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54

JULY-AUGUST 2015

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

“Lessons Learned”

from State

From the standpoint of State Department FSOs, the lessons to be learned

from the Vietnam experience were numerous and clear.

T

o draw meaningful lessons from our

Vietnam experience it is essential to

bear in mind the climate of the times

during which fateful decisions were

taken. In 1954 it was widely accepted

that we faced a monolithic commu-

nist bloc bent on expansion through

military means. Indochina was seen

with considerable logic in that context,

as a primary locus for that expansion and there was a remark-

ably broad consensus in this country that the United States

Department of State, Washington, D.C.

MEMORANDUM FOR LIEUTENANT GENERAL BRENT SCOWCROFT,

THE WHITE HOUSE

May 9, 1975

Subject: Lessons of Viet-Nam

Attached is a paper on “Lessons of Viet-Nam” which you requested.

Signed: George S. Springsteen, Executive Secretary

Attachment: As stated

EA: DFLambertson Clearances: EA: Mr. Miller

EA: Mr. Habib

Released and Declassified May 3, 2000

UNCLASSIFIED P750085-0923

should combat it. In the early 1960s, America was imbued with

an activist, outward-looking spirit, one reflection of which was

the notion that American resources and American expertise

could solve any problem anywhere. It was only in the late 1960s,

when our participation in what was perceived to be an unjust

and unwinnable war became objectionable to broad segments of

the American people, that our policies outstripped the national

consensus and support for them began to wane.

Having been badly burned in Vietnam, the American people

now appear to have quite different, and more limited, visions of

our proper role in the world and our ability to influence events.