Australia still went ahead and fought in Vietnam, communism had become a worldwide threat. Both Treaties ANZUS and SEATO had very little legal effect, the ANZUS treaty stated the requirement to "consult", this is a clear indication on the limitations on the treaties. Therefore it is clear, that while still important, the Alliances were not a vital factor that pushed Australia to fight in Vietnam.
PARAGRAPH 5 – Forward defence
Of lesser importance but still significant was the policy of Forward Defence. Robert Menzies stated; "If there is a war of our own existence it should be carried out as far from our soil as possible". The general idea of Forward defence was the need for battles to be carried on away from Australia. Menzies had sent troops to Korea and Malaya in order to enforce this belief. Forward defence wasn't the most important reason for Australia's commitment in the Vietnam war, but it was still a significant contributing factor.
PARAHRAPH 6 – Request from Vietnamese Government
The request from the Vietnamese Government was of minor importance as it was a token invitation that was received on the 29th of April, 1965, Ambassador Anderson states; "Australian Government's offer to send Vietnam an infantry batalion of 800 men with some 100 logistical personel to serve with the United States forces in assisting the defence of the Republic of Vietnam". The war in Vietnam was a civil, nationalistic war, fighting in order to become united, In actuality, Australia had no real obligation to reside in Vietnam and fight with the South, Therefore it is clear that the request from the Vietnamese government was not one of the most important reasons for Australia's commitment in the War of Vietnam.
PARAGRAPH 7 – Australia's concerns for non-communists in Vietnam
Another important reason but certainly not of the same importance of thos above would be the concern of the Australian Public for the non-communists of Vietnam. Australians would have sympathised with the Vietnamese under communist rule, as there were many freedoms that were taken away from them by the Government, this included; freedom of speech, movement, enterprise and press, the people of South Vietnam would be affected by communism particularly, economically and socially. Communist countries do not value personal freedoms and completely control the direction of one's life. The 60's and 70's was a time of great change for rights, and people were outraged by the lack of freedoms that the Vietnamese people possessed, although it was not one of the most important reasons for Australia's commitment in Vietnam it managed to fuel the fire on the fear and percieved threat of communism.
Subsequently it is clear that the prominent reason for Australia's commitment in Vietnam was the percieved threat of communism. Although there were several reasons of different importance for Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War like; the desire for closer ties, the alliances, forward defence, the request from the Vietnamese Government and Australia's concern for non-communists in Vietnam, the most significant reason for Australia's commitment in the Vietnam war was The percieved threat of communism, as all reasons can be traced back to this particular notion.