THE VIETNAM WARS 1945-1990 by Marilyn Young


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Here, Young (History/NYU) offers an eloquent though polemical account of America's wars in Indochina. Young's premise is that ""the United States invaded Vietnam against our stated values and ideals, that it did so secretly and deceptively, fighting a war of immense violence in order to impose its will on a sovereign nation."" She supports this thesis forcefully, arguing that the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon Administrations, acting out of ignorance of Vietnamese history and on the basis of misapplied historical analogies, committed acts that could only be considered war crimes on a vast scale (for instance, the Strategic Hamlet program, the saturation bombings of Vietnam, and the ""secret"" wars against Cambodia and Laos). Young does not consider America's aggression in Vietnam an aberration, but asserts persuasively that it was consistent with our history of hostilities against less powerful peoples (the American Indians, the Aguinaldo war in the Philippines, etc.). Disappointingly, unlike Olson and Roberts's Where the Domino Fell (reviewed above), Young devotes little attention to Vietnamese history or to the background of the North Vietnamese regime. She dismisses North Vietnam's armed aggression elsewhere in Indochina and does not discuss possible North Vietnamese mistakes during the war. Nonetheless, the author's articulate delineation of America's willful campaign of destruction against Vietnamese society rings true; and her contention that America has failed to come to terms with its Vietnam legacy seems indisputable. A concise and effective exposition of the events of the war, and a cogent analysis of the motives underlying America's decision to make war against Vietnam.

Pub Date: Jan. 2nd, 1990
Publisher: HarperCollins