(COLD WAR: 1964-75 – continued)

home | 1945-21st century

COLD WAR: 1964-75 (4 of 4)

previous | next

Lessons and Dominoes

During the decades that followed the military triumph of the communist forces in Vietnam, the much feared spread of communism to other nations in the Far East did not happen. Thailand, Burma, Indonesia or the Philippines did not become felled communist dominos. A communist force the Khmer Rouge, had taken power in Cambodia – largely the result of the turmoil spilling into Cambodia from Vietnam during the Vietnam war, including US bombing in Cambodia. But the Khmer Rouge did not remain in power long. Neither did the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia in opposition to that communist force.

In the United States, lessons of the war became much talked about on television and radio. Not much talked about was one lesson that the US military took from the war. This was the discarding of terror bombing, bombing as psychological warfare, as had been done in South Vietnam to discourage support for the Viet Cong.

Another lesson was drawn by the former US commander in Vietnam, General Westmoreland. He mentioned that for the US Vietnam was the first major conflict "fought without censorship." "Without censorship," he said, "things can get confused in the public mind." The confusion some think was his. It was decided among some military strategists that the free-roaming journalism in places of military action should be replaced with restricted access for journalists and with military-led television briefings – as occurred during the Gulf War in 1991.

A third lesson that high-ranking military men often expressed was that no US troops should be committed to battle without a clear goal, a feasible plan and public support.


Vietnam, between the Two Truces, by Jean Lacouture, 1965

End of a War: Indochina, 1954, by Philippe Devilliers and Jean Lacouture, 1969

Vietnam at War, by Mark Philip Bradley, Oxford University Press, 2009

Vietnam: A History, by Stanley Karnow, Penquin Books, 1984

The Best and the Brightest, by David Halberstam, 1972

How We Lost The War in Vietnam, by Nguyen Cao Ky, Stein and Day, 1978

American Experience: Two Days in October, by PBS, 2005

The Icarus Syndrome, Peter Beinart, 2010

Copyright © 1998-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.