Histoire CS5 - History & memory of the Vietnam War in the USA
What is the impact of Vietnam on US history & memory?

1. History: questioning U.S. intervention in Vietnam
Vietnam: an unwinnable war?
• Vietnam, a costly mistake
North Vietnam is the wrong enemy:
- not a threat to US => containment wrong and no domino fall => useless loss of lives
+ a civil war of liberation: Ho Chi Minh not a threat to SV
=> SV is the wrong ally (Kerry = orthodox)
No exit strategy:
LBJ (President Lyndon B. Johnson) is riding the tiger = has got more than he can cope with, a recipe for disaster
The role of the media:
TV & press coverage (films & photos) showing American public opinion the uncensored reality of war for the first (and only) time in US history were the basis for the “stab-in-the-back” theories, not for antiwar protest. The aims, strategy and quagmire of Vietnam did it. (Journalist = orthodox)
• Vietnam, a winnable war
The USA was right to enter and wage the war the way it did, and SV was the right ally
Beside the press emphasized antiwar protests which in turn influenced US public opinion: revisionist “stab-in-the-back” version

2. Memory: overcoming the Vietnam Syndrome
To what extent has the USA overcome the Vietnam Syndrome?
• The Vietnam Memorial: a symbol of reconciliation
- The 1982 dedication of the black marble wall with names + statue dedicated by Reagan (revisionist) in 1984 = the homecoming ceremonies veterans should have had in 1973 to acknowledge their bravery and their sufferings => national reconciliation
+ in 1996 the now older girl victim of napalm (Nick Ut's famous photo) at the wall, after economic & diplomatic normalization => reconciliation with Vietnam
• Vietnam, still divisive in the 1990s
President Clinton & the Vietnam syndrome
- Soldiers’ syndrome due to dirty war & antiwar public opinion
- Clinton shouted at by veterans as he was a draft dodger
- Political syndrome: the next war will be better prepared (doesn’t mention Gulf War)
Vietnam & the Bush presidents
- George H. ended the Vietnam syndrome with the Gulf War (multilateral, clean high-tech war & media censorship)
- George W. resurrected it with the Iraq War (from dis- to asymmetric warfare)