THE WAR WITHIN: America's Battle over Vietnam by Tom Wells

THE WAR WITHIN: America's Battle over Vietnam

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Immense, painstakingly researched, painfully engrossing account of how the battle on America's home front ended its longest and least popular war. Wells (formerly Univ. of San Francisco, Mills College) makes clear at the outset where he stands on the historical issue of the Vietnam War and the antiwar movement; he has ""made no effort to conceal"" his opposition to U.S. intervention in Vietnam. Moreover, he argues that the antiwar movement was no marginal phenomenon. Because American warmongers took it seriously (particularly Richard Nixon after Lyndon Johnson was driven from office), it had a pervasive effect on the war effort itself, among other things compelling President Nixon to ""phase out"" the draft and ""Vietnamize"" the war. In addition, Nixon's lack of understanding of the antiwar movement led him to try to suppress opposition so ruthlessly (often employing provocateurs and other dirty tricks) that he overreached and eventually toppled from office. Wells discusses the internecine conflicts among antiwar activists and the leftist polarization of many in the movement as the war dragged on and as many, formerly moderate opponents of the war came to the conclusion that revolution was necessary to end it. While the movement's diversity was its strength as it expanded from a radical fringe into a mainstream political force, internal strife among religious groups, Trotskyites, and others that shared little more than opposition to American war aims split the movement apart. Although the coalition splintered and seemed ultimately to founder, Wells concludes that the antiwar movement's long-term contributions to American democracy, as well as to ending the war itself, were substantial. A balanced, absorbing, tragic narrative of the massive groundswell of popular revulsion that eventually thwarted the directors of America's war in Southeast Asia.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0595343961
Page count: 650pp
Publisher: Univ. of California Press