chapter  5
23 Pages

Enter the Dragon: China, the United States, and the Conflict in Vietnam

The ominous precedent of the Korean War guided the Vietnam decisionmaking process: the fear of military intervention by the People's Republic of China (PRC) was a major ingredient shaping US policy in the conflict. Worries about possible intervention by China impacted many aspects of US warmaking in Vietnam, and fear of the communist giant played an important part in all decisions on escalation. In their effort to avoid provoking the PRC, US policymakers conducted the war in Vietnam in a fashion so unsound militarily that the US effort in that country was fundamentally undermined. Concerns about the provocation of China affected US bombing strategy, policy relating to Laos and Cambodia, and, especially, the debate over direct military action against North Vietnam.