Provoking America: Le Duan and the origins of the Vietnam War
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Some decisions make no sense at first glance. Why did Adolf Hitler send troops into the Rhineland in 1936, when German forces were so much weaker than the French? Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor if the United States was so much stronger in military and economic might? Although scholars have puzzled over many such perplexing strategic gambits, few investigators have considered an equally peculiar decision in the Vietnam War. Why did Hanoi condone attacks against U.S. forces after the Tonkin Gulf incident? Hanoi’s policy had been to avoid a U.S. escalation. The last thing Hanoi should have wanted was to provoke a full-scale invasion by the United States, especially at such a precarious time. Nevertheless, Communist forces in South Vietnam continued to strike U.S. bases after Tonkin, when the risk of escalation was at its peak. Could Hanoi have actually believed these attacks would deter the United States? Was Hanoi not able to control southern Communists at so pivotal a moment? Or did party leaders egregiously misread their primary foe?
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/JCWS_a_00598