Hanoi's Road to the Vietnam War, 1954-1965

Hanoi's Road to the Vietnam War, 1954-1965

Hanoi's Road to the Vietnam War, 1954-1965

Hanoi's Road to the Vietnam War, 1954-1965

Synopsis

Hanoi's Road to the Vietnam War opens in 1954 with the signing of the Geneva accords that ended the eight-year-long Franco-Indochinese War and created two Vietnams. In agreeing to the accords, Ho Chi Minh and other leaders of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam anticipated a new period of peace leading to national reunification under their rule; they never imagined that within a decade they would be engaged in an even bigger feud with the United States. Basing his work on new and largely inaccessible Vietnamese materials as well as French, British, Canadian, and American documents, Pierre Asselin explores the communist path to war. Specifically, he examines the internal debates and other elements that shaped Hanoi's revolutionary strategy in the decade preceding U.S. military intervention, and resulting domestic and foreign programs. Without exonerating Washington for its role in the advent of hostilities in 1965, Hanoi's Road to the Vietnam War demonstrates that those who directed the effort against the United States and its allies in Saigon were at least equally responsible for creating the circumstances that culminated in arguably the most tragic conflict of the Cold War era.

Excerpt

The literature on the Second Indochina War is large and growing larger. Until recently, however, the literature suffered from a U.S.-centric focus and a tendency to look solely at decision-making in Washington. To paraphrase historian Gaddis Smith’s classic description of Cold War historiography, it was the history of “one hand clapping.” Too few studies placed U.S. policymaking into its wider international context; fewer still gave a voice to the “other side,” the Vietnamese who fought so long and hard to defeat first the French and then the South Vietnamese government and its American allies.

But the picture is changing, as scholars with the requisite linguistic skills begin to work in depth in Vietnamese archival and other materials, as well as in voluminous French- and English-language sources. Pierre Asselin knows these materials as well as anyone, having mined them for several pathbreaking studies over the past decade. Now Asselin gives us Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War, 1954–1965, the first detailed scholarly assessment of the subject ever published in English. It is a penetrating, lucid, and compelling study of the period between the end of the First Indochina War and the large-scale escalation of the Second.

Other authors writing in English have examined North Vietnamese decisionmaking in this vital period. Few, however, have done so in the kind of detail—and using the wide array of primary sources—that Asselin does here. This book shows how Hanoi leaders viewed the evolving situation in the late 1950s and early 1960s, not merely in South Vietnam but also in the Cold War power centers of Washington, Moscow, and Beijing. in Asselin’s telling, the North Vietnamese were never puppets of the Soviet Union and China; for the most part, they were able to make autonomous decisions during the period in question. More than that, North Vietnamese . . .

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