IN THE JAWS OF HISTORY by Diem Bui with David Chanoff
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An inside account of the three decades of struggle in Vietnam by Diem, who as a youth in North Vietnam had Vo Nguyen Giap as a history professor, but who nonetheless fled the North and later became South Vietnam's ambassador to the US. Coauthor Chanoff has previously given us books by pawns in the Vietnamese game. This time, we hear from one of the rooks. Diem was early against both Japanese and French imperialism in his native land, but he also learned that the major impetus against these powers was communist-inspired. He dreamed of a Vietnam ""neither colonized nor communized,"" and so was doomed to a life of remorse. History moved too fast for the equivocating Thieu, as a toothless peace treaty pushed South Vietnam closer to its destiny, and Diem, ""the marooned ambassador of a dying ally,"" could do nothing to force Thieu's hand. In this extremely well-written, gripping volume, Diem sets a few facts straight. The CIA's man in Saigon, Frank Snepp, had reported that in the dying days, when Diem had met with Thieu, the former had demanded the President's resignation. Diem denies this (at any rate, Thieu's dilatory nature, as documented here, would have militated against such a strong action). Having been accused, during the US presidential election of 1968, of favoring the Nixon camp with details of the ongoing Paris peace talks, Diem outlines the whole scenario and again denies that his talks with Nixon were anything but exchanges of generalities. In the end, Diem finds as the greatest lesson of this period the fact that there is no such thing as a true friend among the great powers. Rather, there is only the national interest. He faults the US for going into South Vietnam with its sleeves rolled up, ready to save the country with no help from the natives. Had they asked, Diem suggests, the South might have been ready for ""Vietnamization"" several years earlier. Simply the best book so far on the diplomatic machinations of that tragic war.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1987
ISBN: 0253213010
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin