This paper describes Philip Caputo’s autobiographical narrative of his involvement in the Vietnam War, A Rumor of War (1977), in its Cold War context.
The author argues that Caputo’s preoccupation with seemingly universal attributes of (male) human nature and essential moral qualities is inconsistent with the few passages in which he acknowledges the specific political context of the conflict. The conclusion is that Caputo was so successfully indoctrinated by the Cold War ideological system that even his disillusionment with the war did not allow him to depict the functioning of that system in his own life.
“From the foundation of the Soviet Union in 1917 through until the Gorbachev era, America’s elites were frankly obsessed with the specter of communism. What was essentially at issue during the Cold War was the possibility of an alternative social and economic order to capitalism emerging and proving it viable. What communists promised to create was a social and economic order that offered its people as much in material terms as capitalism, if not more, but without the latter’s exploitation of the working classes and its vulnerability to periodic busts and depressions.