James Mann: Obama and the ‘Vietnam Hangover’

Roundup: Talking About History

James Mann is author in residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. This article is adapted from his new book, The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was seeking to describe what makes the Obama administration’s foreign policy distinct from that of its predecessors — not just the George W. Bush administration, but also the Democrats of the Bill Clinton years.
Her comments hinged on the Vietnam War. “We just don’t have that Vietnam hangover,” Rice told me in an interview last year. “It is not the framework for every decision — or any decision, for that matter. I’m sick and tired of reprising all of the traumas and the battles and the psychoses of the 1960s.”
With every president and administration, journalists and analysts embark on a quest to identify a doctrine or set of principles defining the group’s foreign policy. Are they realists? Internationalists? Neocons? Do they go it alone or lead from behind?..

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