The Defeat in Vietnam Showed the Limits to American Power

A product of justifications stemming from the Cold War, anti-communism sentiments, Vietnam became the benchmark by which American military limitations can be measured.
Following the American victory over Japan in 1945, the U.S. and the Soviet Union became engaged in a battle over political ideology and power that played out on a worldwide scale, the Cold War. Communism was America’s enemy and after witnessing the Soviets build a wall in Berlin and continue to aspire to conquer other Eastern European nations, which came to be known as ‘satellite countries’ of the Soviet Union, the U.S. drew a metaphorical line in the sand in Vietnam. Many thousands of ground troops were deployed during the decade-long war despite claims by some after the atomic bomb destroyed two Japanese cities, that boots on the ground would only be necessary for a clean-up role after ‘the bomb’ was dropped. The debacle of Vietnam was the cause of an anti-military sentiment among the majority of Americans which contributed to the Cold War’s demise. Vietnam also caused America to redefine the purpose of the military and question the extent of its ability to force its will in foreign lands such as the jungles of Southeast Asia. America was also forced to question its overall foreign policy philosophy and subsequent strategies.1 “U.S. foreign policy, from its abandonment of isolationism at the ending of the 19th century to its status as the sole remaining superpower, has always been centered on the promotion and conservation of its own interests and ‘the advancement of civilization,’ the exercise of power to assert itself beyond the bounds of the American continents in ‘the interest of civilization and of humanity’ and its own selfish interests.”2 This re-evaluation period lasted from the mid-1970s until March of 2003.

The U.S. entered both the Cold War era Vietnam War and the recent invasion of Iraq&nbsp.spread democracy to oppressed peoples (the official representation) and with great optimism for victory. &nbsp.Both conflicts supplied a similar paradigm: the ability of America to use its military power as an ideological, social and political tool is limited. &nbsp.