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Hanoi's War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam (The New Cold War History) Hardcover – July 15, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Whatever you think you know about the war in Vietnam will be challenged, revised, and deepened by this remarkable book. . . . Hanois War is a must-read. . . .The book deserves more attention than it has thus far received. It enriches our understanding of the War in Vietnam and by implication, subsequent American commitments, including the war in Afghanistan.

Chosen as one of Foreign Policy's Favorite Reads of 2012

Whatever you think you know about the war in Vietnam will be challenged, revised, and deepened by this remarkable book. . . . Hanoi's War is a must-read. . . .The book deserves more attention than it has thus far received. It enriches our understanding of the War in Vietnam and by implication, subsequent American commitments, including the war in Afghanistan.--Artfuse

Hanoi's War is first-rate. The scope is ambitious. . . . The value of Hanoi's War is its use of existing records to produce a new interpretation of Hanoi's struggle. It adds a valuable new chapter to the international history of the war.--Journal of Military History

Groundbreaking. . . . Challenges many long-held assumptions about North Vietnam's leadership and military and diplomatic strategies.--HistoryNet.com

A major contribution to Vietnam War scholarship in general.--Diplomatic History

A well written, meticulously researched book that will appeal to both military and general readers.--Michigan War Studies Review

One of the most important books on the Vietnam War to come along in some time. . . . A remarkable piece of scholarship that serves to correct many of the commonly held ideas about how the war was conducted on the other side.--Military Review

[A] valuable narrative of Hanoi's diplomatic struggles.--Times Literary Supplement

Using interviews with key actors and previously unavailable sources from Vietnamese archives, Nguyen uncovers the complexity and lack of uniformity of North Vietnam's decision-making. . . . Unlike most narratives, hers starts with a thorough analysis of the rise to power of the figures most central to the DRV decision-making during the American phase of the war.--History: Reviews of New Books

A fine example of the emerging international history of the Vietnam War.--Pacific Historical Review

An indispensable guide to understanding.--Journal of Cold War Studies

All readers of Hanoi's War will benefit from [Nguyen's] major contribution to the historiography of the Vietnam War.--Australian Book Review

Hanoi's War is the book for which historians of the American war in Vietnam have been waiting: the first comprehensive study drawn from Vietnamese archival and published sources that provides a critical examination of North Vietnam's strategic decisions. There is no other work like it in English, Vietnamese, or any other language. Nguyen has made a pathbreaking contribution to historical understanding of the war.--Journal of American History

Excellent new work on the Vietnam War.--Cross-Currents

Nguyen should be congratulated for tilting decisively away from America's war in Vietnam. . . . She gives Vietnamese-language sources the attention they deserve.--Critical Asian Studies

A model of multinational Cold War history.--Journal of Vietnamese Studies

Nguyen's outstanding work makes a major contribution to our understanding of the interplay between North and South Vietnam, domestic repression in the DRV, the communist alliance system, and American policy during the conflict.--American Historical Review

[A] deeply researched, well-argued book.--The VVA Veteran

Arguably one of the most illuminating books available on the subject of the North Vietnamese Communist Party during the Vietnam War.--On Point

A breakthrough of unique importance for a fuller understanding of the history of the Vietnam War.--H-War

The first major account of North Vietnamese policy during what the Vietnamese call the American War. . . . Nguyen's command of the available Vietnamese-language primary sources, both northern and southern, is impressive, as are her efforts to reconstruct North Vietnamese decision making. . . . Hanoi's War begins to point us toward fundamentally new interpretative vistas.--H-Diplo

A must addition for any academic library today. Essential. All levels/libraries.--Choice

Stunning. . . . [Nguyen] presents a compelling view from 'the other side of the hill.'--Sea Classics

Without question, Hanoi's War stands as a major accomplishment and one of the most important scholarly works to appear on this later, and relatively understudied, phase of the struggle.--Foreign Affairs

[A] groundbreaking book.--Review of Politics


Nguyen's magnificent book is truly an international history of the war, with new Vietnamese sources and serious attention to international actors. Scholars of the Vietnam War and the Cold War will be in her debt.--Andrew Preston, Cambridge University

Using important new documentation from across the world, most notably Vietnam, Lien-Hang Nguyen has written the first truly authoritative account of the negotiations that led to the 1973 Paris Peace Accords. Hanoi's War is an extraordinary achievement, an indispensable contribution to the rapidly changing history of the conflicts in Vietnam.--George C. Herring, author of America's Longest War: The United States in Vietnam, 1950-1975

Nguyen's beautifully crafted and original book makes a transformative contribution to the study of the Vietnam wars. In offering a compelling analysis of newly available Vietnamese source material set against a capacious international canvas, Nguyen lets us fully understand how and why this tragic war finally came to an end. No one has so richly captured how the Vietnamese made their own history, and at the same time produced such a luminous work of international history.--Mark Philip Bradley, University of Chicago

At last, a genuinely international history of the Vietnam war that solidly rests on Vietnamese sources in order to offer a deep analysis of the war from the other side. This is one of the most important books published on the Vietnam War in the last thirty years.--Marilyn B. Young, New York University


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Product Details

  • Series: The New Cold War History
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Edition; 1st Printing edition (July 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080783551X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807835517
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hanoi's War is a book about the Vietnam War as seen from the Communist North Vietnam. The book has 8 chapters with key chapters on Le Duan, his rise to power and his hawkish stance toward the war in Vietnam, the North Vietnam political game with the Soviet Union and China, and events that led to the 1973 Paris Agreements.

Utilizing primarily Vietnamese communist documents, the author reconstructs the communist machinery, the decision-making process, and organization during the war. The author argues that contrary to conventional belief, "it was leaders in Hanoi and Saigon who dictated the nature and pace of U.S. intervention" (p. 312). The author's arguments focus mainly on presenting historical facts and events that illustrate the dynamic interactions among members of the Politburo.

The writing is fluid, freshening the otherwise dry discourse with occasional anecdotes on personal lives of communist leaders, Le Duan in particular, and quoted remarks by others. While the presentation is solid, there is lack of strong analysis and explanation that tie things together. For example, Le Duan's rise to power is fully described but is not clearly explained. It is unclear why Le Duan became the de factor driving force for the war against South Vietnam.

The discussion on the politics in South Vietnam is a little light, but this is understandable because the title of the book is "Hanoi's War" and not "Hanoi's and Saigon's wars." Still, in order to prove that both Hanoi and Saigon leaders influenced the nature and pace of U.S. intervention, the author should spend more on the political forces in South Vietnam during the conflict.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a good new work on the Vietnam War. It offers a new perspective and much new (to me at least) material mostly from the archives in Vietnam. Its best aspect is that it covers the war from an international perspective and breaks out of the constrants of the traditional american-centric narrative. North Vietnam is presented as a real political entity rather than as a cypher. She also makes a compelling case as to the centrality of Le Duan to the conflict.

The book deals with the complicated relations of North Vietnam with China and the Soviet Union. It also shows the bitter rivalries within the government of North Vietnam between Giap, Ho Chi Minh and Le Duan. One of the more interesting bits is that it turns the "western" interpretation of Giap on its head. It often shows a war involving a fanatical political leadership pushing a military leadership that was much more cautious and conservative about fighting the war.

The author is able on multiple occasions to discard America-centric mythology about Hanoi's war policy while still making them rational and competent actors within the war.

Though the author has a point of view about the war, the author is far more straightforwardly honest about its realities.

"The common notion of the Vietnamese struggle for national liberation as a unifed war effort comprised of North and South Vietnamese patriots led by the Party conceals a much more complicated truth. In reality, Le Duan constructed a national security state that devoted all of its resources to war and labeled any resistance to its policies as treason."

The less appealing aspects of the book is that it somewhat leans on old jargon (north/south divide, third world, liberation struggle and so on. The language is rather clumsy sometimes.
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Format: Hardcover
I am certainly not the first to suggest that Ms. Nguyen's work Hanoi's War has brought much to the field. She has, as she writes, had unprecedented access to the DRV diplomatic cables and brings a fresh perspective to a cluttered historiography of the American War in Vietnam. Her book answers many questions. Why, for example, did the DRV not "negotiate under bombing" from 1965-68? The DRV's reluctance to negotiate apparently had less to do with Johnson's so-called failed policy of gradualism and more to do with China's early influence and Le Duan's belief in victory on the battlefield. Would the DRV have responded to an out of the box deal from the US? Again, no. No amount of deals offered to Ho (from 1966, sidelined) would have swayed Le Duan's unassailable position in the Politburo. Nor would Le Duan have accepted a "neutralist" solution to RVN, as Robert McNamara suggested might have been possible in his book "Argument Without End." Le Duan and Le Duc Tho were implacable in their desire to liberate, not neutralize, the SVN. They were backed up by an aggressive PRC, willing to provide all Vietnam could have needed to match and perhaps best an America intent on fighting a limited war. In short, I came away from her book more convinced than ever that America's intervention in Vietnam would never have resulted in anything resembling a victory.

In addition, the book is in general well-written. Sentence by sentence, the prose is spare, and targeted to a lay reader. But tour de force it is not. The book could have used quite a bit more editing of its frequently-repetitive passages and the author's numerous self-laudatory remarks.

All that said, I found myself wanting much more. The substantive portion of the book stops rather abruptly at the 1973 Paris Peace Accords.
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