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After Vietnam

, 192 pages
May 2000
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After Vietnam

Legacies of a Lost War

Efforts to understand the impact of the Vietnam War on America began soon after it ended, and they continue to the present day. In After Vietnam four distinguished scholars focus on different elements of the war's legacy, while one of the major architects of the conflict, former defense secretary Robert S. McNamara, contributes a final chapter pondering foreign policy issues of the twenty-first century.

In the book's opening chapter, Charles E. Neu explains how the Vietnam War changed Americans' sense of themselves: challenging widely-held national myths, the war brought frustration, disillusionment, and a weakening of Americans' sense of their past and vision for the future. Brian Balogh argues that Vietnam became such a powerful metaphor for turmoil and decline that it obscured other forces that brought about fundamental changes in government and society. George C. Herring examines the postwar American military, which became nearly obsessed with preventing "another Vietnam." Robert K. Brigham explores the effects of the war on the Vietnamese, as aging revolutionary leaders relied on appeals to "revolutionary heroism" to justify the communist party's monopoly on political power. Finally, Robert S. McNamara, aware of the magnitude of his errors and burdened by the war's destructiveness, draws lessons from his experience with the aim of preventing wars in the future.

Charles E. Neu is a professor and chair in the department of history at Brown University. He is the author of The Troubled Encounter: The United States and Japan and An Uncertain Friendship: Theodore Roosevelt and Japan and the editor of The Wilson Era: Essays in Honor of Arthur S. Link. Contributors: Brian Balogh, University of Virginia; Robert K. Brigham, Vassar College; George C. Herring, University of Kentucky; and Robert S. McNamara, former president of the Ford Motor Company, secretary of defense, and president of the World Bank.

"At the best, After Vietnam succeeds in its efforts to transform and deepen scholarly analysis of the war's legacies in both Vietnam and the United States."

"It is possible the new war to which President Bush has committed the country will obscure the continuing importance of the legacies addressed in the five essays collected in After Vietnam. Yet it is already clear that the shape of the 'war against terrorism' and the popular response to it owe much to the way the Vietnam War is remembered and forgotten."

"The book provides intelligent and insightful analysis of the Vietnam War's connection to the present and future. The contributors draw together and interpret some of the best of the huge outpouring of scholarship on the war and add interpretations from their own research."


"Together, the essays form a compact look at the fallout from the Vietnam War, one that is suggestive enough, moreover, to lead readers to pursue the questions amply referenced in the notes. One could hardly ask for more."

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