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Why We Were In Vietnam Hardcover – March 31, 1982

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (March 31, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671445782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671445782
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,449,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By S. Pollock on August 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book does not attempt to argue that the US involvement in Vietnam was wise, well thought-out, or that it could have been successful. Indeed, he indicates that he believes none of these things. But that is not what the book is about. It is about how American policy towards Vietnam evolved and what the objectives and convictions of five administrations were.

I can remember watching Platoon and Apocalypse Now as a kid and wondering what in the hell the Americans were doing. Why were they there? What was the point? Why waste time and money doing ostensibly nothing? Were they all on drugs? Crazy? Stupid? Evil? The question fascinated me but Stone and Coppola didn't provide their audience with any answer. They didn't even attempt to provide a context or background for their stories. They conveyed one thing: American thugs brutalizing a civilian population (which we learn nothing about), and fighting an enemy (which we learn nothing about). That is not history, it is unintellectual silliness. And much the same is presented in the literature on the war.

The great value of Podhoretz's book is that it places the war in the proper context of Munich and the Cold War. When Truman articulated the doctrine of containment, it was unclear whether or not it would extend beyond Europe. When Truman decided to commit US forces to preserve a free and independent South Korea, it became evident that containment was a global strategy. Communist aggression would no more be tolerated against NATO member states than it would against SEATO member states.

They believed US credibility in terms of defending free and sovereign states against outright invasion and covert infiltration was at stake.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Brian Carter on May 19, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For those seeking a detailed account of the domestic (US) political history of Vietnam: this is your book. Podhoretz, an acclaimed editor, covers the political debate (or lack thereof) at each stage of the US involvement in Vietnam; from refusing to enter to help the French, to providing assistance to the independent South, to entering combat, to drawing down, to negotiating an end to US involvement, to refusing to sell the South Vietnamese ammunition for their self-defense.

The author is meticulous in his research, quotes, and footnotes of the various sides at different times during the war. In fact, one of the drawbacks is that the reading is a bit thick due to the frequent in-depth quotes from sources with different styles. You may have to re-read a section once in order to make sure the context is correct. The book is well-organized though and the author's points are effectively made.

His biggest contention can probably be summed up as the Vietnam War was fought on the cheap. To elaborate his point, Kennedy and Johnson tried to fight the war below the radar of the general public. Therefore, even though most American's supported US efforts in Vietnam early-on, the Presidents never made the case for the war to the public. America was never put on a war-footing, and American's at home were not asked to make any sacrifices.

Later, when the public mood was shifting (not as you might imagine as the author points out), the political leaders failed to make the case for American involvement. By contrast, extremist elements opposed to the war (and any war, and the US itself), were able to gain broad support and mainstream acceptance of their `facts.' Johnson blundered in trying to "not dignify those allegations with a response.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Like Guenter Lewy's "America in Vietnam" and "Stolen Valor" by B.G. Burkett, it is a definitive piece of work on the subject of Vietnam. Also, it gives great justifications as to exactly why we went there in the first place.
I don't have a whole lot to say other than the fact that the arguments are based on Sound Scholarship, and to refute Norman Podhoretz is nothing but self-refuting since it would come from anti-american bias.
I don't know how to emphasis the importance of reading this book.
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