THE FIRST DOMINO by James R. Arnold


Eisenhower, the Military and America's Intervention in Vietnam
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 Thorough, thoughtful history of America's road to Vietnam, by Arnold (Bantam History of the Vietnam War--not reviewed). Beginning with Ho Chi Minh, then a 36-year-old seaman being inspired during WW II by FDR's antiimperialist rhetoric, Arnold traces the American mistakes--starting with FDR's failure to brief Truman fully on foreign policy--that eventually led Ho into bloody conflict with the US. According to Arnold, Ho's political innocence, magnetic leadership, and desire for an alliance with America were delineated by OSS reports, as was his determination: ``If you do not help us achieve our goal [ending French rule], I know a country that will be only too glad to.'' Arnold pinpoints de Gaulle's artful invocation of the Communist threat as the key to the US/French alliance in Indochina and explains how America failed to grasp the meaning of the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. He confirms that ``the U.S. government indeed had a large investment of money and prestige riding on the battle's outcome....'' In fact, as the battle for Dien Bien Phu stretched on, he says, a US carrier task force was put on alert and the US quietly moved to the brink of war. As these events began to receive media coverage in the US, President-to-be Kennedy got national attention for speaking of the need of the people to know ``the blunt truth about Indochina'' if they were ``for the fourth time in this century to travel the long and tortuous road of war.'' Eisenhower's response to Kennedy was his famous ``domino theory,'' with Indochina perceived as the first piece likely to fall. An engrossing account of America's path to disaster, with Eisenhower's commitment to Indochina and Ho's growing disaffection with the US set in expert counterpoint.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-688-09640-9
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1991


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