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Showing 1-10 of 24 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 34 reviews
on August 23, 2017
This is a very important work that tells the story of the Vietnam War from the Northern Communist point of view and introduces the true leaders and architects of the communist war against the Republic of Vietnam. After years of unprecedented and unique research in the Vietnamese archives Lien-Hang Nguyen has produced a fascinating never before told story of “…who was in charge of the communist war effort, what were their war aims and strategies, and how did they manage to defeat the United States and the RVN…” (p 4). The author says, “This book reveals that in fact the war and its outcome were shaped as much by individuals in Hanoi and by historical structures.” “Historical structures” – read, the communist war for reunification was unstoppable, inevitable, preordained, morally correct and desired by the vast majority of the population, north and south.

In her introduction (page 2) the author asks, “How did Hanoi’s struggle, which began as a limited armed conflict against the RVN in 1960, lead it to become the target of America’s heaviest bombing campaign in history a mere dozen years later? Under what conditions did the local Vietnamese communist war for national liberation transform into a major international contest in the Cold War?” She says, “Questions endure over the configuration of the Hanoi leadership, its strategies during the ‘anti-American resistance struggle for reunification and national salvation,’ and the nature of its victory.” She goes on to say, “The key to unlocking these puzzles lies with one individual who has managed to escape scrutiny: Le Duan. Despite being the architect, main strategist, and commander-in-chief of communist Vietnam’s war effort, [he] somehow resides on the historical margins.” Lien-Hang Nguyen brings Le Duan to the forefront of the story where he belongs. He is responsible for all of the Communist’s efforts to destroy the Republic of Vietnam and defeat the American military effort.

But Nguyen’s story is much broader than simply following Le Duan to power. She introduces Le Duc Tho as Le Duan’s right-hand man and chronicles their dominance over communist political thought. She documents a little known purge prior to the planning for the Tet offensive in order to eliminate opposition and she explains how they established a police state to control descent among their fellow politicians and among the population, as the war became unpopular in the north after Tet. With the purge Ho and Giap were now completely marginalized. For all of the American War Giap was no longer calling the military shots. She spends a good deal of time covering the peace talks and all of their Machiavellian twists. Her story ends with the signing of the peace agreement but in the Epilogue she carries the story forward to the second decade of the 21st century.

Nguyen has produced a very well written narrative informed by voluminous research “Based on unprecedented access to Vietnamese archival collections and texts [she reads and speaks Vietnamese]…” (p 5). “I managed to become the first scholar – Vietnamese citizen or otherwise – to gain access to the Archives of the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

This wonderful book contains many kernels of strikingly significant facts that I still cannot get over. Of one of these, on page 75, the author says, “Mao encouraged the Vietnamese war with the Americans and placed China on military alert after the Tonkin Gulf incidents, he sought to contain the war in Vietnam and exhorted Hanoi to fight a protracted war against the Americans [insurgency]. Mao signaled to Washington that Beijing would only enter the war if Chinese territory were attacked.” I guess Washington did not receive the signal or did not believe it came from Mao because Johnson’s actions and choices and his acceptance of McNamara’s graduated response was precisely because he feared Chinese intervention. He did not want another Korea. He did not want to fight against the Chinese again and he did not want an open-ended continuing commitment as in Korea.

In the penultimate paragraph to the story Lien-Hang Nguyen says, “Although Washington possessed its own internal and geostrategic reasons to intervene and stay in the Vietnamese conflict, it was leaders in Hanoi and Saigon who dictated the nature and pace of US intervention. Domestic and Cold War pressures indeed played significant roles throughout American involvement in Vietnam, but Vietnamese elite actors created the context in which US leaders operated. Hanoi and Saigon were not only active agents in their own destinies, but they also heavily influenced the terms of American intervention and ultimately the outcome of their war.” I think that is a very generous conclusion given the terrible totality of the conflict that many are happy to pin solely to American intervention.

I think Nguyen’s text is well worth the journey.

I would like to say that there is one author I am aware of who identified Le Duan as the leader calling the shots during America’s War in Vietnam and published his book about 24 years before Lien-Hang Nguyen. If you would like to get a better picture of the military side, without ignoring the political, and read an author who correctly identifies the North Vietnamese leaders involved, you might like to read Lt General Phillip B. Davidson’s Vietnam at War: The History: 1946-1975.
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on January 31, 2016
This is not a conclusive book on the Vietnam war from the North Vietnam perspective. It is a good book. One I hope of many more to come. The title is too generic. It does not include much about the time period between the withdrawal of US troops and the conquering of South Vietnam. I guess you have to find some way to simplify complex events and the author seems to have done that by focusing on Le Duan, the general secretary of the Communist Part of Vietnam. Not a bad idea, but it leaves one wanting to know more. A more apt title for the book should be Le Duan's War, because that is what it is actually.

I like the way Cheng Guan Ang approached the problem in his books "The Vietnam War from the Other Side" and "
Ending the Vietnam War: The Vietnamese Communists' Perspective". He focused more on the processes involved rather than heavy weight and visible personalities. That approach has its own shortcomings of course. Leaves you wanting to know a bit about the personalities.

As the war begins to inch its way to the history books, as a new generation not touched by its horrors begins to grow up on both sides. We can see more books like this helping pave the way for understanding and reconciliation.
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on July 28, 2017
This is a great book that describes the Viet Nam war from the perspective of the leaders of North Viet Nam. It goes into exquisite detail of the thinking and planning of the war. It should be noted that the true leaders of policy were not Ho Chi Minh and General Giap. These 2 leaders were credited by many in the West as the brains behind the movement. This book gives a better insight into who truly dictated policy. The book is well researched with a first look into NVN archives.
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on July 13, 2012
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. In addition, since both North and South leaders are Vietnamese, perhaps a comparison and contrast regarding the personalities, interests, and ambitions of these leaders should be made.

The book ends abruptly right after the 1973 Paris Agreements, leaving readers wonder what went on during the last two years of the war. Apparently, the author believes that the fate of South Vietnam was sealed after the Paris Agreements and there is no need for further discussions. If so, a clear statement or at least some sort of arguments should be presented.

Nevertheless, the author made a significant contribution to the history of the Vietnam War with a fresh view from "the other side."
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on July 25, 2013
Hanoi's War is an excellent addition to the New Cold War History Series edited by Arne Wested. The potential reader needs to know this is a scholarly book and not a history such as Rick Atkinson's latest.

For the most part the author keeps her cool concerning some of the events and players she covers. Her disdain for both Nixon and Kissinger shows through (how can it not?), and her sense of the risible shows through in her narration of Le Duan's marital life. Here is a man who holds the USSR, the PRC, and the United States at bay for a decade, and doesn't have the courage to tell his first family to get lost.

If you lived through that period as an adult, you might find the book saddening. Much of what we thought was going on, was; except we didnt know how much the United States was being manipulated by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam's leadership, a very small group of fanatic ideologues. They were not going to change, and they just hung in there for years, politically as well as militarily. Of course, the war dragged on due to Nixon's "peace with honor" schtick and Kissinger's toadyism and hubris. And a whole lot more people died. The author's perspective on these issues is clear and well documented. We can hope our leaders would read such a book; they can learn from it.

And what was gained by either side? Nixon resigns, the US doubts itself and still does, Vietnam goes from being a player on the international scene to being a backwater.

At least no one is being killed there anymore.
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on January 18, 2015
As a general reader, I found it difficult to understand the purpose of this book. Clearly the author has had unrivalled access to North Vietnamese archives and political actors, and she is carrying out her obligation to make this information available to historians of the Vietnam War. She also has a certain amount of debunking to do over the roles of well-known figures such as Ho Chi Minh, Mme. Binh and Nguyen Vo Giap, who were more figureheads while Le Duan wielded the real power. She has a small section on how small countries can manipulate, as well as be manipulated by, larger powers (although the extent to which this applies outside anti-colonial Cold War struggles is dubious). The great majority of the book is devoted to the diplomatic history of the Le Duan/Le Duc Tho v. Nixon/Kissinger negotiations. Although both sides realized that neither side could obtain military victory, at the same time they used military action to prod the other over negotiations. But what is the purpose of "peace" negotiations when both sides want the US out of Vietnam before the inevitable victory of the Vietnamese Communists? And how can even sham negotiations take place with the duplicitous Henry Kissinger, who lied even to his mirror? And how can the various US bombings of the North be discussed without examining their impact on the people and the economy of the North and how they recovered from them? True, we see Hanoi being evacuated and we see the political police being empowered when the citizenry is dissatisfied with a situation where their families and livelihoods are being wiped out. But there is only one Hai Phong harbor, which is one of the few ways Russian and Chinese military goods are able to reach North Vietnam, and its recovery efforts, if any, are completely ignored. Maybe there is a Seige of Leningrad or at least a Murmansk to be described, but one looks in vain. The most human thing in the book is the bad relationship between Le Duan's two wives and their families. Does Nguyen have a message, or is this just an expansion of a Ph.D. thesis into a book?
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on September 25, 2015
I think this was a very good book, so far as it went. Unfortunately, the author had access to only some North Vietnamese archives. So she could go into interesting details about some of the history (when the information came from an archive she had access to), but in other cases, she just couldn't include important areas at all, because the documents were unavailable.

But overall, a good read, with many footnotes, and a very different (and complimentary) view of the war, than the standard American history.

Joshua Levy
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on April 2, 2015
A 6-year vet of Vietnam, I'm working on an historically accurate piece of fiction about the war, but was up against a wall of opacity regarding anything accurate about the inner workings of North Vietnam's decision-making. Lien-Hang's book is a godsend, and her documentation is a marvel. I recommend it as invaluable to any serious student of the war. How we managed to be forced to give up despite all the resources we had on call has always been a puzzlement; now even moreso, when it's clear how much infighting the North Vietnamese regime indulged itself in from start to finish, yet still outdistanced us.
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on May 30, 2015
Excellent! Well-researched and documented, the author makes previously unavailable material accessible and spices it with some wonderful insights gained in her interviews with some very interesting people. Given the vast number of books available on America's war on Viet-Nam, it is refreshing to finally read a credible account of what was going on inside Viet-Nam's wartime leadership.
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on December 17, 2016
Excellent book gives new insight into the Vietnam Wat from the norths view
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