The final contingent of the U.S. commitment departed Vietnam 60 days after the signing, but the level of violence between Vietnamese adversaries did not significantly decline; no peace came to Vietnam.
In the United States, Watergate was changing from amber to red, and as his presidency unraveled in 1973, President Richard Nixon's secret commitments to South Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu were rendered meaningless. Less than two years later, faced with funding a $722 million budget supplement, the U.S. Congress showed little interest in providing military equipment or financial support to America's longtime ally, South Vietnam. On April 30, 1975, South Vietnam ceased to exist.
For most Americans, the last images of the war were of the dazed U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin carrying a folded American flag under his arm during the final evacuation from the U.S. Embassy; or perhaps the chaos surrounding the evacuation of U.S. personnel and Vietnamese families from the Embassy rooftop.
No one seemed interested in such critical questions as the nature of the war, why the United States chose to fight the way it did, how North Vietnam had prevailed, the relationship of political objectives to military strategy, or the lessons that could be derived from the public diplomacy and secret negotiations that had characterized so much of the conflict. The dire situation would change as scholars gained access to a series of significant declassifications of primary source documents located in archival depositories in the United States, Vietnam, China, and Russia, and as principal architects of policy-the so-called "best and brightest"-began to reflect and write on their roles during the period. In 1995, former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara broke his own long silence on the subject with the admission that "we were wrong, terribly wrong" (McNamara & Van De Mark 1995). Another principal architect of Vietnam policy, political scientist Henry Kissinger, has generated several books that address why the United States fought in Vietnam (Kissinger 1999). We approach our topic chronologically by examining 30 years of war from 1945 to 1975-beginning with the historic Vietnamese proclamation of independence and ending with the fall of South Vietnam in April 1975. We have identified what we believe are important components of this unfolding saga, and we begin from the intellectual premise that truly understanding why the United States fought in Vietnam requires that we comprehend the roots of the conflict (before it became America's war in Vietnam) from the perspective of countries other than the United States- specifically, Vietnam, China, and the Soviet Union. After all, it was the United States that chose to fight in Vietnam's war (Young 1991).
The disciplines of history and political science have illuminated many important aspects of the war, including presidential personality and leadership, war powers, public opinion, the role of the media, advisory processes and interactions, political dissent, and congressional-executive relations. Political science has also contributed significant theoretical advances on