Mark Atwood Lawrence, "The End of Ambition: The United States and the Third World in the Vietnam Era" (Princeton UP, 2021)


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Histories of the Vietnam War are not in short supply. In U.S. history, it ranks alongside the Civil War and World War Two in terms of author coverage. The aftermath of the war has received a similar amount of attention, with historians noting the effect that the end of the war had on domestic politics and U.S. foreign policy. But what about shifts during the war itself? While the war dominated thinking in the Johnson Administration and overshadowed a whole host of other foreign policy issues, it did not cause them to simply disappear. Quite the opposite: Lyndon Johnson was confronted by a multitude of issues during his time in office, and the fact that those issues occurred in tandem with the Vietnam War shaped the U.S. response to them.

In The End of Ambition: The United States and the Third World in the Vietnam Era (Princeton UP, 2021), Mark Atwood Lawrence fills in some of the gaps about U.S. foreign policy during the Vietnam War. While historians have noted that U.S. foreign policy became markedly less ambitious under Richard Nixon, Lawrence notes through five different country case studies that U.S. foreign policy began to shift dramatically under Lyndon Johnson, a shift that eschewed transformative foreign policy and emphasized caution. Lawrence illustrates how the Vietnam War wrought a transformation in U.S. foreign policy whose ramifications can still be felt in the present day.

Zeb Larson is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a PhD in History. His research deals with the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to

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