US foreign policy during Vietnam war era and today

Essay by hanno April 2005

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The American-Vietnam War killed as many as three million people. It destroyed the country of Vietnam. It was a disaster for the US economy with the United States government directly spending 141 billion dollars in South Vietnam alone . It caused uproar within the United States and tragedy on an unprecedented scale to the Vietnamese. It witnessed horrific war crimes and bombings; and in the end, it brought nothing but shame on the United States and the defeat of the Government that they had fought for so long to defend. In short, it was a disaster, a chapter in world history that nobody wants to ever repeat. So, if ever in history there was a tragedy from which lessons should be drawn in order to avoid letting it ever repeat itself, it is the American Vietnam War.

Indeed, plenty of lessons have been drawn from it- lessons that practically determined the nature of the United States' foreign policy for well over two decades after American involvement in Vietnam ended.

Neill Sheehan, speaking in 1996, described how the memory of the tragedy of Vietnam continued to determine the USA's policies in external affairs: "Vietnam has changed this country utterly. First of all, the president is limited now. No president can commit the American armed forces with the freedom Johnson and Kennedy could because the credibility of the president to do that has been damaged, it's been changed. He's not the ultimate wisdom anymore…And when you see the papers of the military leaders of the 1960s, they're always telling the president, "Force is a solution, send the army, send the marines, send the air force, that'll solve your problem." Now you've got military leaders saying, "Look before you intervene."" The main lesson that had been drawn from Vietnam was...