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Invisible Enemies

The American War on Vietnam, 1975-2000

Edwin A. Martini

Publication Year: 2007

Beginning where most histories of the Vietnam War end, Invisible Enemies examines the relationship between the United States and Vietnam following the American pullout in 1975. Drawing on a broad range of sources, from White House documents and congressional hearings to comic books and feature films, Edwin Martini shows how the United States continued to wage war on Vietnam "by other means" for another twenty-five years. In addition to imposing an extensive program of economic sanctions, the United States opposed Vietnam's membership in the United Nations, supported the Cambodians, including the Khmer Rouge, in their decade-long war with the Vietnamese, and insisted that Vietnam provide a "full accounting" of American MIAs before diplomatic relations could be established. According to Martini, such policies not only worked against some of the stated goals of U.S. foreign policy, they were also in opposition to the corporate economic interests that ultimately played a key role in normalizing relations between the two nations in the late 1990s. Martini reinforces his assessment of American diplomacy with an analysis of the "cultural front"—the movies, myths, memorials, and other phenomena that supported continuing hostility toward Vietnam while silencing opposing views of the war and its legacies. He thus demonstrates that the "American War on Vietnam" was as much a battle for the cultural memory of the war within the United States as it was a lengthy economic, political, and diplomatic campaign to punish a former adversary.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Series: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

This book would never have been possible without the support of many, many people. I began my work on the project at the University of Maryland, College Park, so it is there my thanks begin. Myron Lounsbury, a trusted and valued adviser during graduate school, taught me a great deal about being an adviser, student, and teacher. David...


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p. xiii

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pp. 1-11

As the revolutionary forces of Vietnam draped and raised their flags throughout Saigon on April 30, 1975, the sound of gunfire continued. Although the sound was nothing new to the city, the meaning was different. Fired in celebration by troops outside the former Presidential Palace, these were the sounds of victory: the second Indochina war was finally over. Several of the men surrounding Republic of Vietnam...

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Chapter 1. A Continuation of War by Other Means: The Origins of the American War on Vietnam, 1975–1977

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pp. 12-39

As the last helicopters were leaving the roof of the United States embassy in Saigon on April 30, 1975, Henry Kissinger sat helplessly in his West Wing corner office. “Neither Ford nor I could any longer influence the outcome,” he wrote in his memoirs. “So we each sat in our offices, freed of other duties yet unable to affect the ongoing tragedy, with a serenity rarely experienced in high office.” For the past several years,...

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Chapter 2. Constructing Mutual Destruction: The Cultural Logic of Normalization, 1977–1979

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pp. 40-77

For many of the statistics of the American war in Vietnam listed above, a comparison or equivalency with the United States is not even possible. The Vietnamese did not, of course, occupy, bomb, defoliate, or wage chemical warfare on the United States at any time. Yet even for those for which a comparison is possible, the numbers clearly suggest...

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Chapter 3. Bleeding Vietnam: The United States and the Third Indochina War

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pp. 78-115

In his 1976 national address marking Tet, Le Duan, the longtime secretary general of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP), promised that every family in Vietnam would have a radio, a television, and a refrigerator in their home within ten years.1 While these specific goals may not have been exactly what one might have expected from one of...

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Chapter 4. “I Am Reality”: Redrawing the Terms of Battle, 1985–1989

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pp. 116-161

Amid the ongoing tragedy in Cambodia and the United States’ continuing policy of “bleeding” Vietnam, the spring of 1985 brought with it the ten-year anniversary of the end of the Second Indochina War. The occasion was marked in the United States by official state department addresses, several academic symposia, editorials and special...

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Chapter 5. Peace Is at Hand: Roadmaps, Roadblocks, and One-Way Streets,1990–1995

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pp. 162-204

Throughout the Gulf War of 1990–1991, the administration of George H. W. Bush made clear that the United States was not simply at war with Iraq; it was at war with the memory of the war in Vietnam. While much of this rhetoric was to be expected—all U.S. military adventures since 1975 had been viewed though the lens of the Vietnam...

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Chapter 6. Invisible Enemies: Searching for Vietnam at the Wall(s)

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pp. 205-234

Nothing more aptly sums up the story, for the United States and its people, of the American war on Vietnam after 1975 as the establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. From the first proposal in 1979 to build such a memorial, to the initial construction in the early 1980s toward Maya Lin’s design, through the passage of legislation in late 2003 to add an “Education Center” to the site, the history...

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Epilogue: The Uneasy Peace and the Flags That Still Fly

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pp. 235-242

Although I have situated the 1995 normalization and diplomatic recognition of Vietnam as the “end” of the American war on Vietnam, the period since normalization has been marked by a series of ongoing battles between the two nations, on trade, human rights issues, and the meaning...


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pp. 243-273


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pp. 274-280

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613761267
E-ISBN-10: 1613761260
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558496088
Print-ISBN-10: 1558496084

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War
Series Editor Byline: Christian Appy See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 608512425
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Invisible Enemies

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 1945-1989.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 1989-.
  • United States -- Relations -- Vietnam.
  • Vietnam -- Relations -- United States.
  • Vietnam -- Foreign public opinion, American.
  • Public opinion -- United States.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Influence.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Vietnam.
  • Vietnam -- Foreign relations -- United States.
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