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Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama Hardcover – May 26, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press; First Edition edition (May 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815721315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815721314
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #512,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"What a terrific book! Scrupulously researched and beautifully told, Haunting Legacy proves that try as they might, our past seven presidents have —one after the next — failed to exorcize the ghost of Vietnam. From Ford to Obama…each one has seen the Vietnam War intrude on his campaigns (think draft dodging and swift boating) and his decisionmaking (think military action). It's a fresh look at late 20th/early 21stcentury American history." —Lesley Stahl, correspondent for 60 Minutes



"The ghost of the Vietnam War has influenced and haunted two generations of American policymakers. Now, a brilliant two-generation team looks at that legacy in an insightful and fascinating way. This is great narrative history and biography combined to create informative case studies." —Walter Isaacson

, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute



"By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome,' crowed President George H. W. Bush when he repelled Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1991. He was wrong. The Vietnam debacle continues to haunt America's political leaders, military men, and population. Marvin Kalb and Deborah Kalb's account of this phenomenon is studiously researched, vividly narrated, and, above all, highly readable. It will stand as a major contribution to the subject." —Stanley Karnow, author of Vietnam: A History, winner of the Pulitzer Prize



"More than three decades after its end, the Vietnam War continues to influence American attitudes toward sending troops abroad. In readable prose, the Kalbs's book skillfully and perceptively analyzes this haunting legacy from the administration of Gerald Ford to that of Barack Obama." —George C. Herring, author, America's Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975



"Vietnam continues to be an albatross, circling the White House. In a compelling and totally accessible book, the Kalbs (father and daughter) show how profoundly America's defeat in Vietnam has affected one U.S. administration after another, over the course of the past thirty-six years. If you wonder whether Vietnam still matters, it does. Read this book and discover why and how." —Ted Koppel, anchor of ABC's Nightline for twenty-five years



" Haunting Legacy is a gripping, fascinating account of how the Vietnam War has lived on in the psyches of our national leaders and put its stamp on our foreign policy ever since. This powerful and insightful book shows us how that long and painful war has never really ended in Washington." —Elizabeth Drew, political journalist



"In this masterful work of historical reflection combined with good old-fashioned reporting and research, the Kalbs remind us how the shadow of losing a war influenced a president's choices on subsequent interventions. The chapters on Obama and Afghanistan poignantly remind us that perhaps the most dangerous form of human error is forgetting what one is trying to achieve. Haunting Legacy should be required reading for all occupants of the White House and every presidential aspirant." —Larry Berman, author of Lyndon Johnson's War: The Road to Stalemate in Vietnam and No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger and Betrayal in Vietnam

About the Author

Marvin Kalb is the Edward R. Murrow Professor of Practice (Emeritus) at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and founding director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. His distinguished journalism career covers thirty years of award-winning reporting and commentary for CBS and NBC News, including stints as bureau chief in Moscow and host of Meet the Press. His eleven previous books include The Nixon Memo (University of Chicago) and Kissinger (Little Brown). He hosts the Kalb Report at the National Press Club.

Deborah Kalb, a freelance writer and editor, worked as a journalist in Washington for two decades, including writing for Gannett News Service, Congressional Quarterly, U.S. News & World Report, and The Hill. Both authors live in the Washington, D.C. area.


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Customer Reviews

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Having grown up during the Vietnam era, this narrative was fascinating!
Bruce at Crime Club
For a non-reader of historical and political books, this informative, engaging, beautifully researched book engaged my attention.
Happy Peds
It's definitely worth a read if you're interested in this general topic.
Gary Westhoff

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gary Westhoff on August 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The authors chronicle how Vietnam Syndrome affected the foreign policies of Presidents Ford to Obama. Therefore, not all foreign policy "events" from these administrations are addressed: there is no discussion of Iran-Contra, for example. I was skeptical of this work, concerned that the thesis was forced and contrived. For the vast majority of the book, this is a potential problem that is avoided, due largely to careful selection of specific foreign policy decisions (see above). There is little if any original, earth-shattering research, but it's concise, analytical, and meaningful. Unless one is a historian or reads historical journals, the book is full of insights. For example, there is fascinating discussion of Reagan's uniquely complicated relationship with Cap Weinberger. It's definitely worth a read if you're interested in this general topic.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Happy Peds on August 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
For a non-reader of historical and political books, this informative, engaging, beautifully researched book engaged my attention. When I finished reading the book I had a greater understanding of how the Vietnam war has affected and continues to affect American politics.

The book makes one reflect as to why the USA continues to sacrifice young lives and invest such a large amount of funds in wars such as (currently) the one in Afghanistan. Have we not learned from what happened in Vietnam?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William B. Jones on August 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
For Americans come of age during the Vietnam war, there was "Fire in the Lake" to inform what was at hand. For those wondering what the war meant for America a decade later, there was "Backfire." For those wondering about its continuing costs to the country, and hence the world, "Haunting Legacy" provides keen insight.

You don't have to have served in Vietnam to have had your life influenced by the politics of America's war there. In fact, it may be that this book is particulary important for the majority of Americans now living who were born after the draft for that "police action" ended. If you don't think the remnants of Vietnam lingered in the thinking of every president since then, read on.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ted Marks on September 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The thesis underlying this book is a good one: that the age of the Vietnam War had an enormous impact on the conduct of American foreign policy in the ensuing half century, to wit: every president since Richard Nixon allowed the Vietnam experience to color his oversight of foreign affairs.

The problem with this book is that the authors don't carry the thesis far enough. Why limit the analysis to the conduct of foreign policy? In fact, the age of Vietnam changed the American society and its experiment with the democratic process. The real issue is whether the change made the country better - or worse.

Marvin Kalb had a distinguished career as a CBS television correspondent that stretches back to before Vietnam. He and his daughter, Deborah Kalb, provide us with a good account of American foreign policy over the last half-century. Clearly, the U.S. defeat in Vietnam has - and continues to have - an enormous impact on how presidents direct our international affairs.

Not surprisingly, though, there is the expected political bias in their account. For the most part Democrat administrations come off far more favorably in the conduct of foreign affairs than Republican administrations. That bias, in this reviewer's opinion, is typical of the mainstream media that has a decidedly liberal outlook on foreign affairs. For that reason, this reviewer also recommends the book, PRESIDENTIAL COMMAND, by Peter W. Rodman, published in 2009. Rodman covers much of the same material that the Kalbs do, but with a more authoritative perspective.

But the Kalbs' book, Haunting Legacy, is a good summary of the foreign affairs in the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am an avid reader and student of history, have read quite a few well researched books on the Vietnam War experience as well as a diverse collection of works on US Presidents including biographies by well respected writers and other historical works on Ancient Rome, Greece, Britain, Ireland, Macedonia, as well as subject matter related to the founding and Revolutionary War involving our great country, America. In addition, my father was a well read and educated graduate of West Point as was his brother (and my uncle) General Robin Olds, a triple ace fighter pilot, Commandant of US Air Force Cadets in '72 and who was directly involved in combat in WWII as well as Commander of Operation Bolo, one of the most successful air combat missions in Vietnam. He was also invited to the White House by President Johnson to express his honest opinion about the handling of the war at a critical stage. I believe if my uncle and father were alive today and read this book, they would have quite a different viewpoint and opinion on this issue on many fronts.

While interesting to read the timeline of Presidents' experience with Vietman and subsequent "fallout" through the years from Ford to Obama while they dealt with the so called "legacy" that Kalb and his wife cover in this book, I was surprised to find that Kalb often strayed from "objective journalism" and offered a fair amount of unsubstantiated personal opinion and remarks on decisions made by current and past Presidents without really "fleshing out" the motives, facts involved on "all sides" within the context of the actual time in history that the decisions and events took place.
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