- Hardcover: 512 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (August 28, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521869110
- ISBN-13: 978-0521869119
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #529,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 (v. 1) Hardcover – August 28, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
A full-blooded member of what he calls the "revisionist school" of Vietnam War historians, Moyar firmly believes that America's longest and most controversial overseas war was "a worthy but improperly executed enterprise." His fiercely argued book, which covers the early years of American involvement in the war, is an unabated salvo against what he calls the "orthodox school" that sees American involvement in the war as "wrongheaded and unjust." The main villains are former Vietnam War correspondents David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan; former U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge; and just about anyone else who had bad things to say about South Vietnamese premier Ngo Dinh Diem and good things to say about Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Though Moyar marshals many primary sources to buttress his political point of view, he undermines his argument by disparaging those he disagrees with (calling Sheehan and Halberstam, for example, "indignant," "vengeful," and "self-righteous"). He also showers praise on those who backed Diem, the autocratic leader who stifled the press and his political opponents. Revisionists will embrace the book; the orthodox will see it as more evidence of a vast, right-wing conspiracy. (Oct. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This thoroughly researched and richly informative history of the Vietnam War examines first the war's central characters and countries in the years leading up to 1954. Moyar contends that South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, who has been incessantly depicted as an obtuse, tyrannical reactionary by some historians, was in reality a very wise and effective leader. Moyar states that supporting the November 1963 coup was the worst American mistake of the war, that President Kennedy had no plans to abandon his South Vietnamese allies after the 1964 election, and that President Johnson's lack of forcefulness in Vietnam in late 1964 and early 1965 squandered America's deterrent power and led to a decision in Hanoi to invade South Vietnam with large North Vietnamese army units. Moyar notes that historians have argued that an American ground-troop presence in Laos would not have stopped most of the infiltration, but much new evidence contradicts this contention. Where the U.S. committed major errors, he writes, was in formulating strategies for defending South Vietnam. A valuable appraisal. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
What makes this book different is that until recently histories of the VN war were all based on American sources, but the author of this book has had access to many North Vietnamese documents and can challenge the conventional wisdom of an earlier day about what really happened in VN and how the North Vietnamese responded to our actions.
The book has created a conflict within me, someone who views himself as well read on the causes and nature of the war. Several of my assumptions may be wrong. Was Ho Chi Minh a true die hard communist or just forced into the arms of China by the Americans? Were the Chinese and Vietnamese natural enemies, or close collaborators? How successful was Ngo Dinh Diem as President of South VN?
How poor was our intelligence during the war? How much of the failure of US policy in VN can be attributed to internecine squabbling among the various US agencies involved in the war? And, importantly, how much of what was being reported by the American press were incorrect analysis that became self fulfilling prophecies back home?
I recommend the book highly to those interested in doing some heavy academic reading, but having an enlightening experience. It may even cause you to reconsider your views.
An aside: I don't particularly like the term "revisionist," because all history somehow revises what has been said before. Not to mention that "revisionist" is often used in a pejorative sense. However, "revisionist" historians of the Vietnam War, a distinct minority, appear to have embraced the label as they stand opposed to the "orthodox" majority. So, if the label is good enough for them, it's good enough for me.
Moyar notes that orthodox historians tend to look down on and dismiss their revisionist colleagues. But they shouldn't. Why? Because, as Moyar attempts to show, the war was not "wrongheaded and unjust." Instead, it was "a noble but improperly executed enterprise" (xi). Having said that, Moyar sets out to prove his basic point by reviewing the major characters, battles, procedures, and policy decisions.
Much of what Moyar presents is impressive, leading the reader to accept the basic thesis. However, there's a downside that undercuts Moyar's effort. Often, the characters in the story that Moyar tells are either great saints or terrible sinners. For example, Ngo Din Diem could hardly do anything wrong. On the other hand, Lyndon Baines Johnson was a pathetic ninny. Such characterizations are especially strong whenever a major player is first introduced. Thus, one of the first things we learn about John Paul Vann, one of Moyar's villains, is that his mother was a prostitute. This over-the-top kind of presentation leads the reader to suspect that the real person Moyar is describing was much more likable and honest than Moyar is willing to admit. For that reason, I think that his book would be even more successful in achieving its goals if it came across as more balanced, not so strongly tendentious.
I should add that Mark Moyar has done his homework. The amount of detail in the description, and the painstaking research revealed by the endnotes, is truly impressive. The reader gets the idea that Moyar could defend his "revisionist" position on the war about as well as anyone. And that's what makes this such a fine book: it forcefully advances a contested interpretation of the war. The reader never doubts that Moyar believes what he's saying and that he thinks the differences between the two positions are significant.