Application of contact hypothesis in analyzing American combat behavior during World War II and the Vietnam War

Application of contact hypothesis in analyzing American combat behavior during World War II and the Vietnam War

The adverse effects of wars make it necessary for the conflicting parties to solve the conflicts that result to the war.  It is not easy to establish peace between conflicting parties because every team is determined to win. The parties believe that they must win the wars and this makes it hard for them to give dialogue a chance.  Further, the conflicting parties are unable to communicate effectively due to the hatred and this makes it hard for them to understand the reason for the action by the other parties.  Establishing contact between the conflicting parties is one certain way of ensuring that the parties understand each other by improving their communication systems.  There are different methods of solving conflicts between different groups, the aim of reducing the disagreements if it is impossible to end the conflict.  The effectiveness of conflict resolution in most cases is enhanced by the ability of the parties to communicate about the factors causing the disagreements.  The ability to enhance communication between the conflicting parties is the primary factor that makes the contact hypothesis effective in conflict resolution.

Contact hypothesis has been effective in solving conflicts among different institutions and it has proven to be efficient in solving the conflicts.  One of the situations where the hypothesis proved effective is during the World War II and the Vietnam War. In both wars, the United States was not directly involved in the conflict but it played a major role in supporting one of the parties involved in the war. Together with parties such as China, the country also played part in bringing peace to the warring nations. At first, it was hard to establish peaceful talks between the conflicting parties because they were determined to win the battle.  Contact hypothesis is important in enhancing the factors that hindered quick conflict resolution as well as the factors that led to peace in the end.  This paper explains the action of the American combat during the Second World War and the Vietnam War by applying the contact hypothesis.

Contact hypothesis

Conflicts between two of more parties is the primary cause of war that worsens their relations. The adverse impacts of any war justify the prevention of its occurrence and this is only possible after the conflict is solved. There are different ways of solving a conflict between warring parties, among them the use of contact hypothesis. The approach helps in bringing the conflicting parties together by making them understand the causes of their conflict and the benefits of having a healthy relationship.  The hypothesis is based on the premise that interpersonal exchanges between conflicting parties result in positive relations. In most cases prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping are the major cause of conflicts among parties, where the majority groups look down upon the minority groups.  The aim of the majority group members in such situation is making major decisions that allow them to dominate over the minority groups.  When parties are in conflict, their channels of communication are affected most leading to a communication breakdown. It then becomes hard for the conflict to be solved because none of the warring parties understands the other.

Contact hypothesis proposes that effective communication between conflicting parties is important to reduce their conflicts. The ability of the parties to communicate enhances their ability to understand the cause of conflict for each other. The parties are able to understand each other’s point of view and appreciate the differences overtime. For effective communication between the parties to be established, it is important that the dialogue is conducted in an environment that does not create tension for the parties as this may only worsen the situation.  In some cases, the conflicting parties may use the contact opportunity to insult, discriminate and argue with each other and this only intensifies the conflict making it hard to resolve. To avoid this, it is important for the parties to ensure that the contact is positive. To ensure a positive contact, the hypothesis lays down some guidelines that the conflicting parties should follow.

The first condition is that the parties must have equal status in terms of their military experience in cases of a war and economic status. The reason for ensuring that the parties are equal is to reduce the possibility of a perception that one party may be favored to the other. When operating at the same level, it is possible for the parties to agree on the best course of action easily.  The second condition is that the warring parties must ensure that their goals are similar. In most cases, the end of a conflict is resolved by adoption of a goal that requires both parties to pool resources and work together harmoniously. In such situations, the conflict is reduced because both parties focus on a common goal.  The third condition requires the parties to cooperate in their efforts to reach the common goal.  The fourth condition proposes that the groups should identify an authority that guides their relations. Examples of such authority include civil law and customs.  The last condition is the formal interaction between the parties so that they understand each other.  Without having a close interaction, the parties may never solve the existing conflict.  The more positive contact between parties, the higher the chances of reducing their conflict.

World War II

Similar to its role in the Vietnam War, the United States was not directly involved in the war.  The main causes of the war were not directly linked to the United States. One of the primary forces that led to the war was the fight against fascism in Italy where the people wanted a more democratic rule. The other cause of the war was Japanese militarism, where the nation believed that its military superiority was adequate to conquer other nations (McPherson 138). The other factor was the need by the Chinese to expand and spread the culture of communism across the world. The attack of the Nazi by Germans was also a major cause of the war, but the United States was not involved yet until the bombing by Japanese in 1941.  The bombing targeted the United States’ naval center and it resulted to an immediate action of the United States.  The country declared war on Japanese and in turn, German declared its attack, leading to the involvement of the United States in the war.

The Vietnam War

For more than two decades since 1954, the communities in the North and South Vietnam experienced a warfare that left the communities negatively affected (McPherson 96).  The war caused massive destruction through loss of lives and property. It affected the economic, social, political and psychological welfare of the people. The war was a protracted military conflict between the North and South Vietnamese combats, but the conflict affected the citizens in both regions negatively.  The source of the conflict was the opposition of communism structure that was adopted by the Northern communities. The communists were the party that began the conflict because they started fighting the South.  The South were opposed to this and they requested assistance from the United States forces to conquer the North. The military men from the North also had support from the Chinese forces. Although the Chinese and the Americans were not directly involved in the conflict, they were adversely affected by the involvement in war.  Communism was the primary problem of the South and they waged an anti-communism campaign against the North. The Northern leaders were determined to make the system operational.  Communism entailed eliminating social classes in the society by requiring that all resources should be owned by the public.

Initially, the North and the South regions in Vietnam were one region but they were partitioned following the Geneva convention in 1954 (Fromkin 63). By the time this partition occurred, the North had recovered the adverse economic impacts of the war.  The communism rule in the region was effective in helping the residents construct roads, school and healthcare facilities.  The region was also well prepared in case of war and it invested in training the military to avoid defeat. During the same time, the South had established a good relationship with United States and it hoped to get adequate military support in case of war.  The main goal of the South was to establish an identity that would be distinct from the communism society in the North.  The region had a high population as it hosted the refugees from the North and was thus confident that it would succeed in its mission to establish an identity (Kindsvatter 132).  While the South was obsessed with the idea of establishing identity in the region, the North had a goal of reunifying Vietnam.  The communism rule used in the region motivated the leaders to unify Vietnam, with a view of developing Vietnam’s economic status.  Due to the adverse effects of the war, it was important to resolve the conflicts between the South and the North.  In efforts to establish peace in the region, the Paris Peace Accord was established and it was effective in solving the conflicts.  It succeeded in establishing peace in the region and forced the United States to withdraw its combat from the region.



Application of the contact hypothesis

The contact hypothesis is involved with the processes used in conflict resolution. In the Second World War, the United States combat was involved in the war only after it was attacked by the Japanese. The main conflict was between the United States and the Japanese because of the attack. To end the conflict, the Japanese delegation surrendered the war and this was as a result of formal consultations with the United States combat. The contact hypothesis proposes that for conflicting parties to solve their issues, there must be a formal communication system to explain the causes of conflict.  Through the formal meetings between the United States and the Japanese delegates, the parties were able to understand each other’s course of actions. Japanese delegates explained that the motive for their attack on the United States was to prevent the nation from interfering with the Japanese military actions at the Pacific.  Prior to the attack by Japanese, the United States had frustrated the efforts by Japanese to cut off supplies to China where it aimed at weakening the nation. Through the formal meetings by the United States and the Japanese delegations, the two parties agreed on the way forward in relation to ending the war.  This led to the signing of the surrender document by the Japanese delegations.

The formal negotiations between the two parties were successful because they followed the guidelines proposed by the contact hypothesis. The countries were able to establish healthy talks about ending the war because they considered equality in their delegations.  During the time, the military and economic power by the two nations was almost equal thus they had positive perception on power during the meetings (Fromkin 256). The other condition that the two parties fulfilled was the common goal. Both countries were interested in ending the war as it had brought negative consequences to their economies.  The other condition is cooperation between the warring parties that made it easier for the countries to arrive at a solution. The parties were also able to establish positive contact that enabled them to hold peaceful negotiations.  The positive contact established by the parties ensured that they did not insult or treat each other with prejudice. The other condition that the parties were able to meet is establishing a support authority. The negotiations between the United States and Japan was guided by the rule of law that forbid both countries from engaging in activities that would result in destruction of property or loss of lives.

The United States also played an active role in the Vietnam War, by supporting the South.  At the end of the war, the two regions adopted the communism structure that was initially opposed by the South and they agreed to end the war. The United States combat complied with the requirement to withdraw from the war as a way of restoring peace in the country (Conboy and Andradé 113).  At the beginning, the negotiations between the North and the South were unproductive because the parties did not follow the guidelines by the contact hypothesis.  The result was negative contact that only served to accelerate the conflicts between the two parties.

One of the main reasons that led to negative contact by the two parties is the fact that they had different goals. The South wanted to establish identity while the North was interested in reuniting the region. The other reason that led to the failure of the parties to agree is the failure to establish a common authority to support the intentions of the two regions. However, the United States combat agreed to withdraw from the war because they were made to understand fully the importance of unifying Vietnam. The good communication between the parties and the United States combats led to its withdrawal that ended the war.  With no support from the United States, the South was able to end the war and agreed to the demand by the North to embrace communism.




Conboy, Kenneth J., and Dale Andradé. Spies and Commandos: How America Lost the    Secret War in North Vietnam. University Press of Kansas, 2000.

Fromkin, David. The King and the Cowboy: Theodore Roosevelt and Edward the Seventh,            Secret Partners. Penguin, 2008.

Kindsvatter, Peter S. American Soldiers: Ground Combat in the World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. University Press of Kansas, 2003.

McPherson, James M. The War that Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters.        Oxford University Press, USA, 2015.