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_ RegionalR RHODE ISLAND On Friday, April 7, 2000, THS members in Rhode Island met at Providence College for a spring seminar entitled "The Vietnam Wir and the Transformation of America." The main speaker was Professor dudes Neu. chair of the I Vpartmcnt of History .11 Brown University. He gave a preview of one chapter of his new book. After lietnam: hgacies of a Lost War. Commenting on his remarks were James Blight, Mario DiNunzio, and Cathal Nolan. 1 he thesis of Charles Neus lecture was that the Vietnam War disrupted our explanation of the American past and our vision of the American future. He referred to the post-World Wir II idea of the United States as a redeemer nation, a strong idea when Kennedy became président, and DO the way in which Americans' expectations and assumptions c.irlv in the Vietnam Wir were ambushed in one way or .mother by the conflict. Television reporting and magazine photographs added to the psychological distress of a quagmire in which progress was measured not by territory gained but by body counts. Professor Neu cited Spielberg's Saving Private R\an 1998) as an effort to tap back into the old self-confidence about the United States in World War II. But he concluded that after 1975 the American nation had entered a new era full of uncertainties, in which it was not possible DO restore the old sense of American innocence or American destiny. James Blight, professor of international relations at Brown University and director of the Vietnam War Project at Brown, described an incident at Brown in 1995 when a Vietnam veteran confronted Robert McNamara. This episode led to hundreds of student e-mails and phone calls expressing astonishment at the passion of the confrontation over something that seemed so far in the past. Hc said that the problem for the United States is to find a way to "get over it," that is, to stop talking about ourselves in a way that continues to search lor parues to blame. Instead, we need to focus more on why we were so wrong. Hc commented that, in the late colonial and Cold War contexts, the North Vietnamese thought we were the French and we thought they were the Russians. Mario DiNunzio. professor of history at Providence College, argued that Vietnam was not the only source of malaise in America 111 the seventies. I Ie cited the political cynicism of the sixties, which followed in the wake of the assassinations of the Kennedy's and King, and reactions in the seventies to the drawn-out Watergate scindai. Perhaps the loss of American innocence was a good thing, he suggested. McNamaras problem might have been the tunnel vision of an empirical mind assessing the war's statistics. But. Professor DiNunzio noted, while McNamara takes much of the blame in most historians' assessments. Kissinger gets oil relatively easy, given the share of the disaster for which he was responsible. Cathal Nolan, executive director of the International History Institute and associate professor of history and politics at Boston University, asserted that the Vietnam War was not Kennedy's or Johnson's or Nixon's war but America's war, supported by the majority of the American people. It was a national tragedy. Describing Charles Neu's lecture as a presentation of the mental landscape of an America affected by the memories of a lost war, Professor Nolan pointed out that, in the long view of history, Americans are not the onlygreat nation to have followed a sense of mission into a mistaken war. Nevertheless, in the final analysis, the American sense of mission has affected world politics mostly for the good. Neu and Blight looked closely at the Vietnam War and its cultural shadows. DiNunzio and Nolan took a longer perspective and discussed the war in the context of American principles of conduct reaching back to the eighteenth century. These two ways of approaching the subject complemented each other nicely and served to provoke a broad array of questions and comments from the audience. 23 GREATER NEW YORK CITY The New York Metropolitan Region held three Friday Afternoon Conversations during the spring of 2000...