American leaders have been opposed to communist ideals even since
1848 when Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published some of the
doctrines of communism. This is because the communist system of
government limits private ownership of property, allowing more people
to share in a nation's wealth. This system directly opposes the
United State's capitalist system, which advocates free enterprise and
private ownership. The two systems cannot exist in the same
country at the same time because individuals and businesses who own
private property will lose it to the government.
At first, communism didn't pose a great threat to the United States
and other capitalist nations. However, following World War II,
things had changed. The Soviet Union had taken control of
eastern Europe and set up communist "satellite"
nations. In 1949, fears of communism increased when communist
forces took control of China. This event stunned the United
States, when communist forces had now seized control of the most
populous nation in the world. It also meant that communist
forces now controlled an unbroken mass of territory that stretch from
central Europe, across Asia, to the Pacific Ocean.
American officials began to use the term domino theory to describe
the communist threat in Asia. They believed if the communists
were able to gain control of a country, then the surrounding
countries would also fall prey to communism. They applied this
theory to Vietnam, where Vietnamese communists would eventually topple
governments in surrounding nations, such as Laos and Cambodia,
eventually giving rise to a totally communist Indochina.
In 1950, the U.S. formally announced its policy of containment,
following the invasion of South Korea by communist North Korea.
This policy frankly said the United States would provide both economic
and military aid to those countries that required assistance in
repelling communist forces.
Meanwhile, both the governments of the Soviet Union and China had
officially recognized Ho Chi Minh's government as the legal government
of Vietnam. As the U.S. increased aid to the French, who
controlled South Vietnam, the Soviet Union and China increased their
support of the Vietminh, which ruled North Vietnam. As 1950 drew
to a close, an all-out battle between the Vietminh and the French was