A wide-ranging and revelatory probe of conventional wisdom on America's involvement in Vietnam. Spector (History/George Washington Univ.; The American War with Japan, 1984) begins by addressing the consensus view that the Tet offensive--launched in 1968 at near-ruinous cost by Communist forces against Saigon, Hue, and other urban centers throughout South Vietnam--signaled a turning point in the war. As a practical matter, he argues, the year's bloody engagements (which did yield the North a considerable political victory) were decisive mainly because they were so inconclusive. Focusing on the events of the nine months that followed LBJ's announcement of a bombing halt and his decision not to seek reelection, Spector (who was in country as a USMC field historian during this period) characterizes the Vietnam War as being more like WW I than WW II or the Korean conflict, to which it is often compared. Despite Hanoi's almost immediate acceptance of an offer to begin peace talks, Spector points out, re, cord killed-in-action rates on both sides attested to the fact that the war's fiercest fighting occurred shortly after Tet. Nor, he observes, did the guns fall silent until 1973. Meanwhile, American GIs endured problems related to drug abuse, racism, and the continuing stress of fighting a front-free war whose objectives were never clearly defined by Washington or the corrupt regime in Saigon. An illuminating assessment of the climactic military stalemates and diplomatic deadlocks that not only exemplified the complexities of the protracted struggle but also shaped its course and outcome.