1 Why did Vietnam have such a profound effect on the United States?
1.1 America lost!
1.1.1 If US could be defeated here, could be defeated elsewhere
1.2 Defeat by a ‘damn little pissant country’ or a ‘raggedy-ass little fourth-rate country’ (LBJ)
1.2.1 Hard to think of the US being defeated in this way
1.3 Doubt about US global commitments, esp. to American allies
1.4 Also took place at a time of broader crisis in US history: Watergate; oil embargo in the Middle East
2 A ‘Vietnam Syndrome’?
2.1 Change in American attitudes?
2.2 Especially to foreign policy, and military intervention
2.3 A new set of criteria for committing troops
2.4 Need to avoid ‘another Vietnam’
2.5 Is it positive? US will be much more cautious and not go blundering in?
2.5.1 Or negative? Too timid in the face of aggression overseas and threats to its interests?
3 The lessons of Vietnam I: Military implications
3.1 End of draft announced in 1973
Shift to all-career armed forces
3.1.1 Professionalisation of officer corps and education taken very seriously
4 ‘The Weinberger Doctrine’
4.1 Caspar Weinberger, US Secretary of Defense, Speech on ‘The Uses of Military Power’, 28 November 1984
4.2 Not official government policy, but influential
4.3 Codification of the USA’s ‘tests’ before any employment of its armed forces overseas
4.4 Reinforced by the Powell Doctrine of ‘maximum force’ after Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in
4.5 Troops should only be committed wholeheartedly and with the clear intention of winning.
4.6 Troops should be committed only with clearly defined political and military objectives and with the capacity to
accomplish those objectives. Troops should be committed only with clearly defined political and military
objectives and with the capacity to accomplish those objectives.
4.7 The relationship between the objectives and the size and composition of the forces committed should be
continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary.
4.8 Troops should not be committed to battle without a reasonable assurance of the support of US public opinion
4.9 The commitment of troops should be considered only as a last resort.
5 Lessons from Vietnam 2
6 The Reagan Doctrine
6.1 Aid to anti-communist movements without the US putting troops on the ground
6.2 Influence of bombing of US Army barracks in Lebanon (241 US troops killed) and invasion of Grenada, both October
1983 on Weinberger
6.3 Funding of Mujahedeen in Afghanistan
6.4 Use of covert operations
7 the United States as a global superpower?
7.1 End of the Cold War: United States has prevailed
7.2 Stunning US victory over Iraq in early 1991
7.3 By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome now’ (George Bush Sr., on liberating Kuwait in just 4 days of ground
action, Feb. 1991)
7.4 But does not resolve deeper issues about US troop commitments abroad
7.5 Reduction in defence spending
7.6 Even western failure to intervene in Rwanda, 1994 Not even
resolved by NATO intervention in Kosovo, 1999
7.7 9/11 Game Changer
7.7.1 Long-term commitments in Afghanistan and then Iraq
7.7.2 Global ‘War on Terror’
7.7.3 But still limits: problems of asymmetric warfare; American public opinion; enormous costs of overseas commitments
(esp. during financial austerity)
7.7.4 Particular issue in Iraq War, from 2003
7.7.5 Initial success with swift use of overwhelming force on several fronts to achieve victory
7.7.6 But development of anti-American insurgency
7.7.7 Casualty avoidance
7.7.8 Continuing problems of counterinsurgency role
Military’s reluctance to ‘nation-build’
7.7.9 Torture – part of wider set of problems? Iraq another Vietnam?? Plenty of journalists and academics drew a