The Indochina War and World Politics

Courtesy Reuters

This article is adapted from the manuscript of a chapter in a forthcoming book of essays, Legacy of Vietnam: The War, American Society, and the Future of American Foreign Policy, to be published for the Council on Foreign Relations by the New York University Press in the fall of 1975. The volume, edited by Anthony Lake, will include reflections by 23 individual authors on various domestic and international aspects of the war.

Sir Lewis Namier, the great British historian of a generation ago, used to warn his students of the danger of trying "to argue with history": of abstracting, that is, one event or sequence of events in a historical epoch in an effort to determine how world politics would have been different if it had not occurred; the past is a seamless web, he used to argue, of interrelated developments whose individual strands cannot be unraveled and examined separately. One does

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