LEADING THE WAY by Al Santoli

LEADING THE WAY

How Vietnam Veterans Rebuilt the U.S. Military: An Oral History
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A well-done oral history from Santoli (Everything We Had, 1981), showing why our military was much more effective in the Persian Gulf than in Vietnam. Luminaries such as Colin Powell, Secretary of the Navy James Webb, and lesser-knowns reveal here how confidence, discipline, and integrity were restored to the military after the low of Vietnam and the even lower low of the immediate post-Vietnam era. Santoli (himself a vet first travels back to wartime Vietnam, then visits the morass of the ``Wilderness Years''--a ``bad trip'' through the mid- and late-70's that's marked by rampant racial unrest, lack of military leadership (during the war too many NCOs had been given direct commissions; in turn, young or incompetent older men were made into staff NCOs), cutbacks, and plain poor morale. President Carter undermined the Shah, but a positive evolved out of the hostage debacle as the American public regained its respect for national security. Then, in the early 80's, under Commandant Alfred Gray, the Marine Corps changed over to a revolutionary new battle doctrine. Grenada proved a turning point when, for the first time since before Vietnam, an American President gave the military a free hand--which gave Schwarzkopf and others confidence that carried over to Panama and Desert Storm. After hashing over the war against Iraq, Santoli's subjects discuss our military future, advocating using the armed forces to prevent the spread of regional ``brushfire'' wars, counterterrorism, and drug- and illegal weapons-dealing. Some contend that lessons learned from Vietnam and Desert Storm may not apply to crises like Bosnia. How will the military cope? By maintaining the best possible leadership at the top, says Secretary Webb. Required reading for anyone seeking a valid perspective on America's military over the past three decades. (Eight-page photo insert--not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-345-37498-3
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993