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War's End and Aftermath


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Vietnam veteran and future senator Max Cleland unveils a memorial to Vietnam veterans with Jimmy Carter at Arlington Cemetary on November 11, 1978
(NATIONAL ARCHIVES PHOTO)

The legacy of the Vietnam War is multi-faceted. In the current world situation we hear some referring to the war in Iraq as a Vietnam-like quagmire. But is this an accurate comparison?

The loss of over 58,000 Americans and the rejection of those who returned had an effect on our national psyche. Only recently have those returning veterans been accorded a modicum of respect. But the vast majority still went on to lead productive lives and make a contribution to society. Vietnam veterans serve in Congress, head corporations, are doctors, lawyers, and are prominent in the entertainment field.

Although the roots of the Vietnam War were in a nationalist movement, the Soviet backing of the regime in the North made it a proxy war between the superpowers. What might have happened if the U.S. had not held the line in Vietnam against further Soviet expansion? Would the Soviet Union have collapsed as it finally did, or would we still be living under the threat of global nuclear annihilation?

Did we really lose the Vietnam War? Ho Chi Minh City today is the same booming, capitalist metropolis of Saigon many Americans remember from the 1960s. Vietnam is open to American business and culture, and we have established diplomatic and commercial relations.

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