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War Without Fronts: The USA in Vietnam Paperback – September 28, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300168047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300168044
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #406,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A well-documented essay on [the Vietnam War’s] violent, criminal reality and the failure of American society to come to terms with what happened.”--Richard Gott, New Statesman
(Richard Gott New Statesman)

About the Author

Bernd Greiner is professor at the University of Hamburg, as well as the director of the research unit on the theory and history of violence at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research.

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on November 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The professional historian Bernd Greiner analyzes not only painstakingly the war atrocities committed in Vietnam, but also their national and international political and military context.
South-Vietnam was considered as an outpost of the Free World and had to be defended at all cost against the enemy, communism, which the US government depicted as a monolithic bloc. If one domino fell in the Far East, all dominoes would fall.
The US army saw Vietnam as an opportunity to enhance its prestige and institutional weight. But the soldiers in Vietnam were the youngest and the poorest in the US society, of which a part was even mentally deficient (Category 4). They were poorly trained and inexperienced. On the other hand, the officers saw the war only as an opportunity for promotion.
The efficiency of the war machine was measured by the number of dead enemy soldiers (the body-count syndrome). The top level of the Pentagon even fixed monthly and weakly targets. But the enemy hid or took the bodies of their fallen soldiers from the battlefield as much as they could.

This book centers on war time atrocities and war crimes. Those atrocities were not collateral damage, but violence outside the direct war zones. The war operations were extended to the civilian population with the explicit authorization of the top of the Pentagon. It was a kind of political cleansing (`Search and Destroy' at random) by death squads. It showed blatantly the US contempt for international military law.
The horrible massacres of My Lai, My Khe and in the Southern provinces were not aberrations, but clear examples of the US strategy of `conquer at any price' (e.g., throwing prisoners from flying helicopters, peasants used for target practices, premeditated annihilation of all means of livelihood).
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Buck on December 31, 2010
Format: Paperback
Translated from the German original, this scholarly but extremely disturbing analysis deserves to sit on the same shelf as John Nagl's Learning to eat Soup with a Knife, Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie and HR McMaster's Dereliction of Duty, each of which focus on different aspects of the US military failure in Vietnam.

Like Nagl and others, Greiner demonstrates how the US military was institutionally incapable of fighting a war on other than a massive conventional basis and its response to any situation was simply 'more', (bombs, artillery, troops, chemicals, Phoenix), to a stage where its doomed and blind approach to the Vietnamese insurgency (Nagl's term) and its approach to 'asymmetrical war' (Greiner's definition) led to strategic, tactical and moral bankruptcy and eventual widespread and massive murder of civilians, of which My Lai, Tiger Force and Operation Speedy Express were mere exemplars.

Greiner's hypothesis (comprehensively researched, footnoted and indexed) is unique in that he states that the use and escalation of massive force became indiscriminate and reached such a stage that the international rules of war (of which the US was a signatory) and the US military's own Rules of Engagement were effectively ignored and flouted, not just by GIs and junior officers, but all the way to the top of the US military hierarchy in Vietnam. He demonstrates how the obsession with body-count eventually led to the state of moral degeneracy where South Vietnamese civilians (the US's nominal clients after all)were regarded initially with disdain, then with contempt (universally 'gooks' and 'slopes' and worse) and then finally dehumanised altogether as 'if they are dead they must be VC', leading to widespread atrocities such as torture, rape and murder.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Edwin E. Moise on March 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
There are two major problems with this book. One is the bias, although it is at least a sort of impartial bias. Greiner does not seem to like wars, or people who fight wars, so he is biased against both sides in the Vietnam War. He makes both the Americans and the Communists look considerably more atrocious than they actually were.

The other is that the book is inaccurate in a lot of ways, even some that do not spring from his bias. I was particularly struck by one remarkable self-contradiction. On p. 22, he wrote that American soldiers found that "superior weaponry yielded no advantage, they suffered casualties without being able to inflict significant loss" on the Communists. Later in the same chapter, on p. 39, he mentions that the loss rate suffered by the Communist forces was huge, one of the highest loss rates in all of history. He does not appear to notice that both of these statements could not be true.
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