Australia and the Vietnam war

Essay by imteazHigh School, 11th gradeA-, June 2004

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On the 29th of April 1965, Australia Prime Minister Menzies formally announced Australia's participation in the Vietnam War and explained it in the following terms:

The takeover of South Vietnam would be a direct military threat to Australia and all the countries of South and Southeast Asia. It must be seen as part of a trust by Communist China between the India and Pacific Oceans.

Furthermore, Menzies highlighted that Australia's commitment was a direct response to the request of South Vietnam Government. Although, Menzies took trouble to emphasize the independence of Australia's decision and commitment, he flourished President's Johnson's letter of appreciation rather ostentatiously. But, political statements being political contain only shades of truth.

Since then historians have debated on factors leading to Australia's involvement. Peter Edwards views the Vietnam commitment as a 'culmination of twenty years of Australian involvement in Southeast Asia.' As such, he feels that the Indonesia Confrontation had sizeable ramifications on Australia's Vietnam decision.

While other historians certainly do not discount Australia's long involvement with Southeast Asia and its associated effects, Glen St J. Barclay gives a new twist to the question in suggesting that Australia's commitment might have momentous effect on the American decision. Gregory Pemberton disagrees because he feels that 'Australia's support was not the decisive factor...but it was an important reassurance.' Nevertheless, Pemberton dismisses Australia's contribution as 'nothing more than political hyperbole.'

Suffice to say, most historians'concerns can be summarized into the following questions. How important were long term factors (Australia's experiences with Southeast Asia) as opposed to immediate factors (the urgency in gaining political clout with United States)? Next, how viable were concepts such as 'insurance policy' and 'mighty friends' in explaining Australia's foreign policy? Finally, why were dogmatic arguments such as the 'domino theory' waved as the proverbial...