Clifford, Clark M.
July 1969
Foreign Affairs;Jul1969, Vol. 47 Issue 4, p601
This article presents the views of the author on the involvement of the U.S. in the 1961 Vietnam war. Many individuals these past years have sought to make some contribution toward finding the answers that have been so elusive. It is with this hope in mind that I present herewith the case history of one man's attitude toward Vietnam and the various stages of thought he experienced as he plodded painfully from one point of view to another, and another, until he arrived at the unshakable opinion he possesses today. Views on Vietnam have become increasingly polarized as the war has gone on without visible progress toward the traditional American military triumph. At the time of the original involvement of the U.S. in Vietnam, I considered it to be based upon sound and unassailable premises, thoroughly consistent with our self-interest and our responsibilities. Moreover, I see no profit and no purpose in any divisive national debate about whether we were right or wrong initially to become involved in the struggle in Vietnam. Such debate at the present time clouds the issue and obscures the pressing need for a clear and logical evaluation of our present predicament, and how we can extricate ourselves from it. The transformation that has taken place in my thinking has been brought about, however, by the conclusion that the world situation has changed dramatically, and that American involvement in Vietnam can and must change with it. Important ingredients of this present situation include the manner in which South Vietnam and its Asian neighbors have responded to the threat and to our own massive intervention. They also include internal developments both in Asian nations and elsewhere and the changing relations among world powers.


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