A large gap in library collections will be filled by this political history of Vietnam, which focuses on recent events to provide a background--as per the series title--for the current crisis: it makes fascinating--and disquieting--reading. The lesson from the early period of independence is that there was long hostility between north and south; the lesson from the French colonial period is that ""organized resistance by sections of the population was the price for remaining in a captive country."" The foreign rulers were resented, the old leaders were discredited, and into this limbo came a new idea--nationalism. At first communism was viewed as just one more species of nationalism: how it differed, and hid its differences conveniently, is traced through the ""many gaps, contradictions and puzzling omissions in the life of Ho Chi Minh,"" an extraordinarily revealing chapter. After the defeat of the French, Ho was established in the north, and Ngo Kinh Diem, with American support, took office in the south, where, ""under the cloak of constitutional government, a personal dictatorship was born.... So long as Diem fought the communists and cooperated in military matters, (the U.S.) would go along too."" Meanwhile full-scale guerrilla war started within South Vietnam. ""Was the rebellion a communist plot from the outset? Or was it a genuine movement of resistance against Diem that was gradually taken over by the communists?"" The author suggests that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and he criticizes the American officials who refused to admit the possibility of a native rebellion. Regarding the present period of wholesale American involvement, Mr. Dareff is equally candid: he gives attention to the arguments of both doves and hawks. ""Would (the U.S.) hold onto Vietnam no matter what, or would they, in the end, be forced to drop it too?"" Seldom, if ever, has a juvenile set forth the facts and faced the issues of a controversial situation with such firmness--it's an eye-opener for everyone from junior high up.