President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu

Consequences of the End Game in Vietnam

As the last outposts crumbled in March and April, the Administration castigated Congress for abandoning Vietnam, labeled certain Americans "isolationists," and predicted the worst consequences from the American failure to stave off the collapse. Other Americans-hopeful politicians, wishful editorialists-angrily, urgently, denied the charges, rejected the epithets, and argued that Vietnam had little to do with the American position in the rest of the world; indeed, release from Vietnam might well benefit the American position elsewhere.

Perhaps now the analysis and the debate can be conducted with more detachment and objectivity. For several reasons, the original fears of "dominoes" might have some truth. The reasons have to do with the process of American policy-making, the reactions of allies and adversaries, and the resulting shape of the international system. All of these factors were sharply illustrated and profoundly affected by the end game in Vietnam. Unfortunately, they are not entirely subject to the control of American commentators or administrations. Like it or not, we cannot limit the damage of Vietnam to suit our hopes and our consciences.

Americans are tired of lessons of Vietnam. This is one war in which the retrospections started virtually before the events had occurred. So it is necessary to ask: What conclusions might be different now from, say, the fall of 1974? or from before the events of March and April 1975-the sudden ultimate collapse? What do we know now that we didn't know then? Or rather, what do we know now that we could only conjecture then?

After all, we already knew that the powers of the executive had been closely hedged about, since the congressional amendment of August 1973 that prohibited reintervention in Southeast Asia. And perhaps we should have been able to predict the ultimate American default after the congressional cuts in Vietnam appropriations in 1974, from the Administration's request of $1.4 billion to $700 million, and the reluctance to restore the cuts in the winter of 1975. And Watergate had run its course. But, in a sense, the evidence was

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