THE ELEPHANT AND THE TIGER: The Full Story of the Vietnam War by Wilbur H. Morrison

THE ELEPHANT AND THE TIGER: The Full Story of the Vietnam War

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A tough-minded and provocative post-mortem on America's post-WW II involvement in Indochina, which damningly critiques the political leaders who sent troops to fight and die there. Morrison (Point of No Return, 1979) focuses on the period starting around year-end 1954 (the point at which the US agreed to give France more military aid in Vietnam) and ending in the spring of 1975 (when the last Americans fled the country). In recounting how the US was drawn into a civil war it eventually lost, however, he ranges widely in time as well as terrain, in Large measure to underscore Washington's failure to appreciate the futility of escalating conventional militay commitments in the context of Southeast Asia's troubled history. Arguing that the Vietnam War was winnable at several early stages, the author concludes it was lost for want or adaptability, vision, and will. The main purpose of any armed conflict, Morrison contends, is to persuade the enemy it has been vanquished. In Indochina, he asserts, the US did not even convince the North Vietnamese it wanted to defeat them. Among other villains of the piece, Morrison singles out LBJ (for his indecisive efforts to achieve JFK's goal of containing Communism in the Far East), Robert McNamara, and General William Westmoreland. Censured as well are Capitol Hill lawmakers ""who abrogated their responsibilities to the American people"" and the articulate minority of home-front dissidents whose widely publicized protests helped preclude any possibility of a favorable battlefield outcome. Throughout, though, the author is at pains to pay tribute to the men and women who fought in Vietnam and neighboring nations. In a stinging epilogue, moreover, he pointedly notes that sometime activists now find it difficult to accept any blame for the appalling consequences of the Communist takeover in Southeast Asia. A tellingly detailed overview with bite and the courage of its against-the-grain convictions--and a worthy companion piece to Philip B. Davidson's estimable 1988 entry, Vietnam at War.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1990
Publisher: Hippocrene