A military history book analyzes the sources of America’s failures in the Vietnam War.
People have been arguing about what went wrong in the Vietnam War since before it ended. Some say it was an unwinnable conflict from the start and that the United States should never have gotten involved. Others believe that the American military could easily have won the war, but its hands were tied by civilian leaders who didn’t have the stomach for more aggressive tactics. Rothmann (None Will Surpass, 2014), a West Point graduate, retired Army colonel, and veteran soldier who led infantry units into combat in Vietnam, has his own theories: “Leader misjudgments and miscalculations were not the only reasons for this failure…they were more a result of personal faults and a lack of trust, honesty, and understanding among and between American civilian leaders and their military counterparts.” Furthermore, neither the U.S. military commanders nor the nation’s civilian leaders had an adequate understanding or respect for their adversary, an expertly organized and dedicated force that pursued its clear goals through subterfuge and strategy. The author uses firsthand accounts from both sides to analyze the conflict from its beginnings in 1950s Cold War politics to the fall of Saigon in 1975. He also critiques the (incorrect) lessons that American leaders took from the Vietnam War and how these have been applied to the country’s subsequent conflicts. Rothmann writes in an accessible prose that reads mostly as general history (with a few of his own reflections and opinions scattered throughout): “I missed much of the sixties in America….My wife had been closer to it. She related that she had a tough time getting a place to stay while I was in Vietnam. No one in her hometown in New Jersey would rent a place for her to stay since she was a soldier’s wife whose husband was away at war.” At nearly 700 pages, this comprehensive, rigorous volume spreads the blame around fairly evenly and justifiably. In the author’s view, there’s no one-sentence explanation for America’s loss in Vietnam. He’s here to lead readers unflinchingly into the nuances.
A thought-provoking, well-researched diagnosis of the Vietnam War.