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Vietnam Wars 1945-1990 Reprint Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060921071
ISBN-10: 0060921072
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this dark account of the political and diplomatic sides of the Vietnam wars and the psychic aftermath, the author contends that the Indochina experience refuted (temporarily) the simplistic assumptions that in foreign policy America always "meant well" and that communism was always "bad." The epithets popularly employed to characterize the enemy in Vietnam--"indifferent to human life," "dishonest," "ruthless"--came to characterize our own actions as well. From counterinsurgency expert Edward Lansdale's "cheerful brutalization of democratic values" to President Nixon's attempt to "make war look like peace," the moral breakdown is assessed here in disturbing detail. Young goes on to argue that more recent U.S. intervention in Lebanon, Libya, Grenada and Panama suggests that few lessons were learned in Vietnam--indeed, that the past decade has seen a dangerous resurgence of native faith in the benevolence of American foreign meddling. This, she maintains, goes hand in hand with a renewed commitment to use force in a global crusade against Third World revolutions and governments. Young, a history professor at New York University, paints a grim picture of our part in the Indochina war and its excoriating effects on the nation. Photos.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Two new books join the many which try to summarize and analyze the Vietnam War, its precedents, and its epilog, with differing approaches and results. Young (history, NYU) coauthored, along with William G. Rosenberg, Transforming Russia & China ( LJ 1/1/82). Her current study focuses on the American experience, while touching on the periods before and after direct American involvement. She provides some useful insights, and details debates among American leaders, but she draws predominantly on published sources and offers little new information. More significantly, her arguments are heavily biased (she seems to think that only the American and South Vietnamese military and governments demonstrated cruelty, corruption, deception, and destruction), leading to some troubling conclusions (e.g., that U.S. bombing of Cambodia may have been responsible for the later horrors of the Khmer Rouge), and leaving the reader unable to place events in any kind of valid historical perspective. In stark contrast to Young's black-and-white picture, Olson and Roberts (history, Sam Houston State Univ. and Purdue Univ., respectively) paint a picture of many colors. This successful popular history of the war is less scholarly, less detailed than The Vietnam Wars , but the better-balanced coverage throughout yields a more insightful, instructive history. At times the authors' emotionalism (e.g., the account of the My Lai massacre) clouds their presentation, and the otherwise fascinating discussion of the postwar media's depiction of the war is not up to date, but general readers will find their book to be a helpful and accessible introduction to the complexities of the Vietnam experience.
- Kenneth W. Berger, Duke Univ. Lib., Durham, N.C.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (September 25, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060921072
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060921071
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
You'll notice that the reviews posted so far for Marilyn Young's "Vietnam Wars" are quite polarized (1 star vs. 5 stars). Some complain of Young's agenda and anti-American viewpoint, while others find her tone appropriate and the book revealing; all of these points are valid. This book is biased, frustratingly so at times, but it is also informative and a good read.

"Vietnam Wars" covers the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France, the war with the US, and the war with China, naturally focusing on the American war. The substance of the book is a mix of details of the actual war and the politics concerning it, with ample, though not exhaustive, footnotes and plenty of fascinating anecdotes. The level of detail is perfect for a popular history.

The tone of the book is distinctly anti-American, partly because of the author's own bias, but also partly because of the information available. The details of North Vietnam's motivations, actions, etc. are lacking, I imagine because there are so few sources. As a result, the viewpoint is American, and the mistakes made by the US are on full display; I found these to be the most interesting aspects of the war, e.g., the astounding naiveness of Psy Ops.

The author's bias is irritating, though thankfully clear. While she does not engage in outright revisionism (her facts are supported by references), she does selectively emphasize information. For example, while civilian deaths inflicted by US firepower are mentioned repeatedly, over many pages, atrocities commited by the North are downplayed, in oneliners along the lines of "Only 15-thousand Vietnamese civilians were executed by the VC, not 500-thousand, as claimed in US propaganda!". Despite this selectivity, sufficient facts are presented to convey the moral ambiguity that surrounds the conflict.

Read skeptically, Marilyn Young's "Vietnam Wars" is an excellent starting point for understanding Vietnam.
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By A Customer on April 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
Herein lies the terrible tragedy of Vietnam. Marilyn Young covers the First Indochina War, through the Second (the Vietnam War to Americans), and the Third. Written mostly from the American and foreign point of view, she narrates the events as they occurred without rancor or judgment or obvious bias. Yet one gets the distinct feeling that this account is anti-American, but how else could it be? The facts she lays out with no value judgment, messy opinions, or biased reporting unerringly points to the mistakes and false assumptions that America had about Vietnam. How these mistakes lead to the tragic war, a senseless war, that laid waste to an entire nation.
There is a famous saying in Vietnam, "At no time has Vietnam lacked heroes." The unsaid, but implicit understanding is that at no time has Vietnam lacked aggressors. What America at the time could not realize was that she was following in the footsteps of previous conquerors in Vietnam's past. America, though filled with good intentions, was simply another in a long line of overwhelming enemies like China, the Mongols, France, and Japan. In all honesty, at certain points I could not help laughing out loud. Not in amusement, but at the sheer, overwhelming stupidity and arrogance that compounded mistake after mistake by the foreign powers and every chance for peace was dashed because of Cold War politics and ignorance. France, the once mighty empire, was now an impotent, senile power that still clung to the trappings of imperial might. And the U.S., caught up in the Red Scare, failed to realize that the growth of Communism in Vietnam was an outgrowth of nationalism against imperialistic powers like France. To the U.S., it was a fight against Communism.
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Although not exactly a polemic, the book was also not an exhaustive or unbiased view of the wars in Indochina and Vietnam. I would not recommend it as a good resource for the serious researcher. The narrative it too brief to provide much usable information. the information provided has been since supplanted by more scholarly works such as EMBERS OF WAR and Stanley Karnow's VIETNAM.
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It is rare that I will read a book twice, but Marilyn B. Young's history of American involvement in Vietnam is so packed with information and so clearly written, that I recently felt compelled to read it once again. It plots, very logically, how America went down the slippery slope that was Veitnam. Our foreign policy towards Vietnam was based on a culture never understood, and assumptions never questioned. I've read a dozen books on Vietnam in the past ten years, and this is by far the best.
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As someone who came of age during, lived the Vietnam War as a member of the military, and have had that experience shadow me ever since, Marilyn Young's work, "The Vietnam Wars 1945 to 1990," provided a complete portrait of that historical era. A portrait that has always been swayed one way or the other depending on who was writing it. Many will criticize her effort, calling it leftist, defeatist, or a lie. But the idea encompassed in her work, it that there were many lies told during that 45 year period, with the vast majority being issued by the US Government.

Young's integration into the narrative of documents from all sources that have now come to light, weave a fascinating picture of deceit, deception and stupidity on the part of the US, seeking to fight monolithic communism in what was really a nationalist and civil struggle between the citizens of a single nation, separated by old white men at a table faraway in Europe. the US to keep up the illusion of Western invincibility and infallibility in the face of popular and indigenous forces to large to be kept at bay for too long, committed our children and treasure to fight in a war that was known to be unwinnable in the American historical context. That in reality, destroyed what little creditibility we had left and made clear that our nation was all about preserving privilege and power for the white western culture. While reading this work, the reader can see again the same mistakes being made all over again, in current wars in Southwest Asia and South Asia to promote the idea of Western hegemony over the world.
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