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Vietnam, Multinational Warfare and re-examining the Cold War by Robert Thompson

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As an American, studying at WLU proved an invaluable academic experience. Arriving with scattered interests in modern military history, my one year in Waterloo pushed me towards the study of US-Commonwealth relations.  While at Laurier I became interested in America’s late entry into the Great War and the nation’s deployment of the Coast Artillery Corps.  Now a year into my PhD at the University of Southern Mississippi, I am beginning the process of formulating a possible dissertation topic.  Although no longer focusing on the First World War, my interests in multinational warfare are being put to use in my studies of the Vietnam War.

Greek and Australian Troops in Vietnam.  (image courtesy neoskosmos.com)

As perplexing as this change of focus may appear, there is a connection.  Much like both World Wars, the Cold War is seen as a predominately European matter.  Yet the Korean War and Vietnam War were the instances when the Cold War went “hot.”  Thus one must examine the Cold War outside of the European context.  Consequently, it seems rather prudent to expand this viewpoint by using the Vietnam War to demonstrate Asia, and perhaps even the Pacific, as the true battleground of the Cold War.

More than an American conflict in Southeast Asia, the Vietnam War profoundly affected the British Commonwealth.  Anchored by Japan in the north and Australia in the south, the US challenged Communism’s spread from mainland Asia.  For me, there is a dissertation opportunity to reexamine both the Cold War and America’s military and political relationship between the Australia and the United Kingdom between the defeat of Imperial Japan and the inglorious end of the Vietnam War.  Continuing the trend of the Second World War, America and Australia needed dependable allies in the Pacific.  By using the Pacific world as a lens, one can better explain the Cold War and America’s relationship with Australia.  Australia’s transformation from the UK’s most dependable dominion to a close ally of the US is more significant than what the current literature suggests.  At present, debate ensues over whether Australia was a willing, or a reluctant ally in Vietnam.  The discussion, however, should not be on Australia’s attitude towards the Vietnam War alone, but rather on the nation’s necessary participation in shaping the post-1945 Pacific world.

Further thoughts on my research and dissertation selection process can be found on blog (www.thompsonwerk.com).



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