Why Vietnam?

  1. Orthodox interpretation: to stop communist aggression, prevent other nations from falling victim, defend ideals of freedom, protect legitimate national interests; it was "the most selfless war in all of American history . . . it was simply not to abandon friends." (Ernest R. May)
  2. Revisionist interpretation: to preserve imperialism and capitalism, impose on the world an American model by a leadership deluded with an "arrogance of power" (J. William Fulbright), to win political support for the Great Society
  3. Post-revisionist interpretation: the war was a tragic blunder; it became a "quagmire" caused by the failure to develop any alternative policy to containment.

Lessons of Vietnam?


revised 5/1/04 by Schoenherr