Magazine article Foreign Affairs

Recent Books on International Relations: Military, Scientific, and Technological: Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam/Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961

Magazine article Foreign Affairs

Recent Books on International Relations: Military, Scientific, and Technological: Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam/Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961

Article excerpt

Military, Scientific, and Technological Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam. BY FREDRIK LOGEVALL. Random House, 2012, 864 pp. $40.00.

Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961. BY WILLIAM J . RUST. University Press of Kentucky, 2012, 352 pp. $40.00.

These two books describe how the United States' role in former French Indochina developed during the 1950s; they are, in essence, pre-histories of the Vietnam War. Logevall's book is magisterial. It focuses on the American response to the steady deterioration in France's position leading up to its calamitous defeat at the hands of the Vietminh at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and the awkward compromises produced by the Geneva Conference later that year. Logevall ponders the dilemmas faced by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, who was reluctant to be seen as giving an inch to the Communists yet anxious to avoid committing ground troops to yet another East Asian conflict so soon after achieving a cease-fire in Korea. If there was to be any direct U.S. intervention on behalf of France, Eisenhower insisted that it have British support. But the United Kingdom, in the twilight of its own tenure as an Asian power, intended to steer clear of any Vietnamese (or Laotian) entanglements. …

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