Date of Award

Summer 8-18-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Michael Lang

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth McKillen

Third Committee Member

Sophie Quinn-Judge

Additional Committee Members

Nathan Godfried

Mazie Hough


This dissertation investigates the implications of the Nixon Doctrine in Asia and the South Vietnamese urban opposition to the Doctrine’s two indispensable components: Vietnamization and the Accelerated Pacification program. Vietnamization, implemented in 1969, was the heart of the Doctrine and helped to shield the Nixon administration from political repercussions by “changing the color of the corpses.” Operation Phoenix – which had already begun under the Johnson administration – assisted Vietnamization with programs to squelch South Vietnamese dissent and “neutralize” cadres of the National Liberation Front, the Communist-led local insurgency known derogatively as “Việt Cộng.” From 1969 onward, the implementation of these policies inflamed anti-government, antiwar sentiments among many non-communist urban intellectuals and religious leaders in South Vietnam.

Due to their concurrent condemnation of American imperialism and rejection of Communist doctrine, these opposition movements constituted a loosely connected, informal “Third Force” (Lực Lượng Thứ Ba) coalition that subscribed to nonviolent nationalism and political neutralism. To understand the ways in which the Third Force severely undermined the intentions and effectiveness of the Doctrine’s application in Indochina, this dissertation probes the development and antiwar activism of four prominent Third Force groups: the Sài Gòn Student Union, the Ấn Quang Unified Buddhist Church, progressive Catholic journalists and politicians, and the Vietnamese Women’s Movement for the Right to Live.

Reconstructing these non-communist urbanites as crucial contributors to peace and change helps to demonstrate that Communism was not the sole vehicle through which Vietnamese engaged in anti-imperialist efforts and people’s diplomacy. Moreover, the dissertation recenters the United States as a predominant force in waging the war and dictating its military conclusion, while refining contemporary understandings about the Nixon Doctrine in Asia as an impediment to Vietnamese people, regional security, and U.S. foreign policy. At the same time, it dismantles cultural essentialist depictions of “Third World” and Vietnamese people as politically indifferent and naive.

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