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Abstract

This article discusses the debate over the "meaning" of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., relating it to the revision of the "Vietnam syndrome" as it has been played out in recent U.S. armed interventions overseas. Considerable political struggle occurred during the design phase of the memorial over which values the monument should enshrine. Since its construction the memorial has continued to be a focus for controversy about the future direction of U.S. foreign policy and has functioned as a magnet for continuing historical and political attempts to sort out the "lessons" of the second Indochina war. This debate has helped shape the manner in which both the Reagan and Bush administrations have responded to foreign "crises." The issue in the Persian Gulf was substantially the same as in Indochina, and at least for the moment, reactionary interpretations of the lessons of Vietnam are in the ascendant. Historical and cultural revisionism contributed to public willingness to employ devastating force against Grenada, Panama, and Iraq.

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