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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Vietnam and the Pax Americana: A Genealogy of the “New World Order”


William V. Spanos’s chapter “Vietnam and the Pax Americana: A Genealogy of the ‘New World Order’” was originally published in his book-length study entitled America’s Shadow: An Anatomy of Empire (1999) and is here reprinted, courtesy of the University of Minnesota Press. Spanos’s prescient, unrelenting, and wide-ranging analysis of the consequences of the Vietnam War argues that the contemporary moment—including the Gulf War, Operation Hope in Somalia, American interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, for example—has its “provenance” in the Vietnam War, yet the Vietnam War has essentially been underanalyzed and forgotten under the anesthetic of the American amnesiac condition, which perpetuates, systematically, an interpretation and misrepresentation of American exceptionalism and imperialism. Spanos’s philosophically informed interpretation of Vietnam Era literature, as well as other mediated representations of war, suggests that the Derridean specter haunts the “triumphalist” American representation of the post–Cold War reality, the New World Order or “Pax Americana,” and that the various politically correct theories that predict the decline of the nation-state or that celebrate the rise of American multicultural democracy will have mostly been the blind leading the blind toward a misapprehension of the global phenomenon of American hegemony.

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