ANATOMY OF ERROR: The Inside Story of the Asian War on the Potomac, 1954-1969 by Henry Brandon

ANATOMY OF ERROR: The Inside Story of the Asian War on the Potomac, 1954-1969

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Gradually people are emerging from the diplomatic and journalistic woodwork to given side accounts of how the Vietnamese war has been waged in Washington. Townsend Hoopes' The Limits of Intervention (p. 905) focused on the six months prior to LBJ's dramatic March '68 bombing halt announcement. Brandon, Washington correspondent for the London Sunday Times, provides a more comprehensive play-by-play account based on interviews With ""virtually all the principal actors, many of the minor ones, even some of the stagehands."" His major contentions are detachedly dovish: that basic policies of limiting the war made a decisive victory impossible, that the U.S. failed militarily by not training and equipping the South Vietnamese adequately until 1967-48 in the belief they could win the war by themselves, that Johnson's administration erred politically because he and, his military leaders thought they could ignore public opinion. However Brandon has some regrets at the public reaction against the war; he feels it has weakened the powers of the President and given serious momentum to an isolationist trend which is disturbing to America's allies: Brandon's narrative starts with ""Truman to Kennedy: Half Measures,"" but mostly the show belongs to Johnson, entrapped in the fallacies of dogged continuity and the dynamics of escalation, with strongest support from Rostow and Rusk, and George Ball permitted to play ""devil's advocate.'"" Brandon believes some ""peace feelers"" were carelessly handled, notably the Polish ""Marigold"" initiative of 1966, and Harold Wilson's peacemaking efforts with Kosygin were needlessly subverted. Some of the ""inside information"" is on the order of a ""Horseshit"" from Dean Rusk to the author's suggestion that a certain course might be hazardous, but for the most part it's a smooth and readable tracing of the ups and downs of Potomac policymaking.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1969
Publisher: Gambit