THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
From the standpoint of State Department FSOs, the lessons to be learned
from the Vietnam experience were numerous and clear.
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
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.