Vietnam

Vietnam

Vietnam

Vietnam

Synopsis

This study of warfare in Vietnamese history takes in economic, socio-political and diplomatic issues. Focusing on the Vietnam War, it explores the conflict from a Vietnamese perspective, to show how it was part of the struggle against foreign domination.

Excerpt

In studying the Vietnam War, first as an Army captain in charge of preparing daily intelligence summaries on North Vietnam and Laos for the chief of staff of the Army and later as a college professor offering a course on the war, I learned that it was impossible to look at it in isolation, as so many Americans were wont to do at the time. One could not learn the truth about the Vietnam War without first studying the Indo-China War, which in turn could not be understood without probing Vietnamese nationalist attitudes during the period of French rule. That in turn was conditioned by long Vietnamese opposition to China. All of this reveals the truism that history cannot be understood in isolation. If any war in modern history demonstrates the need to study history, it is the Vietnam conflict.

Although this book is a survey of all of Vietnamese military history, its emphasis is on the twentieth century and the Vietnam War. A traumatic event for the United States in terms of lives and treasure as well as in domestic upheaval, it also taught Americans an important lesson about the limits of power. But what Americans know as the Vietnam War is regarded by Vietnamese as merely one in a long series of struggles against foreign domination. The Vietnamese have in fact done much better at putting that war into perspective than have Americans. In a 410-page “official history” of Vietnam (Vietnam. A Long History, Hanoi, 1993), Nguyên Khăc Viên devotes one chapter of only 51 pages (“Building the Foundations of Socialism and the Struggle Against U.S. Neo-Colonialism”) to the entire period of 1954-73. Americans would not do as well, in part because the United States lost the Vietnam War. Nor have I; the Vietnam War dominates this book. I have, however, included discussion of the important earlier battles in Vietnamese history, which are not generally known to Westerners.

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