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The Vietnam War: A Concise International History [Paperback]

Mark Atwood Lawrence
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 23, 2010 0199753938 978-0199753932
The Vietnam War remains a topic of extraordinary interest, not least because of striking parallels between that conflict and more recent fighting in the Middle East. In The Vietnam War, Mark Atwood Lawrence draws upon the latest research in archives around the world to offer readers a superb account of a key moment in U.S. as well as global history.

While focusing on American involvement between 1965 and 1975, Lawrence offers an unprecedentedly complete picture of all sides of the war, notably by examining the motives that drove the Vietnamese communists and their foreign allies. Moreover, the book carefully considers both the long- and short-term origins of the war. Lawrence examines the rise of Vietnamese communism in the early twentieth century and reveals how Cold War anxieties of the 1940s and 1950s set the United States on the road to intervention. Of course, the heart of the book covers the "American war," ranging from the overthrow of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem to the impact of the Tet Offensive on American public opinion, Lyndon Johnson's withdrawal from the 1968 presidential race, Richard Nixon's expansion of the war into Cambodia and Laos, and the problematic peace agreement of 1973, which ended American military involvement. Finally, the book explores the complex aftermath of the war--its enduring legacy in American books, film, and political debate, as well as Vietnam's struggles with severe social and economic problems.

A compact and authoritative primer on an intensely relevant topic, this well-researched and engaging volume offers an invaluable overview of the Vietnam War.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this history, University of Texas associate history professor Lawrence (Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam), sifts through centuries of struggle in the small Southeast Asian nation, beginning with the Trung sisters' first century fight to throw off Chinese domination, to illustrate how America, for the Vietnamese, was just another in a long line of ultimately vanquished enemies. Lawrence locates the Trung sisters' spiritual heir in Ho Chi Minh, the communist revolutionary who quoted the Declaration of Independence before finding himself at war with a U.S.-backed South Vietnamese insurgency. The book lives up to its brief and accessible billing, but overall there is little new regarding the "international" players, France, China, and the Soviet Union; largely American-centric, the narrative rests on major U.S. developments from the 1964 Tonkin Gulf Resolution to the fall of the American Embassy in 1975. That said, the author ably encapsulates the uses and abuses of American power, which should prove familiar to anyone following news of the current war.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Crisply concise.... Delves into the 'whys' of the war: why the Vietnamese fought against the United States, why the great powers were involved, why the war turned out as it did and why legacies of the war linger."--Philip Seib,Dallas Morning News

"[A] succinct history of a frustrating war that raised several painful issues America's leaders are now encountering for a second time.... A pithy and compelling account of an intensely relevant topic."--Kirkus Reviews

"Distills the US's longest war into a short, readable narrative.... This brief summary of the tangled negotiations that prolonged the suffering caused by the war is perhaps Lawrence's most valuable contribution, since it covers an area that more extensive histories overlook.... A valuable addition to any academic library.... Essential."--C.C. Lovett, CHOICE

"The book lives up to its brief and accessible billing...."--Publishers Weekly

"In an elegant, almost elegiac prose style, Mark Lawrence takes us through the history of the Vietnam War in a narrative that transcends the usual focus on Vietnam and the United States. There is no other one volume history of the war that so thoroughly captures the war as an event in world history."--Marilyn B. Young, author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990

"A succinct and persuasive account of the Second Indochina War in its global context. At a time when the current U.S. involvement in Iraq evokes uneasy memories of America's controversial 'war of choice' in Vietnam, Mark Lawrence's thoughtful analysis of that previous conflict is highly welcome."--William J. Duiker, author of Ho Chi Minh: A Life

"In this concise history of the Vietnam War, Mark Lawrence does a masterful job of transforming a highly complex and controversial subject into a brilliant and balanced histoire synthèse. A rare feat."--Christopher Goscha, Université du Québec à Montréal

"It takes skill to condense a massive subject into a concise, entertaining, and accessible book. This is what Mark Atwood Lawrence accomplishes in his 224 page book The Vietnam War: A Concise International History.... This book might be even more attractive than the larger volumes on the subject because it is succint and focuses on the primary issues of the war."--Shelton Woods, Resources

'In less than two hundred pages of clear, crisp prose, Mark Atwood Lawrence succeeds in 'examining the American role within a broadly interntional conext....' The information Lawrence packs into such a short volume is most impressive: his 'introductory study' is both comprehensive and economical.... Lawrence achieves his principal objective reminding us that the geopolitical environment decisively shaped the Vietnam experience in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries."--Gregory A. Daddis, Michigan War Studies Review

"Lawrence has produced a general survey of the war that will likely become a standard resource in undergraduate courses.... One cuold not ask for a better 'concise' history than the survey Lawrence has written. His prose style is always clear and often elegant.... For a subject that has all too often inspired overwrought critiques of the various parties involved in the conflict, it is refreshing to have a synthesis that adopts a more neutral and dispassionate view of the Vietnam War."--James McAllister, History: Reviews of New Books

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199753938
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199753932
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Concise History and Overview December 30, 2008
Attempting to write a history of The Vietnam War in less than 200 pages of text (supported by good notes) is not an easy task. The keen student of Vietnam will find nothing new in this, but if you are looking for a generally well written concise history of this horrible conflict - read Lawrence's work.

Vietnam is a story of broken promises by world powers - United States, France, Soviet Union and China. After a brief exploration of the early history of the country, the author shows how Vietnam was but a pawn for the major powers. He paints quite clearly an inexorable slow drive to inevitable war as the US / Soviet Union / China perceive a country virtually unknown to the West as a key geo-political battle ground.

The tragedy for the United States is that Vietnam was also a domestic political football and US Presidents Kennedy and Johnson got deeper involved in the conflict "not because they were confident of victory but because they feared the consequences of defeat." The Vietnam War broke LBJ, a man who always seemed to only go half-way in implementing any advice from advisors.

I can't agree with a previous reviewer who castigates the author for his profile of Nixon. It is well documented that Nixon interfered with Johnson's peace overtures prior to the 1968 election which is a much more cynical act than his Watergate escapades. An excellent picture of Nixon and Kissinger is painted in Robert Dallek's book Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Powerand does neither of them little credit.

Very concise but good overviews of the Tet offensive and other key battles are provided.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview December 15, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book will be of great service for laypeople interested in a concise and wide-ranging overview of the Vietnam War. In fact, it would also be a good, safe choice for college history instructors looking for a short text to use in undergraduate classes on the Vietnam War or U.S. foreign relations. A big plus of this book is that Lawrence frames his story widely, giving considerable room for discussion of French colonialism in Vietnam, World War II, and the origins of U.S. involvement, which make up about 1/3 of the book. A second plus is that he provides views from all sides of the conflict, not just the view from Washington. We learn quite a bit about power struggles and disagreements over strategy within the North Vietnamese communist party and with its allies in China and the Soviet Union. For example, it was the big communist powers who pushed Hanoi to accept the 1954 Geneva accord out of fear of provoking U.S. intervention at a time they felt they could not match U.S. power. In his judgment of U.S. policies, Lawrence is solidly in the orthodox camp, repeatedly pointing out that despite short-term successes of U.S. economic aid to the Diem regime, it was doomed due to its internal corruption. The same argument is used to evaluate U.S. military tactics: Successes on the battlefield petered out due to a fundamental flaw in strategic assumptions. Revisionists such as Mark Moyar will surely disagree, but Lawrence does represent the majority opinion among U.S. historians at the moment.

The book has no major flaws, but Lawrence's prose isn't exactly lively. At times "The Vietnam War" reads like a textbook. Given its brevity, the book merely alludes to topics such as the experience of soldiers, the effects of chemical warfare, the war in American and Vietnamese memory, etc.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Summary, but Not Thorough June 3, 2011
This book is a good choice for those seeking introductory information on the Vietnam War. It does a good job at presenting the political dynamics of the war, yet it is deficient in that it largely ignores the later repercussions of the war for the world as well as the huge importance (whether contrived or real) the war had on the Cold War. Furthermore, the book does not delve deeply into battles occurring during the war, largely confining itself to those political factors. However, I would recommend this book as a refresher, yet it's not for those already familiar with the conflict.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
For a whirlwind tour through the century of conflict in Vietnam, Lawrence's discussion is dry and clinical -- perhaps appropriate for such a volatile topic, but the work still reads like a book report.

The heart of the book is the discussion of the political war -- and the inability of the South to achieve any kind of political support that would legitimize it and therefore win the struggle. As long as the NLF withstood the bombing attacks above the 17th parallel, the US technological edge was rendered mute. As Lawrence states, this made the political outcome of the conflict that much more important, and the advantage tilted dramatically to the North. The South simply did not have the support of its people and perceived legimitacy, while at the same time the war became increasingly unpopular in the the U.S.

Surprisingly for such a short work, Lawrence ends with a chapter discussing the legacy of the war to the current day, and makes some fairly sweeping judgements about the recent use of military power particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't necessarily think these add to the book, and they are certainly not needed for the sake of any sense of completeness.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Basic Overview
Mark Lawrence has provided a basic overview of the conflict in Vietnam. Nothing new here, but does a decent job of reviewing the key players, events, and ideologies that shaped the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Steve Coffey
5.0 out of 5 stars well researched and well written
This a short piece written by a scholar and free from evident bias which is important given the author is American. Travel to Vietnam. Read more
Published 2 months ago by James W P Kershaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy.
The title says it all - a concise history from a number of different international perspectives which combine to frame the narrative in a plausible and strightforward manner.
Published 4 months ago by Erwin B Williamson
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative easy read.
I found this to be easy to read and understand. It's a short political history that help clear some of the reasons behind the wars.
Published 6 months ago by L. Kent Bryant
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read; Seemed objective
I grew up with the words "From Saigon" on the evening news. I was 25 when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Writerwanabe
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
This book provides a good overview of the Vietnam War and a good jumping off point to other, more in-depth reads. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Elvira Chavaria
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent history book
Brilliant overview of this historic failure of an attempt to interfere in a south east asian country. The author is independent, chooses no sides. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Hotkiwi
4.0 out of 5 stars The Book Battles on
Well written, it is historic and a yet told in way you want to hear the story. Mr. Lawrence does have a way at combining both what you learned in history class (which is boring)... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Chef Flowers
5.0 out of 5 stars A rattling good read that should be required reading for dcision...
As a New Zealand soldier serving in this quagmire- this book put it all in perspective.

After serving in a well run conflict in Malaysia and then a very clever campaign... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Peter D Campbell
4.0 out of 5 stars We lost this one!
A very good book, with a fair overview of the war. It was a bit short on depth of the complete history of the Vietnam War but contained enough detail to make it a worthwhile read.
Published 23 months ago by TRH
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