Jim RileyIn 1967 Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavy weight boxing world titles and did not fight professionally for another 4 years. The reason for this was because he refused to be drafted into the USA army to fight in the Vietnam war. Not only is this an interesting event in history but this event can be used by students when answering questions on the Vietnam war.

Questions on the Vietnam war are common in both the IGCSE and A Level courses and a typical question could be:

“The USA lost the Vietnam war due to what happened within the USA”.

 Do you agree? Discuss.

Firstly, the question is asking the student to evaluate the reasons why the USA lost the Vietnam war and not just give one reason. Importantly, the student should explain and evaluate all the reasons in their answer. A typical plan could be:

The USA lost the war due to what was happening within the USA:

  • The peace movement
  • The civil rights movement, where the student can bring in the case study of not only Muhammad Ali and why he refused to fight and how he became an icon for many other Americans, but also of Martin Luther King.
  • The USA media and the portrayal of the conflict
  • The cost of the war both in terms of lives and money and therefore the failure of the Great Society reform programme.

However, the USA also lost the war due to other factors, which were:

  • The tactics of the Vietcong and Vietminhg. guerrilla war tactics
  • The failed tactics of the USAg. search and destroy
  • Nationalism within Vietnam and the appeal of communism to many people at that time

Obviously, a book could be written on this, but what the student needs to do is write an essay under timed conditions. This means the student needs to cover all the main reasons in the time given, which would be 20 minutes in the IGCSE and 45 minutes in the A Level.

However, students can stand-out from the other students by focusing upon certain points and figures in history, which brings us back to Muhammad Ali, as he said in 1967,

“I’m expected to go overseas to help free people in south Vietnam, and at the same time my people here are being brutalized and mistreated, and this is really the same thing that’s happening over in Vietnam.”