This course offers a comprehensive study of the many political, social, cultural, and international aspects of the War in Vietnam. Important issues of the war are examined from an interdisciplinary perspective, allowing students opportunities to investigate the complex human dimensions of the conflict. Readings begin with the history of Vietnam, including the French colonial period. The origins of U.S. involvement in Vietnam are placed in the context of post-World War II international relations, the Cold War, and American domestic politics. American military involvement in the war is studied at the high diplomatic and political level, but readings also present the war experience through the eyes of ground-level American and Vietnamese participants. Studied are the contemporary attitudes, analyses, and ideologies that motivated national populations, political leadership, soldiers, and both supporters and opponents of the war.
Questions opened for discussion include colonial legacies, nationalism, the analysis and containment of communism, the role of the media, and the moral and political arguments used by many on both sides to justify the continuation or the ending of the war. Source materials for the course include essays, documentary films, selected feature films, and period journalism.