The U.S., says this author, deserves its reputation of being ""friendly to the neutrals, neutral to its enemies, and hostile to its friends."" And, she asserts, Diem was our best friend in Vietnam; encouraging his overthrow, and taking at face value the charges made against him by the ""Communist-infiltrated"" Buddhists, were the worst mistakes we could possibly have made. Miss Higgins is an intrepid war correspondent who knows the country and people in question at least as well as most American reporters, and there is no denying the sincerity of her views. In this book of hers the proponents of fearless escalation will find much encouragement and a few specific arguments with which to bedevil those who would, in her terms, have us adopt ""a policy of scuttle and run."" Unfortunately for those in agreement with her, however, she devotes little time or space to rebutting the specific facts and theories by which they have increasingly found themselves embarrassed. For instance, did somebody say you can't fight a jungle war with air power? Very well, replies Miss Higgins, bring in bulldozers and clear that jungle away. There is no mention, of course, of how many bulldozers might be required. The burden of the book lies with assertion rather than relying on historical perspective evident in the Halberstam, Browne and Shaplen treatments. But none of us, in any case, will want to take issue with her final prognostication: ""I believe America will in Vietnam somehow muddle through--with the accent on the muddle.