3. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution

  • Created by: Alasdair
  • Created on: 20-06-17 09:45
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  • 3. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution
    • By July 1964
      • 200 Americans died in Vietnam
      • Johnson added 2500 'advisers'
      • South Vietnam's War against Communists still not going well
    • Johnson's escalations
      • Thought time came to increase US involvement in Vietnam
      • Needed congressional and public resolution
      • Believed he would obtain with Gulf of Tonkin resolution and Presidential election of 1964
    • The Gulf of Tonkin incident
      • CIA had history of sending SV teams on secret sabotage missions to NV
        • 1st half of 1964, SV gunboats raided NV's coast, American ships on espionage missions
      • Johnson used claims of NV unprovoked attacks on ships (Maddox and Turner Joy) in Gulf of Tonkin to request congressional support in avenging the attack
      • Congress believed lives of innocent US sailors had been jeopardised by NV so passed Gulf of Tonkin resolution
      • Resolution
        • Gave  President power to wage war on Vietnam
        • Stated North Vietnamese Naval units had violated international law so US (for sake of world peace and US security and because of SEATO obligations) President was authorised to take all necessary steps to help SV defend its freedom
        • Resolution would expire when President believed peace and security reigned in Southeast Asia or when Congress decided to terminate it
      • Some senator sceptical
        • One pointed out they had no choice but to support President when he said there was a crisis.
        • One said Vietnam wasn't worth it
      • Resolution passed with two-thirds of Senate empty
        • passed 88-2
    • Was Congress misled concerning resolution?
      • Critics claim Johnson + McNamara not entirely open with Congress
        • Over covert raids (US naval missions were provocative)
        • Over incident (definitely first NV attack, uncertain whether second, even Johnson admitted years later he could've been mistaken)
        • About implementation of resolution
          • Claimed administration waited for and even created incident in order to ensure passage of resolution that they prepared back in June 1964 and to enable Johnson to escalate involvement
      • In Johnson's defence
        • It was difficult to know exactly what happened in Gulf of Tonkin
        • Navy told him that there had been attacks and America would expect Commander-in-Chief to respond
        • It would be irresponsible not to have resolution ready for emergency
        • When he escalated, because he considered it necessary rather than desirable
      • Political calculations
        • Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater accusing Johnson of being soft on Communism
        • Suggestion Johnson wanted to exploit events to win over American public
        • Supposed felt trapped and if he did nothing might be called coward by Republican opponent
      • Appeared to make nation behind Johnson
        • Public approval rating rose from 42 to 72%, helped win presidential election
      • American prestige now committed to defending SV
      • Made further actions in Vietnam easier
      • Election results suggested nation was behind President in Vietnam War (landslide victory)
    • 1964 Presidential election
      • Johnson had to appeal to left-wingers and right-wingers
        • Left would accuse him of being a war-monger if he went to war in Vietnam
        • Right would accuse him of being soft on Communism if not
        • Told each side what they wanted to hear
      • Johnson avoided making War central issue
      • Landslide victory for Johnson leading to him believing he had a mandate to get involved in Vietnam

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