Invisible Enemies: The American War on Vietnam, 1975-2000
Martini, Edwin Anton
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This dissertation examines the construction of United States policy toward Vietnam from 1975-2000. Whereas the period since 1975 has traditionally been relegated to the epilogues of historical narratives about American-Vietnamese relations, this study moves that era to the center of the story, employing an interdisciplinary methodology to explore the intersections of diplomatic history, cultural representation, and international political economy. In the years following the withdrawal of its military forces from Southeast Asia, I argue, the United States continued to wage economic, political, and cultural warfare against the nation and people of Vietnam. In particular, I examine the ways in which cultural representations intersected and interacted with the formation of foreign policy. Both of these activities, I argue, were driven by the same cultural logic of "normalizing" the historical memory of the war, reinserting recuperative American narratives at the center of public discourses about the war while marginalizing and silencing Vietnamese voices. What I call "The American War on Vietnam" was thus as much a battle for the cultural memory of the war in American society as it was a lengthy and bitter economic, political, and diplomatic war against the nation and people of Vietnam. I use a range of primary sources to reconstruct the policy history of this period, including many previously overlooked Congressional hearings. I also bring together a large body of secondary literature from a wide array of fields, including cultural and diplomatic history, cultural studies, political science, and economics. Pieced together from these disparate sources, I trace the changes and continuities in the American War on Vietnam over its twenty-five year course, from the initial imposition of an unprecedented and ill-conceived program of economic sanctions in 1975 to the final ratification of a bilateral trade agreement between the two nations in 2000.