Whatever the eventual outcome of the war in Viet Nam, historians may argue for years about just why the U.S. became involved. Marshall McLuhan, the 1960s' mystagogue of the media, has proposed something of an explanation—or at any rate, a suggestive metaphor for the collision that has occurred in Indochina.

By McLuhan's reasoning, "there are no raw materials in that area [Indochina] that could possibly tempt American imperialists, and there is no meaning to 'containment of Communism,' since Communism in Iowa and in Cairo and in Peking and in Moscow has totally different meanings." In an unpublished article, McLuhan sees Viet...

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