The subtitle tells quite a lot about the book: ""The Story of Twenty Years of Neglected Opportunities in Vietnam and of America's Failure to Encourage Democracy There."" Mr. Shaplen has been able here to give both a comprehensive history and what amounts to a collection of personal memoirs, since he himself has spent a great deal of time in Vietnam since the end of WW II, first as a correspondent for Newsweek, then for The Reporter, and most recently for The New Yorker. His conclusions regarding the lost possibilities (for instance: that Ho Chi Minh might have been encouraged to establish an independent, Tito-like nation; or that South Vietnam might have fought better if first France, or later the U.S., had allowed them to have a government worth fighting for) are not new, but they gain much in the breadth of this author's first hand experience. This is a book every bit as worthy of attention as David Halberstam's The Making of a Quagmire (p. 282, 1965) or Malcolm Browne's The New Face of War (p. 407, 1965), and it has the distinct advantage over both of greater perspective. Especially noteworthy are the chapters devoted to Ho, to the coup against Diem, and to the emergence of Gen. Nguyen Khanh, all of which contain considerable unfamiliar material. But most likely to create a sensation is Mr. Shaplen's telling critique of U.S. policy formation and administration in Saigon and Washington.