- Paperback: 557 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press (March 5, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520229193
- ISBN-13: 978-0520229198
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 33 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam
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When the first American Marines marched into Vietnam in March 1965, historical consensus holds, they were there because there was no alternative. President Johnson's hand had been forced by the right-wing hawks and the Communists. The general public wholeheartedly supported defending South Vietnam, as did our allies in Europe.
That's not really the case, argues Fredrik Logevall, in Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam. His provocative thesis--that Kennedy, Johnson, Rusk, McNamara, and Bundy chose to escalate American involvement when the war could have been avoided--is well supported by careful archival research and newly declassified documents. Logevall focuses on what he calls "The Long 1964"--18 critical months between August 1963 and February 1965, at the end of which President Johnson made the decision to "Americanize" the war. Despite many opportunities to negotiate a settlement, the Kennedy and the Johnson administrations were opposed to early negotiation--in part because they were worried about being seen as "soft on Communism" before the 1964 presidential election. Where this book is most interesting--and, in the long run, most valuable--is in Logevall's careful study of the conflict and American policymaking in international context. Looking at how the war played in London, Paris, Ottawa, Tokyo, Moscow, and Beijing--not just in Hanoi and Washington--reveals that even our allies had grave doubts about the probable outcome of a war. Both our allies and our enemies understood that "the Vietnam conflict's importance derived in large measure from its potential to threaten their own political standing--and their party's standing--at home." Compelling and controversial, Logevall's book is an excellent addition to the literature on the Vietnam War. --Sunny Delaney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Logevall (history, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) contends that during the crucial period of 1963-65, the United States could have negotiated an end to the Vietnam War. This period (called the "long 1964") saw attempts by France and North Vietnam to negotiate peace; American leaders, on the other hand, sought to continue the war and often made illogical decisions. What was at stake, Logevall contends, was the credibility of the United States administration. Needless to say, there are numerous books about the Vietnam conflict. Logevall approaches the conflict from a foreign policy perspective and gives the reader a picture of what was happening not only in Vietnam but in Paris, Moscow, Peking, Washington, and London. It's a case of missed opportunities with tragic consequences. Meticulous reading with certain appeal for both academic and public libraries.AMark E. Ellis, Albany State Univ., GA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
A most interesting and prescient comment occurs in the final chapter and paragraph of the book that equates lessons unlearned from Vietnam allowing similar mindsets to erupt, engaging America in a similarly foolish military incursion in a foreign country whose population and conditions we also don't understand.
A very well written, well researched and easily readable book.
Unlike Kaiser in his excellent book, Professor Logevall chooses to concentrate impressively on a critical eighteen-month period spanning from the summer of 1963 to the early winter of 1965, and the fateful steps taken during that period toward a policy of escalation and direct involvement of American combat units. The author contends that any one of a number of important opportunities to step aside were deliberately ignored, often based on important information provided by key insiders such as McNamara. As the record also shows, this information was anything but the disinterested and objective assessment of the political, economic, and military situation on the ground in South Vietnam it was presented as. In this sense both President Kennedy and President Johnson were victims of a quite deliberate campaign of misinformation and self-serving worst-case analysis by Rusk, McNamara, and Westmoreland.
It was in such a poisonous and duplicitous environment that Lyndon Johnson made a fateful series of decisions to escalate the war by "Americanizing" it, something Kennedy before him had quite insistently denied permission to do. The author also argues quite persuasively that both Kennedy and Johnson had stepped away from opportunities for disengaging from the involvement in Vietnam for domestic political reasons, including a concern with being seen as "soft" on communism in the period preceding the coming national elections of 1964. This is substantiated by Johnson's actions after Kennedy's assassination; while secretly initiating actions to escalate the war, Johnson self-consciously campaigned saying exactly the opposite. He understood the potential firestorm American involvement could have for both liberal and conservative criticism, and was therefore careful to mitigate his vulnerability by neutralizing it as a political factor until after the Presidential elections of 1964.
Likewise, once committed to a policy of massive American participation in the war, Johnson feared the personal consequences both domestically and internationally were he to decide to withdraw and admit defeat. Yet world leaders almost uniformly distanced themselves from American involvement, and privately counseled Johnson to "cut and run". In addition, Johnson's own lack of appreciation for the potential damage our involvement in Vietnam might have on international relations resulted in a number of lost opportunities for détente and improvement in relations with both the Soviet Union and China. Based on his own personal frailties and the bad counsel of both his military and civilian advisors, he pursued the single most disastrous course imaginable; further escalation, condemning not only his own domestic program but nearly 60,000 American soldiers to untimely (and absolutely unnecessary) death.
This is am intriguing, insightful, and important book, and the author writes both in an entertaining and accessible style. He mirrors the evidence presented in other recent books such as the aforementioned Kaiser tome, and also in Major H.R. McMaster's absorbing recent book, "Dereliction Of Duty; Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs Of Staff, And The Lies That Led to Vietnam", and handily helps to put the lie to the kind of neo-revisionist saber-rattling of armchair conservatives like Michael Lind ( one wonders if Lind was ever in the military; or if he is a "George W. Bush" kind of born-again macho clebrant of combat who has never had a shot fired at him, an armchair enthusiast who cheered from the sidelines as a passive noncombatant member of the Texas Air National Guard). Gee, let's fly planes over the vacant Texas tundra and we can call ourselves patriots! Lind would have us believe this was all God's work in his silly and wrong-headed narrative "The Necessary War". Since he was likely still in his nappies when the firestorm was raining all over the heads of the more than half million uneducated, largely blue-collar men and women we deployed at any one time to Vietnam, I wonder how he would know. Did he read about it at Yale? "Choosing War", on the other hand, is an excellent and carefully crafted work of scholarship, and one that helps to nail together a much more comprehensive understanding of how it was we were so badly and quite unnecessarily led into this most unfortunate of American wars.
"American War" in Viet Nam, you will enjoy this book
Most recent customer reviews
Well written, researched and interesting book. Fact filled and interesting absolutists, but with an easy to read wiring style.Read more