Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975
The war in Vietnam was misjudged by France and the United States. A civil war waged between Communists and non-Communists, Buddhists and Catholics, authoritarians reigning over North and South. The Vietnamese had been fiercely struggling against aggressors for generations. The role of the US government in respects to Southeast Asia initially consisted of financial support and advice. As each administration from Truman through Nixon progressed, money and advice evolved into troops and military might. The leadership of the North was ably led by Ho Chi Minh, who had previously appealed for help but was rebuffed post-World War I. The South’s leadership was initially led by Ngo Dinh Diem, a smart man, but one who was led by his religious prejudices and enabled brutality by his military men against his own people. The fall of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 taught valuable lessons, but they would be missed by “the best and brightest” who further dug their heels in and unleashed the dogs of war in Southeast Asia.
Max Hastings’ comprehensive review of the tragic conflagration in Vietnam is masterful in scope and delivery. The task is daunting for those seeking to cover a war as broad as the Vietnam conflict, but Hastings possesses the writer’s chops to get it done. A beautiful, but tragic, history of a battered thirty-year period. A++
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