There were a number of reasons why Australia committed itself to the Vietnam War. These include:
1. Domino Theory
2. Fear Of communism in Australia
3. Alliances with other world powers through ANZUS and SEATO treaties
4. The government’s defence policy was that sending troops overseas to fight prevented war being fought on our own soil
The Domino Theory was a belief that if one country was taken over by communists, surrounding countries would also fall to communist domination. Hence the Domino Theory, where countries were compared to a line of dominos that would fall one after the other if pushed.
Russia had been under a communist regime since 1917 and many of the countries surrounding were absorbed into the USSR (Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic). China became a communist state under the chairmanship Mao Zedong. By 1949, communism had spread from the Baltic Sea in the West to the Pacific Ocean in the East.
American leaders were concerned that communism would spread even further into the countries of South East Asia. It had already spread to North Vietnam and there was fear that other countries in the region – Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia - would also fall under communist rule just like a row of dominos.
South Vietnam remained under non-communist rule but was threatened by domination from the communist North. United States decided to send troops to Vietnam to support the government of South Vietnam in its fight against the communists.
Fear of communism was another factor, which led to Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The rapid spread of communism from country to country made Australians fearful that their own country would also be taken over by this system and that it would affect their way of life. In the 1950’s Australians enjoyed prosperity with high employment rates and economic and political stability. There was a fear that this way of life would be destroyed by communism.
As well as the external threat, Australians also feared a communist takeover from within their own society. Communism was portrayed as a disease, ‘the red peril’ which was intended to destroy the Australian way of life. Many immigrants were arriving in Australia from Europe, including some of the newly - established communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Australians were suspicious of these foreigners and believed they were plotting to take over Australia. There was also fear of the influence of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA).
The CPA was blamed for a number of strikes which affected Australian industry, and it was believed that the Party had infiltrated labour unions. Support for the Labor Party diminished and the Liberal Country Party, which fuelled the fear of communism, dominated the Australian political scene. Attempts to ban the Communist Party by Prime Minister Robert Menzies failed as the judges said there was not enough evidence of a threat to Australia.
However, the fear remained that communists were everywhere and waiting for a chance to start a communist revolution
The popular belief was that Australia joined the Vietnam War for the sole purpose of stopping Communism. However, there are other factors which influenced Australia’s decision to commit troops to the war. One of these was that Australia was allied with other world powers through the ANZUS and SEATO treaties. A further factor was the government’s defence policy that sending troops overseas to fight prevented war being fought on our own soil.
The decision to join the Vietnam conflict was partly based on alliances formed during the 1950s. During World War II, the United States, Australia and New Zealand formed a joint force to protect the Pacific countries from invasion by the Japanese. At the conclusion of the war the three countries recognised the need to prevent against an armed attack in the Pacific area. In September 1951, the Australia, New Zealand, United States