From Olson (History/Sam Houston State Univ.) and Roberts (History/Purdue)--a balanced and highly informative account of the Vietnam War. Unlike Marilyn Young (The Vietnam Wars, reviewed below), the authors delve into Vietnamese history and culture. They describe Vietnam as a nation with a strong military tradition, manifested in victorious wars of liberation against Chinese, French, and Japanese colonialists. America's ignorance of this history, Olson and Roberts argue, led it to view Vietnam mistakenly as a battlefield of world Communism rather than as a nation struggling for liberation from Western colonialism. Indeed, early support by American policymakers for the elite Catholic mandarin Diem, whom the largely Buddhist Vietnamese identified with French colonialism, doomed the American effort from the start. Diem's corrupt and tyrannical regime alienated the very non-Communist elements that the US needed to support its war against Communism. The authors describe how, by contrast, Ho Chi Mirth recognized the importance of winning the hearts and minds of the non-Communist majority. America's profoundly violent escalation of the war after Diem's assassination could not succeed, since the war was essentially political and not military. Olson and Roberts devote considerable attention to the mistakes and motives of the Hanoi regime, and reveal the disputes on military policy that often existed in the North Vietnamese Communist party. A fine history that casts light on the motivations of both sides.