The Vietnam War has become a significant stage in the formation of modern American foreign policy. The military strategies and methods used by the United States during this protracted standoff changed some of the traditional approaches to warfare, for instance, the use of chemical weapons as one of the tools to fight the enemy. This paper aims to assess how the Vietnam War affected American foreign and military policy. Findings from current sources on the topic will be analyzed, and a synthesis of ideas will be performed to draw appropriate conclusions. The sharpening of warfare skills and the tightening of interaction with unfriendly countries can be considered the consequences of the Vietnam War from the perspective of American military and foreign policy, respectively.
Explanation of the Issue
The issue of the consequences of the Vietnam War and its echoes in the present tense is being discussed to this day. Numerous casualties on both sides prove that a military solution to the conflict is the last resort that should be avoided. Peace agreements are a more reasonable and humane method of resolving geopolitical, economic, intercultural, and other disagreements. Due to the protracted conflict in Southeast Asia, the American army lost tens of thousands of personnel. In addition, relations with other countries deteriorated, including such a superpower as the USSR, which supported Vietnam. Therefore, questions regarding the need for US intervention and methods of warfare are relevant.
Firstly, US foreign policy underwent a number of changes as a result of the conflict in Vietnam. The confrontation between the Western and Eastern alliances intensified, which was reflected in the protracted period of the Cold War. The countries supporting Vietnam sharply condemned the aggression of the US, which, in turn, was forced to seek the support of the allies. Secondly, having experience of participation in real combat operations during World War II, the American army optimized its approaches to the effective elimination of enemy forces. The use of pesticides as one of the tools of the attack became a practice honed over the eight-year period of the US intervention. The acquisition of allies and conflicts with other countries led to changes in world geopolitics. The experience of the Vietnam War can be seen as a prerequisite for the modern dominance of the United States in the international arena. The position of the Western leader in relation to aggressive communists was clearly shown, and the methods of struggle for the preservation of the world order were established during the conflict in question.
The protracted military conflict in Vietnam was the catalyst for a number of effects on the US foreign and military policy. According to DiCicco and Fordham (2018), the confrontation between the Western and Eastern coalitions intensified during the Cold War. The authors note that, faced with communist resistance, the USA was forced to seek the support of the allies, and interventions in Nicaragua and El Salvador were justified by this intention (DiCicco & Fordham, 2018). The isolation of the country from the Eastern world, which was one of the consequences of the Cold War, was another effect on the US foreign policy. As Eyerman et al. (2017) argue, America demonstrated to the whole world its unequivocal position regarding the inadmissibility of the seizure of power by communists. Attempts to reform the current world order were strongly condemned by the United States, and its foreign policy took a course to maintain a balance of power.
The Vietnam War was one of the incentives for the US to reorganize its military capabilities. Belcher (2019) notes the insufficiently high level of preparedness of American intelligence agencies in relation to information control. The researcher draws attention to the skepticism of the country’s military leaders regarding the use of data by the Vietnamese, and this experience became a driver for optimizing the information security system (Belcher, 2019). The expansion of methods of warfare is another effect on the US military policy. As Le et al. (2022) state, the use of pesticides, such as Agent Orange that contained dioxin, allowed US troops to take combat operations to a new level. Finally, the US foreign policy approaches were transformed by the Vietnam War. According to Schultz (2017), it was impossible to maintain a course of external aggression while ignoring internal sentiments and attitudes in the country. As a result, the US built a more flexible and loyal foreign policy system.
Based on the collected research data and different authors’ views on what the effects of the Vietnam War were on the US foreign and military policy, relevant conclusions can be drawn. When analyzing the position on the use of chemical weapons, the idea of their effectiveness can be contrasted with provisions on humanity. Such substances as Agent Orange, described by Le et al. (2022), destroy crops and are detrimental to people in large quantities, which suggests that the US government could have assessed the scale of the tragedy and not made such tactical decisions in the future. From the perspective of the impact of the conflict on the state of affairs in the Cold War, the Vietnam War was a significant catalyst. Being in a tense relationship with the USSR, the American authorities showed their clear position, not wanting to be led by eastern governments (DiCicco & Fordham, 2018). As a result, such actions can be assessed as a contribution to strengthening the role of the US in the international arena and increasing its authority in matters of foreign policy.
While speaking of military intelligence activities, American agencies learned a lesson from the Vietnam War. The underestimation of the strength of the adversaries showed gaps in this area, and the United States became more focused on information security and improving the quality of intelligence operations (Belcher, 2019). Attitudes toward the war inside the country showed that a significant number of Americans did not support external aggression (Schultz, 2017). This can be assessed as the first step to the democratization of foreign policy, when the government listens to citizens and addresses the interests, first of all, of the nation but not its own ambitious plans.
The Vietnam War’s effects on the US foreign and military policy can be assessed from the perspective of strengthening combat skills and complicating relations with the Eastern world. This protracted conflict provided an opportunity to assess existing gaps, such as the lack of preparedness of the intelligence services, and contributed to strengthening the US role in the international arena. The intensification of confrontation during the Cold War can be considered one of the outcomes of the contradictions that arose between the Western and Eastern allies. The democratization of foreign policy was one of the significant factors achieved due to a large number of American citizens’ dissatisfaction with external aggression.
Belcher, O. (2019). Sensing, territory, population: Computation, embodied sensors, and hamlet control in the Vietnam War. Security Dialogue, 50(5), 416-436. Web.
DiCicco, J. M., & Fordham, B. O. (2018). The things they carried: Generational effects of the Vietnam War on elite opinion. International Studies Quarterly, 62(1), 131-144. Web.
Eyerman, R., Madigan, T., & Ring, M. (2017). Cultural trauma, collective memory and the Vietnam war. Croatian Political Science Review, 54(1-2), 11-31.
Le, D. T., Pham, T. M., & Polachek, S. (2022). The long-term health impact of Agent Orange: Evidence from the Vietnam War. World Development, 155, 105813. Web.
Schultz, K. A. (2017). Perils of polarization for US foreign policy. The Washington Quarterly, 40(4), 7-28. Web.