Domino Theory

The domino theory was a Cold War policy that suggested a communist government in one nation would quickly lead to communist takeovers in neighboring states, each falling like a perfectly aligned row of dominos. In Southeast Asia, the U.S. government used the domino theory to justify its involvement in the Vietnam War.


By 1950, U.S. foreign policymakers had accepted the idea that the fall of Indochina to communism would lead rapidly to the collapse of other nations in Southeast Asia. During the decisive battle between Viet Minh and French forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called it the “falling domino” principle.

In Eisenhower’s view, the loss of Vietnam to communist control would lead to similar communist victories in neighboring countries in Southeast Asia (including Laos, Cambodia and Thailand) and elsewhere (India, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and even Australia and New Zealand).

The term “domino theory” began to be used to express the strategic importance of South Vietnam to the United States, as well as the need to contain the spread of communism throughout the world.


The domino theory is no longer accepted. It failed to take into account the character of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong struggle in the Vietnam War.

By assuming Ho Chi Minh was a pawn of the communist giants Russia and China, American policymakers failed to see that the goal of Ho and his supporters was Vietnamese independence, not the spread of communism.

The American effort to block a communist takeover failed, and North Vietnamese forces marched into Saigon in 1975. Yet communism did not spread throughout the rest of Southeast Asia. Only Laos and Cambodia came under communist control.

Source: Domino Theory
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