The Vietnam War remains a topic of extraordinary interest, especially in light of the invasion of Iraq. In The Vietnam War, Mark Lawrence offers readers a superb short account of this key moment in U.S. as well as world history, based on the latest European and American research and on newly opened archives in China, Russia, and Vietnam. While focusing on the American involvement from 1965 to 1975, Lawrence offers an unprecedentedly complete picture of all sides of the war, drawing on now available communist records to capture the complicated brew of motivations that drove the other side. Moreover, the book reaches back well before American forces set foot in Vietnam, describing for instance how French colonialism sparked the 1945 Vietnamese revolution, and revealing how the Cold War concerns of the 1950s warped Washington's perception of Vietnam, leading the United States to back the French and eventually become involved on the ground itself.
Of course, the heart of the book is the "American war," ranging from the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem to the impact of the Tet Offensive on the political situation in the US, Johnson's withdrawal from the 1968 presidential race, Nixon's expansion of the war into Cambodia and Laos, and the final peace agreement of 1973, which ended American military involvement. Finally, the book examines the aftermath of the war, from the momentous liberalization-"Doi Moi"-in Vietnam that began in 1986, to the enduring legacy of the war in American books, films, and political debate. A quick and reliable primer on an intensely relevant topic, this well researched and engaging volume offers an invaluable overview of the Vietnam War.
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Oxford University Press Inc
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US Kirkus Review »
Succinct history of a frustrating war that raised several painful issues America's leaders are now encountering for a second time.Lawrence (History/Univ. of Texas; Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam, 2005) enjoyed access to Soviet archives and North Vietnamese participants, so he presents more information than was available 30 years ago - but it's still largely an American show. After a bloody victory over the French in 1954, charismatic Viet Minh leader Ho Chi Minh vehemently opposed the treaty that divided Vietnam in half, on the grounds that he had won the whole. It was Russia and China, preoccupied with their own problems and unwilling to provoke the United States, who twisted Ho's arm, the author reveals. Ironically, American leaders also opposed the treaty because it involved a compromise with communism, something they vowed never to do. Keeping South Vietnam independent, U.S. authorities agreed, required a capable South Vietnamese army led by a competent government that enjoyed popular support. In less than 200 pages, Lawrence records America's 20-year failure to accomplish this. The author spends little time on the actual fighting but makes clear the immense destruction U.S. firepower inflicted on insurgent forces, North Vietnamese troops and North Vietnam itself, as well as the civilian population on both sides. He excels in describing Lyndon Johnson and then Nixon and Kissinger desperately struggling to find an acceptable excuse to withdraw. In a justification that contemporary readers will find familiar, all three repeatedly asserted that retreating without victory would shame us before the world and embolden our enemies. The author points out that the opposite happened. America's popularity plunged the longer we fought and recovered afterward. Neither North Vietnam nor communism prospered following our withdrawal.A pithy and compelling account of an intensely relevant topic. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Mark Atwood Lawrence
Mark Atwood Lawrence is Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam, which won the 2006 George Louis Beer Prize and Paul Birdsall Prize of the American Historical Association. He is also the co-editor of The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis, and the editor of The New York Times Twentieth Century in Review: The Vietnam War.