SoluProb™: Vietnam Escalation by USA


Student Author

Andrew Calloway, Chapman University

NOTE: Student submissions of soluprobs are welcomed at

ANOTHER NOTE: I posted an earlier piece on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and this student submission brings additional evidence to the discussion.

Background Narrative

After World War II, the United States was involved in a Cold War with the Soviet Union. The United States began to adopt the foreign policy of containment that was implemented throughout the 1940s-1960s. The containment policy was the effort in “trying to prevent the Soviet communism from expanding its empire.” (Rosati, Jerel A. & Scott, James M. 2014:29-32)

The containment policy was proposed in the Truman Doctrine in 1947 when containing communism in Greece and Turkey. Hodgson a political analyst described the Truman Doctrine as containing “the seeds of American of economic aid, economic or military, to more than one hundred countries; of mutual defense with more than forty of them…” (Hodgson 1976:32) Other academics believe the containment policy led to national security concerns influencing United States foreign policy for the entirety of the Cold War.

Presumed Problem

In the 1950s the United States began to worry after the creation of the People’s Republic of China and the beginning of communism in the Asian continent. This was also shown in the conflict in Korea during 1950-1953.

In February 1950, the National Security Council (NSC) passed NSC document 64 stating that Indochina was “a key area under immediate threat.” Again in 1952, the NSC passed another document on Indochina, NSC document 68. In 1954, President Eisenhower brought up the domino theory in one of his speeches, this belief was if Vietnam fell into communism, then neighboring countries in Southeast Asia will fall under communist rule as well, most particularly Laos and Cambodia. This idea brought a more militaristic approach in containing communism and increased United States involvement in Vietnam throughout the 1950s-1960s. (Kissinger, Henry 2003:13-20)

By the end of the Eisenhower administration in 1960, Eisenhower warned John F. Kennedy of the conflict of Vietnam as crucial. Eisenhower did not want the domino theory to become a reality. Under the Kennedy administration, stopping communism in Vietnam became a huge political interest, and would be considered a victory for the United States against the Soviet Union in political ideologies. According to Kissinger, by the time President Kennedy took office, there were 900 American military personnel in Vietnam, 3,164 in 1961, and almost tripled to 16,263 by 1963. (Kissinger 2003:34)

north_vietnamese_p-4_under_fire_from_uss_maddox_2_august_1964The escalation and political controversy in Vietnam began in August 1964 when news came back to the United States that North Vietnamese forces attacked the destroyer USS Maddox near the Gulf of Tonkin, this would later be called the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and led to a push for further military involvement in Vietnam by elected officials in Washington D.C. (Kissinger 2003: 35)

Solution to the Problem

The Gulf of Tonkin incident took place on August 2, 1964, two days later on August 4, President Johnson announced the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and it immediately passed on August 7, giving Johnson the authority to increase U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The Tonkin Gulf resolution gave Johnson and Nixon legal basis for implementing military policies in Vietnam since the resolution was approved by the legislative branch of the U.S. government. The resolution was passed almost unanimously, the House vote was 416-0, and the Senate vote was 88-2. The two Senators who opposed the resolution were Democratic senators Wayne Morse of Oregon, and Ernest Gruening of Alaska. (Public Law 88-408, 88th Congress, August 7, 1964)

The solution to the Gulf of Tonkin incident would become a major setback for the United States in preventing communism, and a huge drop in public opinion regarding both the Vietnam War and approval of the United States government. The signing and approval from Congress expanded the powers of the Executive branch as stated in the resolution that the President as Commander in Chief should “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States.” The next two sections of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution addresses the U. S. national interest and bringing peace and security to Southeast Asia. This later became a problem when Congress lacked sufficient knowledge of the situation and was unable to affect the military policies passed by the President later into the conflict. (Public Law 88-408, 88th Congress, August 7, 1964)


Empirical Evidence that the Problem did not exist

According to Lieutenant Commander Pat Paterson of the U.S. Navy stated that some of the information of what happened at the Gulf of Tonkin was “cloaked” and not really explained in the decision making process between the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and President Johnson in 1964. Recent documents of classified information being released in 2005 and 2006 have revealed many facts of what really happened in the Gulf of Tonkin incident and have helped historians reconstruct the incident.

In one of the reports by the NSA it states the second attack did not happen at the night of August 2, 1964. But by 1965 President Johnson has issued air raids and bombing campaigns under the codename Rolling Thunder, the United States began to use as much force possible to end the war quickly. This proved to not be the case as much as 500,000-600,000 American troops were committed in the Vietnam War by 1969.

The war began to be costly as it became to be estimated as much $173 billion was spent, and about 58,220 Americans dead, and 1,643 missing. It is still a problem today with Vietnam war veterans suffering from PTSD. (Kissinger 2003: 36-38) (Naval History Magazine 2008: Volume 22 Number 1)

Consequences of the “Solution”

With the evidence provided, the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the increased involvement in the Vietnam War greatly changed the powers and policy making of the United States government. Near the end of the Vietnam War (1969-1973), public opinion towards the Vietnam War, along with the Civil Rights protests, led to a strong opposition and push for bringing American soldiers back to the United States. This led to Congress becoming more aggressive in its constitutional powers during times of war and conflict.

Congress became a more rational political actor during the Nixon administration, and began to analyze the cost and benefits of the Vietnam War as it was reaching its fourth US president being involved with the conflict. A hypothesis by Burstein, and Freudenburg stated that “Congress will respond to public opinion.” It must have been public opinion with its strong opposition that made Congress turn against the Vietnam War, and ignore the political decisions made back in 1964. (Burstein, Paul & Freudenburg, William 1978:99-122)

By 1969, the policy of “Vietnamization” was proposed by the Nixon administration, even though Nixon opposed the idea to an extent. Nixon feared the image of American troops withdrawing from Vietnam as a loss for the United States and a victory for the communist regimes. The resolution was passed and by 1973 almost all American troops had withdrawn from Vietnam, and that same year Congress passed the War Powers Resolution stating that the President should consult with Congress in regard to decisions that engage U.S. forces and military.

In conclusion, the Vietnam War did have its negative consequences in casualties and the cost of funding for almost two decades, but at the same time it did reinforce the Constitutional powers and limitations on both the legislative and executive branches. Public opinion also stepped in to have a say on the war with the peace protests, and how people began to pay more attention to the government and its decisions on the war as it was the first televised conflict, with live coverage.

The Vietnam War with its complexities changed the way the public and politicians view foreign intervention for the remainder of the Cold War and leading up to the 21st century. As quoted by General Fred C. Weyand in 1976, “When the Army is committed the American people are committed, when the American people lose their commitment it is futile to try to keep the Army committed.” (Summers, Harry G. 1995:11-15)


Burstein, Paul & Freudenburg, William 1978. Changing Public Policy: The Impact of Public Opinion, Antiwar Demonstrations, and War Costs on Senate Voting on Vietnam War Motions The University of Chicago Press

Kissinger, Henry 2003. Ending the Vietnam War: A History of America’s Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War Simon & Schuster Inc.

Moise, Edwin E. 1996. Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War University of North Carolina Press

Paterson, Pat 2008. Naval History Magazine: The Truth About Tonkin Volume 22, Number 1, U.S. Naval Institute

Rosati, Jerel A. & Scott, James M. 2014. The Politics of United States Foreign Policy Cengage Learning Inc.

Summers, Henry G. 1995. On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War Presidio Press

Tonkin Gulf Resolution; Public Law 88-408, 88th Congress, August 7, 1964. General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives

SoluProb™: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell


Student Author

Kunal Sharma, Chapman University

NOTE: Student submissions of soluprobs are welcomed at

The Presumed Problem

This paper will examine the fundamental reasoning of opposition many Americans and legislators had towards gays serving in the military, and whether those notions had any basis whatsoever. While one can simply guess whether personal ideals or even political affiliation plays a role in one’s opinions towards the issue, the official reasoning according to Title 10 of the United States Code (which has since been repealed) concluded that homosexuals “would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability”.

Solution to the Presumed Problem

Many times taxpayer money has been wasted funding policy proposals that claim to “fix” a supposed but nonexistent problem. Many times these solutions have done more damage than good. In an effort to block homosexuals from assimilating into our armed forces, the Clinton gay-guys-loveAdministration enacted the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, which mandated that openly homosexual citizens were barred from enlisting while those who remained closeted were able to serve contingent that they keep their orientation private. Reasoning behind this inequitable act included undocumented perceptions on gays lacking the ability to work and interact productively with others (straight or gay) in the military. Relying on analyses from multiple scholarly journals, this paper aims to scrutinize original research prompting the policy, as well as any ramifications resulting from it. Granted while President Bill Clinton expressed the DADT as a “major step forward” from previous enlistment requirements, the corollary that followed 1994 could have been avoided if the initial presumed perceptions of homosexuals had been debunked.

Evidence the Problem Doesn’t Exist

But do homosexuals provide an “unacceptable risk” to our armed forces?

According to the American Psychological Association, they do not. The organization’s official stance on the policy was that: “Empirical evidence fails to show that sexual orientation is germane to any aspect of military effectiveness including unit cohesion, morale, recruitment and retention.” soldiersFurthermore, revoking the right to be honest of one’s sexual orientation can actually foster harmful results as there are many proven benefits from disclosing this information (Kavanagh, 1995). The military had expressed concerns of “unit cohesion”, implying that heterosexuals will find difficulty integrating with open homosexuals, and may even refuse to work with them. However, one in three American adults know an uncloseted homosexual, and those with continuing relationships with gays tend to express positive attitudes towards gay people as a group (Herek, 1988). In his research, Dr. Gregory Herek also concluded that “ongoing interpersonal contact in a supportive environment where common goals are emphasized and prejudice is clearly unacceptable is likely to foster positive feelings toward gay men and lesbians.”

The policy also fails to be representative of public opinion, with polls showing almost 8/10 Americans supporting openly gay citizens to serve in the military (CNN, 2010). Public polls conducted from more conservative outlets produced similar results, with over 60% in favor of openly gay people enlisting in the armed forces (Fox, 2003). In addition, maintaining a favorable public opinion of military is vital for recruitment and public backing behind critical and controversial operations. By integrating open homosexuals into the military, public opinion of our armed forces does not decline in the slightest way (Belkin, 2007). Many misconceptions surrounding homosexuality have dominated outlooks towards their community. Contrary to (some) popular beliefs, there is no evidence to support claims that homosexuals are less able to control their sexual desires and inhibit higher frequencies of sexual activity. In fact, homosexual men and their heterosexual counterparts have virtually identical sexual patterns in regards to regularity of sexual activity (National Defense Research Institute, 1993).

Consequences of the Solution

Implementation of the policy overwhelmingly fostered more unfavorable moneyconsequences than good. Externalities such as higher military costs, lower retention rates, less favorable opinions on the military, etc. all played a role in Congress’ decision to repeal the DADT in 2010.

Shortages in enlistment is no new phenomenon, but following the DADT’s implementation, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported spending over $95.1 million in attempts to train replacements for discharged soldiers from 1994-2003. Recruiting costs also exceeded over $95.4 million during this period. Yet, the United States Military Academy (USMA) and University of California Blue Ribbon Commission concluded these numbers were extremely conservative of the actual repercussions. The true estimates of departure costs following the DADT exceeded over $363 million, which includes recruiting, separation, and training costs (USATODAY, 2016).

In attempts to recruit, the military also lost over 4,000 LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) members annually following the policy. Furthermore, 19.6% of LGB separations can be attributed to their inability to be open about sexual orientation (Gates, 2007). Loss in personnel had repercussions that weren’t simply costs. The U.S. military’s enlistment of convicted felons approximately doubled from 2004-2006 when the Department of Defense announced their goals to enlist over 92,000 men and women to the armed forces (Boucai, 2007). Lowering their standards was an expected consequence, as with the departure of openly gay soldiers led to shortages in Arabic and Persian speaking departments (which were already shorthanded), as well as the loss of highly trained LGB personnel (Benjamin 2007).

Considering its public presence, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell garnered little to no favorable media exposure and left the military vulnerable to open criticism for following a policy that did not align with commonly held beliefs by the American public (Belkin 2007).

Following the overwhelming literature in favor of overturning the policy, public discussion over the issue grew. President Barack Obama, upon a 65-31 senate vote to repeal DADT, officially signed the repeal into law in late 2010. Finally, after over 15 years of shooting ghosts, our government adhered to documented research to overturn an unjustified law.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy


Belkin, A. (2007). ” Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: Does the Gay Ban Undermine the Military’s Reputation?. Armed Forces & Society.

Benjamin, S. (2007, June 8). Don’t Ask, Don’t Translate – The New York Times.

Boucai, Michael. 2007. ‘Balancing “Your Strengths against Your Felonies”: Considerations for Military Recruitment of Ex-Offenders.’ The Michael D. Palm Center, University of California, Santa Barbara (CNN Poll) (Fox Poll)

Gates, G. J. (2007). Effects of” Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on Retention Among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Military Personnel.

Herek, G. M. (1988). Heterosexuals’ attitudes toward lesbians and gay men: Correlates and gender differences. Journal of Sex Research, 25(4), 451-477.

Kavanagh, K. (1995). Don’t ask, don’t tell: Deception required, disclosure denied. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law1(1), 142.

National Defense Research Institute (US), United States. Department of Defense, & Rand Corporation. (1993). Sexual Orientation and US Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessment (Vol. 323). Minnesota Historical Society.

USATODAY – Report: ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ costs $363M. (n.d.). February 14, 2006.

SoluProb™: Block Syrian Refugees


Student Author

Annika Ford, Chapman University

NOTE: Student submissions of soluprobs are welcomed at

Presumed Issue:

Granting access to Syrian refugees is a security threat to the United States because terrorists or so-called Islamic militants could gain access to the U.S. by posing as refugees. We do not have enough information about the refugees who are being settled here, and we cannot possibly screen them all.


Allow state officials to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states.


In September 2015, President Obama announced a plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. by September the following year. In August 2016, one month ahead of schedule, the United States welcomed its 10,000th refugee. However, in the months after President Obama’s announcement, governors from 30 states across the U.S. voiced strong objections to Syrian resettlement in their states, stating publicly that they would attempt to halt such actions. Some officials only expressed opposition, while state officials in Texas, Alabama, and Indiana filed lawsuits against the federal government. In Texas, state agencies argued that they had not been adequately consulted about placing refugees in their state. Officials even filed a temporary restraining order to block refugee arrival, though it was quickly overturned. In Indiana Governor Mike Pence filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, and also attempted to hinder resettlement by interfering with federal funds allotted for Syrian refugees in the state. In response, a federal appeals court countered that Governor Pence had broken the law by accepting the federal money and subsequently declining to use it for resettlement purposes.

Although the lawsuits were struck down, they reflect a wider sentiment shared by many since President Obama’s announcement. There is a nationwide feeling that the acceptance of refugees escaping a five-year civil war is “opening the doors” of our country to Islamic militants. Additionally, this narrative has been perpetuated by President-elect Donald Trump, who has described the wave of refugees as a “Trojan Horse,”calling the acceptance of Syrians into the country a potential catastrophe. This characterization is reinforced by fears spurred after recent terrorist attacks in the West, including those in France and Brussels. For example, Governor Pence’s lawyers stated that the Governor was fulfilling his responsibility to protect the safety of Indiana residents. They cited federal officials who have acknowledged that terrorists are trying to infiltrate Western nations.

Is the Problem Real?

            According to Evan Bonsall in the Harvard Political Review, the assumption that Syrian refugee resettlement is a national security threat ignores the facts. Entering the country as a refugee is already a stringent process and one of the hardest ways to enter the United States. Bonsall do-unto-otherscites Jana Mason of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who reported that those attempting to enter the U.S. under refugee status are the single most heavily screened and vetted category of persons. The process requires referrals and background checks by multiple government agencies, including the National Terrorism Center. In addition, Syrian refugees must go through added screening, with face-to-face interviews. All gathered information is extensively fact-checked and privately investigated. The Department of Homeland Security goes through every individual case, and approves or rejects each one accordingly.

Such measures have proved highly effective in regards to blocking potential terrorists from entering the country. In 2015, the Cato Institute released a report stating that of the 859,629 refugees who have been resettled in the U.S. since 2001, three were convicted of planning an attack. In addition,

There are many differences between Europe’s vetting of asylum seekers from Syria and how the United States screens refugees. The geographic distance between the United States and Syria allows our government to better vet those seeking to come here, while large numbers of Syrians who try to go to Europe are less carefully vetted. A lax security situation there does not imply a lax security situation here (Nowrasteh, 2015).

not-criminalsSuch differences are important to note because recent fears of terrorist attacks in the United States have been stirred in large part by attacks that occurred in Europe. The report concludes that in the U.S., the threat of terrorist attacks by way of Syrian refugees is widely over-exaggerated because our vetting system is so thorough.

Negative Consequences

While the use of fear, exaggeration, and misinformation is certainly a negative consequence of the proposals to ban Syrian refugees, worst still is the added fuel to the anti-Muslim hysteria that already plagues this country. Meanwhile, the safety of Muslims who are living this country is increasingly threatened by violence, bigotry, and over-generalizations.


Bonsall, E. (2015). Are Syrian Refugees Really a Security Risk? – Harvard Political Review. Retrieved November 7, 2016, from

Nowrasteh, A. (2015, November 18). Syrian Refugees Don’t Pose a Serious Security Threat. Retrieved from

U.S. Is On Target To Accept And Resettle 10,000 Syrian Refugees. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2016, from

Federal Court Blocks Gov. Pence’s Attempt To Bar Syrian Refugees From Indiana. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2016, from

Court Dismisses Texas Lawsuit To Block Syrian Refugees. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2016, from

Gershman, J. (2016). Appeals Court Skeptical of Pence’s Anti-Syrian Refugee Directive. Retrieved November 7, 2016, from




SoluProb™: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution


Presumed Problem: North Vietnam escalated the war against the United States at the Gulf of Tonkin.

Beginning in 1950, American military advisors arrived in what was then French Indochina, U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with troop levels tripling in 1961 and again in 1962. U.S. involvement escalated further following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which a U.S. destroyer clashed with North Vietnamese fast attack craft, which was followed by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave the U.S. president authorization to increase U.S. military presence. 1

So the American tentative involvement in the North/South civil war in 3-guy-memorialVietnam was radically changed by the events of August 2, 1964, at the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam, near the Chinese border. As reported at the time, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats from the 135th Torpedo Squadron attacked American destroyer, USS Maddox. The Maddox was unharmed, but Navy fighters claimed to have damaged the torpedo boats.

Two days later, it was reported that North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy. As a consequence of the attacks on American naval vessels, the U. S. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized President Johnson “for the use of conventional military force in Southeast Asia.”

In 1964, 23,300 Americans were serving in Vietnam. Following the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, those numbers increased.

1964: > 23,300

1965: > 184,300

1966: > 385,300

1967: > 485,600

1968: > 536,1002

American casualties in Vietnam increased as well, and there are no dependable figures as to the number of Vietnamese military and civilians killed during the escalated war. By the time the war ended, over 57 thousand Americans had given up their lives.

How does this story rate coverage as a SoluProb: a Solution without a Problem? Declassified NSA documents now provide a detailed view of the two attacks in August, 1964, in the Gulf of Tonkin.3



A.M. The President is informed that North Vietnamese PT boats have attacked the destroyer USS Maddox in international waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. 

P.M. The President consults with his advisors, and decides not to retaliate against North Vietnam. He issues instructions:
(l) to prepare a protest note to be sent to the North Vietnamese regime and (2) to strengthen the Tonkin patrol force and to counter attack and destroy any force attempting to repeat the attacks. 4

Here we see a measured response by President Johnson and his advisors. This changed two days later.


9:12 A.M. The President is informed that North Vietnamese PT boats have launched a second attack in the Gulf of Tonkin against the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy.

Noon The President meets with the National Security Council 

1:00 P.M. The’ President has a luncheon meeting with Rusk, McNamara, McCone, Bundy and Vance. The decision is made to retaliate. 

6:15 P.M. The President reviews his decision with the National Security Council. All agree. 

6:45 P.M. The President reviews his decision with the Congressional leadership at a White House meeting. All agree. The President indicated that he will ask the Congress for a Joint Resolution on Southeast Asia.5


The Congress passed the Joint Resolution on August 7th, and the President signed it on August 10th. Thus the die was cast for what would become the longest war in American history—later surpassed in length by American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Having noted that the Tonkin Resolution was not controversial among the general public, Robert Hanyok continues:

However, within the government, the events of 4 August were never that clear. Even as the last flare fizzled in the dark waters of the South China Sea on that August night, there were conflicting narratives and interpretations of what had happened. James Stockdale, then a navy pilot at the scene, who had “the best seat in the house from which to detect boats,” saw nothing. “No boats,” he would later write, “no boat wakes, no ricochets off boats, no boat impacts, no torpedo wakes – nothing but black sea and American fire- power.” 6

The Maddox and Turner Joy crews had been prepared for trouble on August 4th. Marines at Phu Bai sent a warning of pending attack, naming the North Vietnamese vessels that would be involved. But, as Hanyok reports:

Three hours later, at almost the same moment that the American destroyers opened fire on the approaching radar return, Phu Bai issued another report which stated that the specific boats, which had been identified as being readied for an attack, in reality, were to be towed to Haiphong for repairs.

Over the years, there has evolved a near consensus that the North Vietnamese “attack” was actually sonar blips misidentified as torpedoes, an explanation confirmed by Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense at the time of the attack. As an alternative explanation, Robert Hanyok quotes President Johnson as saying, ”Hell, those damn, stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish.”

Thus the escalation of the American war effort in Vietnam was the “solution” to the “problem” of North Vietnam escalating the conflict. Except that escalation had not occurred.


In terms of lives lost, money spent, and America’s international reputation tarnished, this was a very expensive solution without a problem.




3 Mr. Marshall Wright and Mr. Sven F. Kraemer, “PRESIDENTIAL DECISIONS

THE GULF OF TONKIN ATTACKS OF AUGUST 1964,” Vietnam Information Group November I, 1968,

4 Ibid

5 Ibid

6 Robert J.Hanyok, “Skunks, Bogies, Silent Hounds, and the Flying Fish: The Gulf of Tonkin Mystery, 2-4 August 1964,” a declassified top secret article from Cryptologic Quarterly,