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A Reinterpretation of America's Most Disastrous Military Conflict

by Michael Lind

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-84254-8
Publisher: Free Press

A single-minded interpretation of the Vietnam War based on the author’s conviction that the conflict’s overriding issue was a Moscow-directed international communist conspiracy. Retro cold warrior Lind (author of the novel Powertown, 1996, as well as works of nonfiction), resembling an intellectual Rambo, verbally machine-guns Vietnamese, Russian, and Chinese communists, along with Americans who had any sympathies with them—everyone, in short, who disagrees with his proposition that the Vietnam War boiled down to a contest of American-led Western good versus communist evil. One purpose of this impassioned book is “to set the historical record straight,” Lind says. But he only occasionally practices the historian’s craft in this often shrill tome. Some sections’such as an examination of regional and ethnic influences in the antiwar movement—are well researched, backed up with solid sources, and convincingly argued. But too much here is made up of conjecture and opinion and venomous attacks, not only on Chairman Mao, Joseph Stalin, and Ho Chi Minh, but on Western journalists, historians, government officials, and members of Congress who had anything positive to say about communists. He further weakens his case by calling for censoring the media in future US wars and for “prosecuting American citizens whose actions bring them under the constitutional prohibition of providing ‘aid and comfort to the enemy.’ “ The latter is a thinly veiled smear against the radical left of the Vietnam War peace movement. On the other hand, Lind convincingly undermines the right-wing “stab in the back” theory that holds that the US military could have defeated the North Vietnamese if politicians hadn’t tied the military’s hands. Lind also correctly pegs Richard Nixon’s Vietnam War policymaking as “a resounding failure in every way.” But the author subverts his cause by presenting too many complex issues in oversimplified, good-versus-evil, terms. Much sound and fury signifying little more than a reprise of John Foster Dulles-like Cold War thinking.