In 1965 the epic encounter between the ‘Free world’ and the ‘Communist world’ still seemed the world’s dominant narrative. The difficulty of conducting a global policy was not to be underestimated, even in simple management terms. Distant global lenses were liable to ignore or misinterpret the peculiarities of local circumstances. Vietnam, from the east coast of the USA, was far away, geographically and culturally. Americans thought it scarcely conceivable that a country could voluntarily choose to become Communist. However, regimes in countries threatened by Communism did not necessarily share ‘American values’. In turn, safeguarding ‘freedom’ from Communism might lead the USA down paths at variance with those values. The USA seemed to have an ample supply of self-belief, but it might not be endless. The Soviet Union, for its part, had a self-belief which rested on the certainty that history was moving in an identifiable direction. It was therefore necessary internally to stamp on any ‘revisionism’ which called any elements in the existing system into question. By 1975 the outcome looked straightforward: the USA had lost in South-East Asia and the Soviet Union had ‘won’ in Eastern Europe. A decade earlier, however, American globalism had seemed both manageable and domestically acceptable in order to contain Communism. In March 1965, however, US marines arrived in Da Nang, on the coast of South Vietnam and, a few months later, were deployed routinely in combat.
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