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The Rhetoric of Revisionism: Presidential Rhetoric about the Vietnam War since 9/11


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am grateful to Marijke Breuning, Milja Kurki, and three anonymous referees for veryhelpful comments on earlier versions of this article.


This article examines presidential rhetoric about the Vietnam War since 9/11. It argues that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have faced a rhetorical dilemma when dealing with the legacies of Vietnam because of the potential harm that they believe these legacies may have on public perception of their own military policies. Therefore, although Presidents Bush and Obama have often resisted making comparisons between contemporary conflicts and Vietnam, they have also developed a rhetorical strategy, built on the revisionism of Ronald Reagan and others, which celebrates Vietnam as a “noble cause” in American history, while they have also selected other “lessons” from Vietnam that could be useful to their overseas interventions. This rhetorical strategy suggests that Americans should continuously prepare to make long-term military commitments.