1970s: The long shadow of Vietnam

America’s rules of military engagement are changing at last as it adapts to a new world

The World Today Updated 4 January 2021 Published 12 June 2015 3 minute READ

Jurek Martin

Former foreign editor, The Financial Times, was also twice its Washington bureau chief and is now an FT US columnist

The United States, in its own imagination, does not lose wars. If it does not win them, as surely was the case in Vietnam, there have to be explanations for failure that fit the notion that the US is an ‘exceptional’ nation that somehow fell short of its own standards. The most enduring of these is the Vietnam syndrome and the question is whether, 40 years after Saigon fell, it still holds sway in Washington and explains why the most powerful country on earth appears reluctant to put its boots on the ground wherever conflict rules, as it did successfully in two world wars.

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