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Nixon's Vietnam War Hardcover – November, 1998

3.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A convincing, devastating deconstruction of Richard Nixons and Henry Kissinger's Vietnam War policies that attempts to explode the ``peace-with-honor'' myth. Nixon spent a great deal of time after his resignation as president making a case for his foreign policy achievements. So, too, has former national security adviser Henry Kissinger. In many books, articles, and speeches, they have argued that they performed heroically in the Vietnam War. They claim they spent four years battling the duplicitous North Vietnamese, our intransigent South Vietnamese allies, a weak-willed, liberal Congress, a biased press, and a self-servingif not communist-inspireddomestic antiwar movement to forge a peace with honor in January 1973. That peace, Nixon and Kissinger contend, was subverted by North Vietnamese treachery and Congress's failure to support South Vietnam after the American troop pullout. Kimball (History/Univ. of Miami) delves deeply into Nixons and Kissinger's interpretations of their decisions on Vietnam, compares them to many primary sources, and finds the Nixon and Kissinger arguments ``incomplete, disingenuous and self-serving.'' Kimball backs up his highly critical judgement in great detail in this heavily documented account, which concentrates on the diplomatic aspects of Nixons and Kissinger's Vietnam policies. Kimball also looks at both men's psychological makeupdescribing Nixon as ``antisocial, paranoid, narcissistic, [and] passive-aggressive''and concludes that Nixon's oft-proclaimed ``peace with honor'' was a myth manufactured by administration spin doctors. Nixon's plan to end the war, Kimball says, was far from the well-organized, ``proactive'' strategy that the late president claimed. Nixon and Kissinger's four years of war-making, in Kimballs view, ``unnecessarily prolonged the war, with all of the baneful consequences of death, destruction and division for Vietnam and America that this brought about.'' Kimball puts Nixon's and Kissinger's Vietnam War maneuverings under a microscope and discovers a malignant cancer on the presidency. (History Book Club selection) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From the Back Cover

"An enormously impressive work that lays bare the real Nixon and, along the way, reduces Nixon's version of the war to a legend of his own making. Will be the standard for understanding Richard Nixon and Vietnam-both central to our contemporary history."--Stanley Kutler, author of Abuse of Power and The Wars of Watergate

"A major accomplishment. Far and away the best study of Nixon's Vietnam policies we are likely to have for some time."--George Herring, author of America's Longest War and LBJ and Vietnam

"Kimball explains, as no historian has before, how Nixon and Kissinger conducted their complicated and devious Vietnam War diplomacy. Making brilliant use of new documentary sources and interviews from the American as well as the North Vietnamese side, he has made a singular contribution to our understanding of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and, even more important, to our understanding of that most fascinating of presidents, Richard M. Nixon."--Melvin Small, author of Johnson, Nixon, and the Doves

"An important contribution to our understanding of a tragic period in American politics and diplomacy."--Herbert S. Parmet, author of Richard Nixon and His America

"The most balanced and comprehensive study of the subject that we are likely to have for some time."--David Anderson, editor of Shadow on the White House: Presidents and the Vietnam War, 1945-1975

"A deeply necessary in-depth look at Nixon. Let us not soon forget."--Oliver Stone

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern War Studies
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (November 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700609245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700609246
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,846,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author



Jeffrey P. Kimball is Professor Emeritus of History at Miami University (Ohio, USA). He received his B.A. from the University of New Orleans, his M.A. from Queen's University (Ontario), and his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University. He has taught courses and been the author of books, journal articles, and book chapters on foreign relations, war, alternatives to war, war termination, popular culture, and historiography from the late eighteenth century to the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars. His books are To Reason Why: The Debate About the Causes of American Involvement in the Vietnam War (1990), long a standard supplemental reader in history classes; Nixon's Vietnam War (1998), which was a History Book Club selection, received the Robert Ferrell Book Prize and the Ohio Academy of History Book Award, and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; and The Vietnam War Files: Uncovering the Secret History of Nixon-Era Strategy (2004), which won the Arthur Link/Warren Kuehl Prize and has also been published in Vietnam. Two of his articles on the War of 1812 have also won awards. His latest book, with co-author William Burr, is Nixon's Nuclear Specter: The Secret Alert of 1969, Madman Diplomacy, and the Vietnam War (2015).

Kimball has served as graduate director of the Miami University History Department, associate editor for the journal Diplomatic History, president of the Peace History Society, and chair of the Peace History Commission of the International Peace History Association. He was a Senior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in 1995 and a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 2001.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on March 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This much needed Nixon's Vietnam War by Jeffrey Kimball is not only an account of the decisions but also of the illusions which informed Americans foreign policy. One of the most important and distinctive features of this study appears in Chapter "Dragons of Myth and Mind". For far too long, the remarkable part that presidential and leadership personality play in American policy has nmot been of adequate attention. The conduct of the war under Nixon and Kissinger cannot really be understood without the extent to which Nixon's personality governed most of his decisions. He had an unbelievable and overbearing belief in the unrelenting use of military force. Nixons's belief in the capacity of unrelenting forces was such a personal obsession that it made a rational assessment of the situation impossible. Time and again he invokes what he and Kissenger themselves call the `Madman' theory of war.
The second virtue of this study is the evidence from the minutes of meetings and the deliberate exclusion of Cabinet opponents from meetings and from knowledge of military and diplomatic orders in their sphere of responsibility. In short, Kimball's well documented account explores two dimensions of American foreign policy that have long needed to be made known to the American public and understood by the American public for this terrible ordeal. One was that America's credibility was at stake in a war that was actually destroying our reputation. The other was the fact that Russia and China were bitter enemies, neither really stood to gain by a nationalist victory by Hanoi.
This excellelnt book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the Vietnam War.
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Format: Hardcover
This smart, incisive, and telling book neatly unzips the clever reconstruction that many neo-conservative authors have bought into regarding the conduct of the Vietnam War by the Nixon administration. While few of us would quarrel with the idea that Nixon accomplished much on the world scene, we still must protest the idea held by many that he was so severely hampered in his prosecution of the war by a combination of internal and external constraints that he was unable to execute the compassionate, intelligent, and objective policies toward southeast Asia that he and Henry Kissinger had so painstakingly devised. Rather, we learn here that his Vietnam policies were as full of the `sturm und drang' contradictions seen elsewhere in his administration. For Nixon, prosecution of the Vietnam War was just another case of "politics as usual", another opportunity to pit conservative against liberal, hawk against dove, for personal aggrandizement and short-term political gain.
Far from flying with the angels, both Nixon and Kissinger bloodied their hands by instituting policies that resulted a dramatic increase in both American and Vietnamese casualties, instituting policies that continued the escalation of the war and its extension to new areas such as Laos and Cambodia. Using the conflict in Vietnam as a key element to engage both the Soviet Union and Communist China, Nixon seemed to lose sight of the need to deal with the specific factors propelling the war even as he became increasingly engaged with it, thinking he could simply "bomb" the North Vietnamese into capitulating regardless of the mounting evidence to the contrary.
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Format: Paperback
I was fortyish at the time, served in the Air Force as a Weather Officer just after the Korean War.

I am not a "Nixon lover," primarily because of Watergate and the profound influence it had on the manner in which we made our exit from Vietnam.

But in the language of that period, Mr. Kimball would, without doubt, be considered leftish and anti-war.

I don't believe there is a single instance in this book where he credits either Nixon or Kissinger with an altruistic or generous motive. Their every decision, every action is, in his opinion, motivated by self-interest. And rarely, if ever, are any actions or policies on the part of the South Vietnamese described in a positive light, either political or military.

The historical timeline is, no doubt, accurate, but the motives and purposes of Nixon and Kissinger are, in my opinion, fatally and negatively one-sided.

After reading this book, I tried to find another that was more "even-handed." I found a book by Lewis Sorley entitled "A Better War." Mr. Sorley has a military background and is a highly respected military historian. Therefore, it should be no surprise that his book is more about the military aspects of our involvement in the war.

And if you want a more truthful and honest idea of how and why the war was lost, you must read this book. It is impossible to read it and not come away with the idea that the journalism community did the country and the military a monumental disfavor by the way they described the war - and that includes even such "teflon, always tells the truth" jounalists such as Walter Cronkite. Practically all of the coverage was negative, which eventually came home to roost in the way the Congress perceived the war.
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