Les Gelb, a former Brookings fellow and co-author of the 1979 Brookings Institution Press book The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked—which is being re-released this month as a Brookings Classic—discusses the influence the Vietnam War has had on how the U.S. handles wars and the need for American pragmatism in foreign policy decision-making today. “What made this country great was Americans using their pragmatism, solving problems, and realizing there were certain problems they couldn’t solve–at least, not solve them right away,” Gelb says.
In the podcast, Gelb also explains the “domino theory” that guided U.S. policymakers during the Vietnam conflict. “Vietnam was the essential domino and if it fell to communism, if it fell to the Soviet Union and China, in effect, [then] all of Asia would fall right behind it.”
Thanks to audio engineer and producer Zack Kulzer, with editing help from Mark Hoelscher, plus thanks to Carissa Nietsche, Bill Finan, Jessica Pavone, Eric Abalahin, Rebecca Viser, Brionne Smith, and our intern Sarah AbdelRahim.
At the end of the day, as we all know thorny national security issues don’t just involve the military; political-military considerations invariably bleed into them. If the senior military’s leadership views are going to be just constrained to military advice … who is thinking about issues from that broader perspective?