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Nation-States and the Global EnvironmentNew Approaches to International Environmental History$
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Erika Marie Bsumek, David Kinkela, and Mark Atwood Lawrence

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199755356

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199755356.001.0001

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Going Global after Vietnam

Going Global after Vietnam

The End of Agent Orange and the Rise of an International Environmental Regime

(p.97) 5 Going Global after Vietnam
Nation-States and the Global Environment

David Zierler

Oxford University Press

This essay provides an historical explanation for the U.S. decision to end herbicidal warfare operations in Vietnam, contextualized within a broader framework of the late 1960s. The debacle of the Vietnam had collapsed the Cold War “consensus.” The idea that remote communist revolutions threatened U.S. security lost salience, creating room for new conceptualizations of security, including environmental issues. A group of scientists who protested the massive spraying of South Vietnam with Agent Orange and other herbicides were concerned with the unknown ecological and human effects of this unprecedented program. Further, they feared the wide availability of herbicides meant that herbicidal warfare could be waged everywhere. The scientists’ efforts prevented this prospect in two ways: they successfully urged Congress to press the White House to renounce first use of herbicides in war; and they helped to elevate herbicidal warfare to the international arena during the inaugural UN Environmental Conference of 1972.

Keywords:   herbicides, agent orange, security, vietnam, united nations, cold war

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