Customer Reviews: The Vietnam War: A Concise International History (Very Short Introductions)
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on December 30, 2008
Attempting to write a history of The Vietnam War in less than 200 pages of text (supported by good notes) is not an easy task. The keen student of Vietnam will find nothing new in this, but if you are looking for a generally well written concise history of this horrible conflict - read Lawrence's work.

Vietnam is a story of broken promises by world powers - United States, France, Soviet Union and China. After a brief exploration of the early history of the country, the author shows how Vietnam was but a pawn for the major powers. He paints quite clearly an inexorable slow drive to inevitable war as the US / Soviet Union / China perceive a country virtually unknown to the West as a key geo-political battle ground.

The tragedy for the United States is that Vietnam was also a domestic political football and US Presidents Kennedy and Johnson got deeper involved in the conflict "not because they were confident of victory but because they feared the consequences of defeat." The Vietnam War broke LBJ, a man who always seemed to only go half-way in implementing any advice from advisors.

I can't agree with a previous reviewer who castigates the author for his profile of Nixon. It is well documented that Nixon interfered with Johnson's peace overtures prior to the 1968 election which is a much more cynical act than his Watergate escapades. An excellent picture of Nixon and Kissinger is painted in Robert Dallek's book Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Powerand does neither of them little credit.

Very concise but good overviews of the Tet offensive and other key battles are provided. If you want a military history of Vietnam, this is not the book for you, but if you want a good general picture and understanding of how the most powerful nation got involved in one terrible mess, this is a short enjoyable read.

One qualm - author Lawrence suggests that from "January 29 to March 31 (1968), the NLF and the North Vietnamese army suffered as many as fifty-eight thousand dead," but later suggests that in the full year 1968 "the communists lost an estimated sixty thousand killed." Better proof reading needed here I think.
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on December 15, 2010
This book will be of great service for laypeople interested in a concise and wide-ranging overview of the Vietnam War. In fact, it would also be a good, safe choice for college history instructors looking for a short text to use in undergraduate classes on the Vietnam War or U.S. foreign relations. A big plus of this book is that Lawrence frames his story widely, giving considerable room for discussion of French colonialism in Vietnam, World War II, and the origins of U.S. involvement, which make up about 1/3 of the book. A second plus is that he provides views from all sides of the conflict, not just the view from Washington. We learn quite a bit about power struggles and disagreements over strategy within the North Vietnamese communist party and with its allies in China and the Soviet Union. For example, it was the big communist powers who pushed Hanoi to accept the 1954 Geneva accord out of fear of provoking U.S. intervention at a time they felt they could not match U.S. power. In his judgment of U.S. policies, Lawrence is solidly in the orthodox camp, repeatedly pointing out that despite short-term successes of U.S. economic aid to the Diem regime, it was doomed due to its internal corruption. The same argument is used to evaluate U.S. military tactics: Successes on the battlefield petered out due to a fundamental flaw in strategic assumptions. Revisionists such as Mark Moyar will surely disagree, but Lawrence does represent the majority opinion among U.S. historians at the moment.

The book has no major flaws, but Lawrence's prose isn't exactly lively. At times "The Vietnam War" reads like a textbook. Given its brevity, the book merely alludes to topics such as the experience of soldiers, the effects of chemical warfare, the war in American and Vietnamese memory, etc. But then again, that's when the "for further reading" essay comes in extremely handy. As a solid foundation for further exploration of this major conflict--whether in a classroom or at private leisure--this short text does the job well.
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on June 3, 2011
This book is a good choice for those seeking introductory information on the Vietnam War. It does a good job at presenting the political dynamics of the war, yet it is deficient in that it largely ignores the later repercussions of the war for the world as well as the huge importance (whether contrived or real) the war had on the Cold War. Furthermore, the book does not delve deeply into battles occurring during the war, largely confining itself to those political factors. However, I would recommend this book as a refresher, yet it's not for those already familiar with the conflict.
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on November 22, 2013
This book provides a good overview of the Vietnam War and a good jumping off point to other, more in-depth reads. The writer is clear and balanced in his writing, which is helpful when dealing with such a painful subject.
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on December 20, 2012
As a New Zealand soldier serving in this quagmire- this book put it all in perspective.

After serving in a well run conflict in Malaysia and then a very clever campaign under British guidance in Borneo- Vietnam was American doctrine warfare gone mad. We were appalled at the callow ignorant mainly Black American grunts, the lack of overall objectives and it simply became do your time till wakey and goodbye.

I still see the arrogance and ignorance that led America into Vietnam prevailed again in Iraq and now Afghanistan. I fear American leadership in this direction and wonder how it could happen when you meet so many erudite educated Americans who are proud of their country and reflect the ideals under which the USA was founded.

Should be compulsory reading for all State dept employees, Senate aids and field grade officers of the US armed services.
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on July 19, 2013
Well written, it is historic and a yet told in way you want to hear the story. Mr. Lawrence does have a way at combining both what you learned in history class (which is boring) and the ability to tell a story (which is exciting). I did have to read this for a history class, but it was so well written I decided to keep it. It is one of my favorite books. If all history writers could write like this than history books would go flying off the shelves. It is strong writing you can almost feel the humidity from the jungle and smell the food.
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on December 11, 2014
Overall, this book does exactly what it sets out to do and it does it very well. My only issue with reading this book was that historical figures/important people are only really introduced once and there are no reminders about who they are after. At first, it was difficult to re-find where certain people were first introduced to remind myself who they were, but then I remembered Google exists. Aside from that small issue the book is great.
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on December 15, 2013
I grew up with the words "From Saigon" on the evening news. I was 25 when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese.

I realized recently, that I knew nothing about the War in Vietnam other than the media presentation at the time. I started looking for a reasonably short, readable history of the war that did not project someone's political agenda.

This book filled that need. The author did not editorialize much (refreshing in today's journalistic world where fact and opinion get blurred by writers).

It did not answer the big question for me: why did 58,000 American troops have to die in Vietnam? Of course, that would be a matter of opinion. It did provide perspective about the world events that surrounded the war and put it into context for me.

I would recommend it to anyone looking for some knowledge of this war that so changed the landscape of US politics.
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on August 4, 2015
Had to buy this book for a college class, but it was not only very informative, but also very entertaining and readable. I think I read it in one sitting just because it was so interesting. Recommended.
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on July 15, 2009
For a whirlwind tour through the century of conflict in Vietnam, Lawrence's discussion is dry and clinical -- perhaps appropriate for such a volatile topic, but the work still reads like a book report.

The heart of the book is the discussion of the political war -- and the inability of the South to achieve any kind of political support that would legitimize it and therefore win the struggle. As long as the NLF withstood the bombing attacks above the 17th parallel, the US technological edge was rendered mute. As Lawrence states, this made the political outcome of the conflict that much more important, and the advantage tilted dramatically to the North. The South simply did not have the support of its people and perceived legimitacy, while at the same time the war became increasingly unpopular in the the U.S.

Surprisingly for such a short work, Lawrence ends with a chapter discussing the legacy of the war to the current day, and makes some fairly sweeping judgements about the recent use of military power particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't necessarily think these add to the book, and they are certainly not needed for the sake of any sense of completeness.
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