THE UNFINISHED WAR: Vietnam and the American Conscience by Walter Capps

THE UNFINISHED WAR: Vietnam and the American Conscience

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Capps is a professor of religion (U. of California, Santa Barbara) with a special interest in native American religions and mysticism--but that perspective, though not irrelevant, sheds little new light here on the peculiar relationship of Americans to the Vietnam War. The US, Capps emphasizes (as others have), began and pursued the war for intangible ideological reasons; namely, anticommunism. Along with globalization of the struggle came a Manichean religious fervor, with the Americans cast as the forces of goodness-and-light and the Vietnamese communists as the forces of evil. To Capps, these points underlie the various American reactions that the war engendered. For the combatants, the equation of war and religion led to disaffection once the ignoble details of Vietnam-style war mounted. US soldiers shifted their animus from an enemy without to an enemy within, causing psychological distress, Antiwar activists, in turn, tended to find religious contexts for their opposition, often adopting Buddhism and other Eastern religions as a counterforce to the perceived aggressiveness of Western religions and the religious ideology supporting Washington's crusade. Now, in Capps' view, proponents of the war have returned in the person of Jerry Falwell and other Moral Majority adherents, and again found in religious imagery the basis for anti-communist activism. And Reagan's use of religious rhetoric in his efforts to increase defense spending further demonstrates that the wrong turn on Vietnam is once again public policy. Those who haven't encountered the fundamental thesis before will find elements of interest in Capps' argument--but, in the aggregate, he attempts to explain too much by too little.

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 1982
ISBN: 0807004111
Publisher: Beacon