Domino Theory - Real or Imagined?

A topic of “settled history” that I always questioned in school was the debunking of the Domino Theory when discussing the roles of American and Soviet expansion during the Cold War, to the point that Domino Theory is considered some whacky misguided false narrative.

While I do strongly believe our involvement in places like Vietnam were borne from confusing a French colonial war with a war of Communism, China and the Soviet Union supported the NVA for the same reasons we opposed them, and just as Dominoes push on what is next to them, we saw expansion efforts in Ukraine, the Baltic states, Romania, Germany, much of South America (though I am admittedly pretty weak on my history there) and in Asia the communist countries used their influence over North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and so on.

Each one of these conflicts was incredibly nuanced and it is a disservice to say it was purely NATO v Warsaw, but in some ways the Domino Theory still holds some very valid points.

What are your thoughts? Is Domino Theory a false narrative or was there some truth to it?


There was definitely some amount of truth to this:

I disagree. They didn’t confuse a colonial war with a war against Communism. You can’t discuss the Vietnam War as a struggle for independence because they already had it after WWII and the humiliating French defeat at Dien Bien Phu.

In the Cold War, as local activists and political leaders established newly independent countries out of Europe’s former colonial empires, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China saw these new nations as potential allies and hoped to draw as many as possible into their respective orbits.

The Geneva Conference of 1954 basically pulled a Korea (except the North won). They should’ve learned from that awful mess.

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