Because the Vietnam War was more recent and more controversial than the others in Lawson's American Wars series, the generalizations in his always readable background sketches can appear more than usually facile. And, too, his ""objective"" stance here sometimes seems inappropriate. Though he takes note of the ""Zippo brigades'"" burning of villages, of agent orange and napalm, of the lies of presidents and the damning revelations of the Pentagon Papers, he then concedes that ""some of the criticism was justified"" or, elsewhere, that critics were ""partly"" right. He condemns My Lai and acknowledges other such incidents, but calls the episode a ""sport"" and emphasizes an American soldier's rescue and adoption of an orphaned infant. He recognizes the validity of the question of ""whether or not the United States had any business being in Vietnam in the first place,"" and deplores the loss of life on all sides; but he ends with an account of subsequent communist atrocities in Cambodia and with equal-weight summaries of two opposing American backward views: that we shouldn't have been there in the first place and, conversely, that we should have waged a less limited war and won. However, the problem isn't that Lawson is inclined to justify the war or to cover up American offenses. What might come across as hedging, one suspects, is not so much sympathy with the war as reluctance to cast Americans in general in a bad light. Though the repercussions at home are barely touched upon and there is little political analysis in any area, developments are outlined with Lawson's usual broad-stroke clarity and pace and, despite his reluctance, without distortion.