The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964-1968

The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964-1968

The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964-1968

The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964-1968


The Search for Peace in Vietnam , 1964-1968, the newest edition in the Texas A&M University Press Series on Foreign Relations and the Presidency, is a collection of essays that analyze the Vietnam War in terms of its significance to the global arena. Under the guidance of editors Lloyd C. Gardner and Ted Gittinger, the contributors, representing both communist and capitalist backgrounds, examine whether the Vietnam War was responsible for the transformation of the international system, using a formula postulated by series editor H. W. Brands, which looks at the international system at the beginning of the war and at the end, and measuring how much of the difference in the two periods is the result of the war.

Topics include Robert J. McMahon's assessment of the war's legacy to Southeast Asia; Xiaoming Zhang's analysis of Chinese involvement as an element in the Sino-Soviet rivalry; Ilya Gaiduk's account of the Soviet Indochina policy within the context of Moscow's relations with the outside world; Judith A. Klinghoffer's examination of the war's role in determining American foreign policy in the Middle East; Hiroshi Fujimoto's discussion of whether America's Cold War policy of regionalism affected Japan's economic prosperity; and other analyses by H. W. Brands, Lloyd C. Gardner, Robert K. Brigham, Frank Costigliola, Kil J. Yi, and Quang Zhai. John Prados ends the book questioning whether the Vietnam War was, in essence, just a sideshow in international relations and attempts to understand the war's place in the world and its impact on the place of the United States.

The Search for Peace in Vietnam , 1964-1968 brings together a diverse group of scholars representing various viewpoints and backgrounds regarding the Vietnam War. The book breaks free from the mold of many American analyses of Vietnam, which place the war solely in the context of America's involvement and detriment, and endeavors to look further for both causes and effects. A true scholarly work, The Search for Peace in Vietnam , 1964-1968 challenges readers to think about this pivotal point in international history in a new way.


Lloyd C. Gardner

The Vietnam War was unusual, perhaps unique, in having so many “peace offers” put forward even as the struggle intensified and American involvement deepened during the Johnson years. Washington’s Cold War allies offered their services as interlocutors to get talks started, but so did the Soviet Union’s satellites in Eastern Europe. France’s Charles de Gaulle, acting from his own agenda, called for the “neutralization” of Vietnam in 1964, not simply as a peace program, but as part of a general realignment in both Asia and Europe that would replace the postwar bipolar structure with a multicentered organization of world affairs. All these crosscurrents make the study of the Vietnam War’s peace initiatives essential to those who wish to understand how the conflict was a part of the Cold War, yet called into question basic assumptions about such givens as the Sino-Soviet bloc, and ultimately, as H. W. Brands points out, provided a powerful impetus to détente.

De Gaulle’s early insistence upon bringing Communist China into the discussions over Vietnam’s future—as the sine qua non of any lasting settlement in Southeast Asia—was more than just irksome to American policy makers, as Charles Cogan and Maurice Vaïsse explain so clearly. It posed several difficulties. First, his actions implied that the French experience in Vietnam proved it would be an unwinnable struggle—something that the Americans could not accept. Second, his “meddling” only made matters worse—with both allies and enemies—and delayed success. Third, much of the rationale for U.S. involvement in the postcolonial struggle in Vietnam, after all, had been to block China’s expansion dating from the Korean War. Fourth, the domestic political consequences of that war had cost the last Democratic administration dearly, and were a powerful disincentive to consider French proposals, or any others that smacked of appeasement. Again, as H. W. Brands comments in the final chapter of this book, “Communist China still looked like the third rail of U.S. diplomacy: touch it and you die.”

As matters stood throughout the Johnson administration, serious negotiations offered only bad outcomes: a quick surrender of the main objective . . .

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