Defending American Credibility: The U.S. Commitment to the Republic of South Vietnam


Dinh M. Lai

Date of Graduation

Spring 2005


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

C. Walton


Critics of the American commitment to defend the Republic of South Vietnam argue that the United States made a vast military and political commitment in an area of little apparent geopolitical importance – an area whose political destiny would not drastically alter the overall balance of power in the bipolar international system of the Cold War. This thesis will challenge this critique of the Vietnam War by elucidating the strategic rationale that inspired the United States to support and defend the South Vietnamese government and underscoring the strategic importance of Vietnam to the United States. The research will examine the decision-making of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations to understand how the United States first got involved in Vietnam, why Vietnam represented a strategically important area to U.S. security interests, why the United States’ commitment to South Vietnam was justified, what factors compelled it to remain commitment to the South Vietnamese government, and why it finally disengaged from Vietnam. The thesis will argue that Vietnam was vital to the overall policy of containment. The country represented the cornerstone of the Free World in Southeast Asia; a Communist victory in Vietnam would imperial the survival of other free nations in Southeast Asia and would strike a devastating blow to the strategic interests of the United States. It would result in further Communist aggression, not only in Southeast Asia but in other parts of the free world as well. The primary objective of the United States in Vietnam was to honor the strategic principles of the containment policy and demonstrate American’s credibility as a military power and reliable ally, thereby deterring its enemies and assuring its allies around the world.


Vietnam War, containment, Southeast Asia, Communism, Cold War

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Dinh M. Lai