From Publishers Weekly
A full-blooded member of what he calls the "revisionist school" of Vietnam War historians, Moyar firmly believes that America's longest and most controversial overseas war was "a worthy but improperly executed enterprise." His fiercely argued book, which covers the early years of American involvement in the war, is an unabated salvo against what he calls the "orthodox school" that sees American involvement in the war as "wrongheaded and unjust." The main villains are former Vietnam War correspondents David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan; former U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge; and just about anyone else who had bad things to say about South Vietnamese premier Ngo Dinh Diem and good things to say about Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Though Moyar marshals many primary sources to buttress his political point of view, he undermines his argument by disparaging those he disagrees with (calling Sheehan and Halberstam, for example, "indignant," "vengeful," and "self-righteous"). He also showers praise on those who backed Diem, the autocratic leader who stifled the press and his political opponents. Revisionists will embrace the book; the orthodox will see it as more evidence of a vast, right-wing conspiracy. (Oct. 1)
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This thoroughly researched and richly informative history of the Vietnam War examines first the war's central characters and countries in the years leading up to 1954. Moyar contends that South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, who has been incessantly depicted as an obtuse, tyrannical reactionary by some historians, was in reality a very wise and effective leader. Moyar states that supporting the November 1963 coup was the worst American mistake of the war, that President Kennedy had no plans to abandon his South Vietnamese allies after the 1964 election, and that President Johnson's lack of forcefulness in Vietnam in late 1964 and early 1965 squandered America's deterrent power and led to a decision in Hanoi to invade South Vietnam with large North Vietnamese army units. Moyar notes that historians have argued that an American ground-troop presence in Laos would not have stopped most of the infiltration, but much new evidence contradicts this contention. Where the U.S. committed major errors, he writes, was in formulating strategies for defending South Vietnam. A valuable appraisal. George CohenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved