From Publishers Weekly
Decisive military superiority, not fear of a communist planet, steered the United States into the Southeast Asian debacle, argues Vietnam historian Porter in this provocative but scholarly work. This revisionist premise-which suggests that, in the '60s, the U.S. acted as the world's lone superpower in much the same fashion as it does today-upends traditional thinking on the war's major cause. Porter also contends that successive national security advisors were determined to press these advantages despite the reluctance of their commanders-in-chiefs. These fascinating assessments are intertwined with familiar themes, such as Eisenhower's determination to avoid sending troops to aid France in its last ditch attempt at Dien Bien Phu. Johnson's advisors' use of the domino theory, the belief that the fall of South Vietnam would unleash communism throughout the region, as a political tool to convince the president and the public to press forward with escalation is one of the book's more engrossing arguments. But Porter's belief that Johnson "was never held in thrall by any Cold War doctrine... to save South Vietnam" is curious in light of the above. It also ignores strong influences shaping his subsequent actions in Vietnam: the 1949 "loss of China" to communism and the resulting McCarthyite hysteria. Nevertheless, Porter's intriguing reinterpretation of Vietnam politics is certain to stoke debate among academics.
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"This will be the most important contribution to our understanding of the war in Vietnam since the Pentagon Papers. I am not exaggerating or speaking for effect. Porter challenges - by and large successfully - most of the accepted views, especially on the importance of the domino theory, the belief that U. S. policy was driven by a perception of its weakness on the world scene, and the belligerence of Johnson and, to a lesser extent Kennedy." - Robert Jervis, author of American Foreign Policy in a New Era"