American Experience in Vietnam in Analyzing the Essay

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American Experience in Vietnam

In analyzing the Vietnam War from a historian's perspective, it is necessary to consider the cultural and social contexts of the conflict, the role played by presidential leadership, and the role played by diplomatic negotiations. In all of these realms, though, the historian can reduce the most important lesson of the Vietnam War to a single word: truth. An examination of the Vietnam War from each of these angles will show that a crucial role was played in each arena -- social, presidential, and diplomatic -- by dishonesty.

The cultural and social context in America of the Vietnam War is a familiar story: we are accustomed to hearing that the war was unpopular and occasioned numerous protests. But it is crucial to note that the campaign to make the war more palatable to the public hinged crucially upon lying to the public. We do not need to take sides here in assessing the American rationale for the war as upholding the "domino theory," in which permitting Vietnam to fall to Communism would necessarily entail the fall of other countries or continents -- it is not necessary to debate the truth or falsity of the domino theory in order to see the way in which untruth was a pivotal part of the way the war was presented to the American public. In fact, all we really need to consider is the action of the lone whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, and his release of the "Pentagon Papers" to the New York Times. The Pentagon Papers represented the results of a study done by the U.S. Department of Defense that had been commissioned in 1967 and completed in 1969, in the last days of the Johnson Presidency. The papers revealed,…

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