Vietnam and its Conseqoences
Although the Vietnam War ended in 1975 and America's defeat became the second of the signature events that launched the seventies, America's disengagement from it began at the end of the sixties. The search for peace with honor in Vietnam consumed Richard Nixon's presidency and shaped his foreign policy. As the president sought detente with the Russians and reached out to China, he always kept the effect of these initiatives on the Vietnam War in mind. The desire for secrecy in the negotiations to end the war contributed to the conditions that created Watergate.
Richard Nixon left office with a double legacy that would affect the position of the United States in the world during the seventies. The outcome of the Vietnam War made his successors wary of direct intervention in foreign wars, and the atmosphere created by Watergate caused Congress to regard key agencies entrusted with the protection of national security, such as the Central Intelligence Agency, with suspicion. The postwar consensus on foreign policy that had supported wars in Korea and Vietnam and massive American intervention into the affairs of foreign nations ended. The seventies became an era, as Walter Isaacson puts it, of “disengagement” rather than “intervention,” despite the desires of many hawks to maintain the confrontational spirit of the cold war.1
America's involvement in Vietnam grew out of the nation's postwar concern for the shape of the postcolonial world. In the great nineteenth