- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Later Printing edition (May 8, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780060929084
- ISBN-13: 978-0060929084
- ASIN: 0060929081
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 814 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam Paperback – May 8, 1998
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"Lately [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General] Shelton has been closely reading a book called Dereliction of Duty. Its thesis: that the Joint Chiefs of Staff lost the Vietnam War by failing to stand up to civilian leadership." -- "Newsweek "Four star generals do not normally consult the writings of junior field grade officers for advice about career decisions. But it was widely reported that when Air Force Chief of Staff General Ronald Fogelman decided to resign in 1997, he did so at least in part on the basis of a careful reading of H.R. McMaster's "Dereliction of Duty...."McMaster has written a scathing indictment of America's civilian and military leadership during the early phases of the Vietnam war, and he speaks...with unique moral authority....McMaster earned his moral authority under fire....By virtue of his actions [in the Gulf War], McMaster became a hero.... "[McMaster] speaks with unusual authority as a symbol of the confident young veterans of the Gulf. His call to his leaders to hold themselves to high standards of professional integrity is, therefore, an important one. No wonder, then, that General Fogelman, himself an acute student of history, would pay close attention to work that on nearly every page excoriates his predecessors for their unwillingness to speak and act as their positions required.... "Recently, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Henry Shelton, invited Major McMaster to lecture to the most senior generals in the American military about his book." -- Eliot Cohen, Professor of StrategicStudies of The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, "National Interest Magazine, Spring '98 "A stunning book: eloquent and highly effective. The word noble would not be going too far." -- Paul Fussell, author of "The Great War & Modern Memory "What gives "Dereliction of Duty its special value is...McMaster's comprehensive, balanced and relentless exploration of the specific role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff...a devastating indictment of Johnson and his principal civilian and military advisers." -- Ronald Spector, "New York Times Book Review "Well-written and full of enlightening new details, "Dereliction of Duty adds significantly to the historical record of a great national failure." -- Arnold R. Isaacs, "Washington Post Book World "Carefully researched and vividly narrated, H.R. McMaster's book adds a new and disturbing dimension to an understanding of the decisions that propelled us into the Vietnam war. It should be read by anyone interested in the origins of one of the great tragedies in American history." -- Stanley Karnow, Pulitzer Prize-Winning author of "Vietnam: A History "A book to boggle your mind with new revelations of ineptness, duplicity, and arrogance amongst the senior-most officials of theUnited States....McMaster pastes all the puzzle pieces together to reveal a plot Shakespearean in its proportions ...McMaster's scholarship and presentation is exemplary in "Dereliction of Duty...The author's arguments are coherent and convincing and important to the historical record." -- Peter Arnett, "The Washington Monthly "An outstanding example of historical research, interpretation, scholarship, and fair-minded analysis." -- Donald Kagan, Bass Professor of History, Classics, and Western Civilization, Yale University, and author of "On the Origins of War "Superbly researched, play-by-play, riveting inside story of the genesis of the American War in Vietnam. Assorted firepower explodes on every page." -- Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore. United States Army, (Retired), " New York Times bestselling coauthor of "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young "Here's everything you didn't read in Robert S. McNamara's book. Vietnam did not simply happen; it was not an accidental Cold War collision that killed 58,000 Americans and a million Vietnamese. Men of power and responsibility caused that disastrous war and left their fingerprints all over it'and here are their names and what they did and said and decided in secret. McMaster has mined newly declassified records and, in these pages, sheds fresh light and understanding on how the best and the brightest, shielded by a bodyguard of lies and the words top secret,maneuvered and manipulated our country down the road to war and bitter defeat." -- Joseph L. Galloway, senior writer, "U.S. News & World Report, and "New York Times bestselling coauthor of "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young "An impressive study thorough in its research and summary in its judgments. [McMaster] doesn't shy from bold interpretation, or the damning insight, and his analysis, a model of clarity and economy, puts civil-military relations during the Vietnam war in an eerie, indeed Byzantine light." -- Robert Anderson, "The Philadelphia Inquirer "A tough, straightforward and hard hitting account of early decisions that set the course for the U.S. war in Vietnam. H.R. McMaster's book is vital in understanding those times and those critical decisions." -- General Frederick Franks, United States Army, (Retired), "New York Times bestselling coauthor of "Into The Storm "Most explosive.[a] devastating reassessment of the historical records..Major McMaster.deserves praise for his original research and riveting account. After "Dereliction of Duty, the Vietnam War will never look quite the same. It is indeed a seminal work." -- Mackubin Thomas Owens, "Washington Times "A fabulous piece of scholarship. This book will open a whole new chapter in our study of Vietnam." -- Tom Clancy "Thoroughly researched, clearly written and forcefully argued." -- Brian VanDeMark, "Los Angeles Times Book Review, author of "Into the Quagmire "H.R. McMaster's new "Dereliction of Duty stands out as a particularly well-documented, searing indictment of the civilian and military leadership. This is the clearest and most cogent argument as to the basic causes of the disaster." -- Edward M. Coffman, author of "The War To End All Wars and "The Old Army "Brilliant...a penetrating analysis." -- "San Francisco Chronicle "Invaluable...a most readable, yet meticulously documented history." - Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr., United States Army (Retired), author of "On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War, and editor of " Vietnam magazine "McMaster's book has drawn high praise from experts..His dogged research unearthed thousands of pages of material denied other historians and writers." -- Ed Offley, "Seattle Post Intelligencer "A chilling indictment.. There have been many books on the Vietnam War, but none that examines so closely and intensively how Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, and Maxwell Taylorsystematically conspired to prevent the Joint Chiefs of Staff from performing their duty." -- Michael Barone, author of "Our Country: The Shaping of America from Roosevelt to Reagan. "Red hot, brilliantly shows how the American people were conned." -- Colonel David H. Hackworth, United States Army, (Retired), Newsweek, and New York Times bestselling coauthor of "About Face "H.R. McMaster's incisive and brilliantly researched analy
From the Back Cover
"The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of the New York Times or the college campuses. It was lost in Washington, D.C."
- H. R. McMaster (from the Conclusion)
Dereliction Of Duty is a stunning new analysis of how and why the United States became involved in an all-out and disastrous war in Southeast Asia. Fully and convincingly researched, based on recently released transcripts and personal accounts of crucial meetings, confrontations and decisions, it is the only book that fully re-creates what happened and why. It also pinpoints the policies and decisions that got the United States into the morass and reveals who made these decisions and the motives behind them, disproving the published theories of other historians and excuses of the participants.
Dereliction Of Duty covers the story in strong narrative fashion, focusing on a fascinating cast of characters: President Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, General Maxwell Taylor, McGeorge Bundy and other top aides who deliberately deceived the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U.S. Congress and the American public.
Sure to generate controversy, Dereliction Of Duty is an explosive and authoritative new look at the controversy concerning the United States involvement in Vietnam.
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There are some who may hold to the premise that Lyndon Johnson and his closest advisors showed real guts in attempting to fight against the Vietnamese Communist threat and to “save American face”. But it does not take any intestinal fortitude or keen intellect to indulge in the deceit and verbal machinations that are delineated in meticulous detail in this book. For those readers who want the raw, naked truth about Vietnam, this book is highly recommended, and its study will reveal that the author has definitely done his homework.
Having its origin in the National Security Act of 1947, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) during the Vietnam war is portrayed in this book as more of a collection of “technicians for planners” than a body of individuals who carefully thought out strategies and tactics. Some readers may be shocked as to what little influence the JCS had on actual policy decisions during the buildup of the war and its actual execution in the years that followed. One can only wonder whether this was the result of tacit agreement with those policies or rather from an excess of veneration for the Presidency and his cabinet officers. The author seems to argue for a superposition of both of these, and frequently the JCS is accused of placating the president.
Robert McNamara is rightfully portrayed as an evil demon in this book, as a government bureaucrat who cannot engage in self-criticism and smug in the certainty of his analysis and assessments of progress in the war. McNamara’s dwelling at the time was definitely a cesspool of apodictic certainty as is well brought out in this book, especially in the manner in which he interacted with the president and the JCS.
Johnson failed along with his vision of the Great Society. The JCS failed. Robert McNamara and Cyrus Vance failed. The only success of that time was the drive to end the debacle of the Vietnam war. This book is a microscopic view of these failures, and the biggest lesson to take away from the study of this book is an appreciation of just how removed from reality a government bureaucracy can be, and how uncritical adulation for a president or an idea can result in horrible destruction and heartache.
In a period of two years of constant arguing and intrigue the United States found itself hopelessly entangled in a war. Much of the military leaders advised against getting involved in the war. The only White House official who argued against military involvement was George Ball who did not bring his dissent outside the walls of the White House.
H.R. McMaster brings forth the wrong thinking and mistake prone analysis of President Johnson and Robert McNamara who stumbled their way in making a full military commitment. In doing so in a stealthy way and lying to the American public they found themselves fully immersed in a political civil war in which we could not win.
What makes this book so valuable is its illumination of how government processes, flawed assumptions, and self-interested actors can create a and organizational dynamic that insures failure. No single actor had an understanding of the enemy, or of how to break the will of an enemy whose will was nearly unbreakable. And the decision makers were unwilling to face the reality that the only alternative to belligerents who won't surrender, as in WWII and the war in Europe, is to utterly destroy and occupy the country of the enemy - an option they would not (for logical reasons) pursue.
So the participants became obsessed with compromise, and doing "just enough" to "communicate" their seriousness to the enemy - an enemy that had already concluded that the US did not have the will or seriousness to carry on an indefinite and never ending war of attrition. Moreover, any attempt by skeptical generals to recommend to the President the use maximum force (or withdrawal) was sidelined, rejected, or water-down.
Another reviewer suggested that the author's conclusion was that the General's knew how to win the war, but the reviewer misread the book's message. McMaster's criticisms are leveled at everyone involved, including the JCS. In particular, the JCS's unwillingness to strongly buck McNamara's and Taylor's forced "consensus", and be candid with Congress, may have facilitated the unfolding disaster. It is clear they did not have the full answer, but some knew that it would AT LEAST require a five year war with 500k to 700K troops - a viewpoint that was discounted or buried by the civilian "experts".
Could the the war have been won? Perhaps. Harry G. Summers book "On Strategy" makes a good case for his alternatives. In the end South Vietnam fell NOT because of the "venality" of the South Vietnamese government nor the sympathies for the North Vietnamese but for conventional reasons - they were defeated in the conventional war by better forces, who were better supplied.
If this book is suggestive of how McMaster's understands 'the right thing to do' as the NSC advisor and will stand up to his CinC and Bannon, he was an excellent choice to replace Flynn. We shall see.