Friday, 19 November 2010

Iraq, Vietnam and the limits of American Power

Rejecting the lessons of Vietnam, the president and his top advisers saw no limits to American power as an instrument of global transformation. They also believed that the United States would be welcomed as a liberator in Iraq, and that once victory was secured there, the rest of the Middle East would follow suit because the move toward democracy was the goal of all peoples.

Iraq, then, is not an aberration. Rather, it is part of a pattern of beliefs in U.S. foreign policy grounded in the principle that American ideals are universal and that U.S. power should support and expand those ideals around the globe.

The confidence in the power of the United States to expand American ideals required the Bush administration to reject any lessons that Vietnam had to offer. Instead of viewing the war in Vietnam as an example of the limits of American power, the Bush White House believed Vietnam was a warning that policymakers had to have the right dedication to victory.

Brigham, Robert K.. Iraq, Vietnam, and the Limits of American Power.
New York, NY, USA: Public Affairs, 2008. p 2.
http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ucreative/Doc?id=10263762&ppg=14
Copyright © 2008. Public Affairs. All rights reserved.

It was, after all, the fear of falling dominos and lofty rhetoric about America’s moral obligation to oppose communist aggression that led to the Vietnam War.

Brigham, Robert K.. Iraq, Vietnam, and the Limits of American Power.
New York, NY, USA: Public Affairs, 2008. p 3.
http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ucreative/Doc?id=10263762&ppg=15
Copyright © 2008. Public Affairs. All rights reserved.

The American experience in Vietnam proved that U.S. military power was not omnipotent, that the United States could not solve complicated political problems with force alone, and that there were indeed limits to what the United States could do by sheer will.

Brigham, Robert K.. Iraq, Vietnam, and the Limits of American Power.
New York, NY, USA: Public Affairs, 2008. p 149.
http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ucreative/Doc?id=10263762&ppg=161
Copyright © 2008. Public Affairs. All rights reserved.

Indeed, defeat in Vietnam caused a great crisis of will among those Americans who had once believed in the boundlessness of the nation’s idealism.

Brigham, Robert K.. Iraq, Vietnam, and the Limits of American Power.
New York, NY, USA: Public Affairs, 2008. p 151.
http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ucreative/Doc?id=10263762&ppg=163
Copyright © 2008. Public Affairs. All rights reserved.


Vietnam had indeed turned the nation off military intervention. Furthermore, the Vietnam War created a mood of despair in the United States. No one wanted to talk about Vietnam, and political leaders did not want to repeat it. It was impossible to put Vietnam to rest, however, and soon people were talking about a Vietnam syndrome, an unwillingness to engage the world out of fear of another Vietnam.

One week later, on April 30, 1975, Saigon fell to combined 5 PAVN and PLAF forces, and the U.S. war in Vietnam was indeed over.

Brigham, Robert K.. Iraq, Vietnam, and the Limits of American Power.
New York, NY, USA: Public Affairs, 2008. p 152.
http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ucreative/Doc?id=10263762&ppg=164
Copyright © 2008. Public Affairs. All rights reserved.

Following the fall of Saigon, U.S. policymakers dealt with the Vietnam syndrome in a variety of ways. Some, like Henry Kissinger, argued that the United States needed to abandon the reckless liberalism of the early cold war and focus more on its realistic national interests. Shortly after the war, Kissinger concluded that “we probably made a mistake” by focusing single-mindedly on international communism and falling dominos when dealing with Vietnam. “We

Brigham, Robert K.. Iraq, Vietnam, and the Limits of American Power.
New York, NY, USA: Public Affairs, 2008. p 153.
http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ucreative/Doc?id=10263762&ppg=165
Copyright © 2008. Public Affairs. All rights reserved.

0 comments: