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His argument was based on the specific premise that we intervened in defense of a “free government” against “outside agression,” however, and this interpretation badly distorts the origins and nature of the war.In fact, we tried to contain an indigenous revolution that, although Communist led, expressed the deepest and most powerful currents of Vietnamese nationalism. It is necessary to go back to 1945 or even earlier.From all appearances, to apply an Oriental usage, 1981 is the year of the hawk.
Every war has its elements of nobility, moreover, and it is perhaps proper and even necessary for us to recognize the acts of heroism, sacrifice, and compassion that were as much a part of Vietnam as the atrocities.
Certainly it was wrong for us to lay on the veterans the guilt which all of us share in one way or another, and Reagan’s statement may have been addressing this point, at least obliquely.
Moreover, the governments we supported—by and large our own creations—were free primarily in the sense that they were non-Gommunist.
It should be recalled in this connection that our first crucial commitment in Vietnam came in 1950 in support of French colonialism.
With these qualifications in mind, we can turn to the essential questions that have been raised about the war and its consequences.
For many of those who experienced the Vietnam era, Reagan’s “noble war” statement seemed so far off the wall that it could not be taken seriously.
The aggressiveness of the Soviets and the Hanoi regime have made it easier for us to justify our own actions morally and in terms of national security.
An explanation of failure which places blame on ourselves rather than elsewhere is probably easier for us to live with.
Scholars had begun to revise conventional dovish views of the war well before Reagan took office, and films such as the significant is that this now seems to be the official view and is also a partial basis for major policy decisions.
Equally important, it is getting little challenge from Congress and the media, the centers of respectable dissent in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.