Recanting the Ghosts of Vietnam

The Evolution of Modern US Land Warfare Doctrine

Authored by: Dave Dudas , Don Snider

Handbook of Defence Politics

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9781857434439
eBook ISBN: 9780203804278
Adobe ISBN:


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A little over four decades ago, the US Army was called on to preserve the principles of democracy and to prevent the further spread of communism in Southeast Asia. However, without clear objectives and an exit strategy, the US Army faced a protracted war that tested the perseverance of the citizen soldier and the legitimacy of American foreign policy at home. Today in 2007, much like the era of Vietnam, Americans are again divided on central issues regarding foreign policy. That policy addresses, along with the issues of great power relations, the equally urgent problem of advancing US interests in a global environment marked increasingly by state-sponsored and other forms of terrorism. One instrument for advancing such interests is the strategic application of American military force, the more specific focus of defence policy. The current problem for policymakers—when viewed through the lens of the American body-politic—is to define and implement a preventive strategy that is appropriate and proportionate to its intended ends. Pressures, both foreign and domestic, that led to a new institutional order for the Army following the war in Vietnam, therefore, allude to the potential for a similar transformation of Army doctrine well into the 21st century.

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