- Paperback: 720 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books; Anniversary edition (October 26, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780449908709
- ISBN-13: 978-0449908709
- ASIN: 0449908704
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 278 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Best and the Brightest Paperback – October 26, 1993
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"A rich, entertaining, and profound reading experience.”—The New York Times
“The most comprehensive saga of how America became involved in Vietnam. . . . It is also the Iliad of the American empire and the Odyssey of this nation’s search for its idealistic soul. The Best and the Brightest is almost like watching an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.”—The Boston Globe
“Deeply moving . . . We cannot help but feel the compelling power of this narrative. . . . Dramatic and tragic, a chain of events overwhelming in their force, a distant war embodying illusions and myths, terror and violence, confusions and courage, blindness, pride, and arrogance.”—Los Angeles Times
“A fascinating tale of folly and self-deception . . . [An] absorbing, detailed, and devastatingly caustic tale of Washington in the days of the Caesars.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Seductively readable . . . It is a staggeringly ambitious undertaking that is fully matched by Halberstam’s performance. . . . This is in all ways an admirable and necessary book.”—Newsweek
“A story every American should read.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
From the Publisher
The Vietnam War has seemed more shadowy and cinematic to me than anything else for most of my life. I was born during the Watergate Hearings. My generation was touched by the war in Vietnam, but only in the sense that our parents were part of it--whether they marched for peace or served in the military or fell somewhere in between. But unlike the Baby Boomers, we are not defined by the war--it, literally and figuratively, did not make us. So, as a consequence, when I think of the Vietnam War it is the images that the generations before me created that come to mind--Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon...
When I read The Best and the Brightest, that all changed. For the first time, I understood. No matter what your position may have been or may be, this book fully and expertly explores the American foreign policy decisions and actions that led to this war and its execution and paints a clear picture of its catalytic role in the shaping of today's America.
-Kelly Lamb, Marketing Coordinator
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David Halberstam (1934-2007) was a journalist and author who reported from Vietnam for the New York Times in the early 1960s. He was one of a group of journalists (including Neil Sheehan and Peter Arnett, among others) who earned the ire of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations for his reporting of what he viewed as the truth about Vietnam – that America was getting itself involved in a conflict it couldn’t win. Halberstam’s reporting from Vietnam earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1964.
As Halberstam explains in his preface to “The Best and the Brightest,” he spent three years researching and writing the book. He intended his title to be ironic, not literal. The “Best and the Brightest” were leaders who were considered America’s elite – John F. and Robert F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert McNamara, Dean Rusk, McGeorge and William Bundy, George Kennan, George Ball, Clark Clifford, Walt Rostow, John McCone, and others. They were mostly graduates from Ivy League schools, many with Ph.D.’s; men of keen intellect and supposed prodigious management and leadership skills. Men who prided themselves on straight talk. And yet, these men slowly and steadily entangled the United States in a war on the Asian mainland that they knew, from both the warnings they received and from bitter experience, they had little chance of winning. And once they got America entangled in Vietnam, they mismanaged the war and deceived the American people about it, and left the nation torn asunder by divisions that exist to this day.
I don’t necessarily agree with all Halberstam’s judgments and conclusions in “The Best and the Brightest,” but I do think he made a powerful argument that seems to be largely vindicated in the four decades since the end of the Vietnam War. I believe “The Best and the Brightest” is simply the best book ever written about America’s involvement in Vietnam. If you only read one book about this subject, this is the book to read. Most highly recommended.
"The Best and the Brightest" is an excellent work, deserving of the Pulitzer Prize awarded to Mr. Halberstam.