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The Dynamics of Defeat: Vietnam War in Hau Nghia Province Hardcover – Mar 1991

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 383 pages
  • Publisher: Westview Press Inc (Mar. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813378079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813378077
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.8 x 22 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,195,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Eric M. Bergerud is professor of military and American history at Lincoln University in San Francisco and the author of Touched with Fire: The Land War in the South Pacific, Red Thunder, Tropic Lightning and The Dynamics of Defeat. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By redrx7 on 25 July 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As with the other Province based accounts of the impact of the American War against Vietnam ,Bergerud's insightful analysis once again exposes in sharp relief the delusions and cynicism of the American political and military leadership that deployed such overwhelming violence against the Vietnamese rural population.He rightly points out that even as the US was paying for the French colonial war before 1954 that the vast majority of the Vietnamese population supported the objectives of the Communist led Vietminh ,yet with utter cynicism and a complete disregard for historical and political reality the US decided to impose its' own client regime on the southern part of Vietnam, prevent elections on re-unification and proceed to do everything in its'power to destroy the only mass based political organisation supported by virtually the entire population. Even within the US intelligence community there were those ,such as Sam Adams ,who pointed out based on actual Province wide data that the US was not fighting a handful of ragged guerillas supported by "North Vietnam" whilst upholding the "democracy" of the US appointed mass murderers who the US labelled the "government", but was in fact confronted by an armed strength of at least 650,000 insurgents not counting regular PAVN Units or the Political Infrastructure.
Every history such as Bergerud's of a Vietnamese Province has attested to the resilience and determination of the Revolution in the Vietnamese countryside.
Strangely for the silly criticisms of these works,not one study has produced a single Province,Region ,Town or Hamlet where the American invaders and their local clients enjoyed any popular support whatsoever.
How unusual that the Vietnamese should not support those who were busy laying waste to the rural society of Vietnam,making more than 70% of the population refugees in their own country and killing over 2 million in the process.Quite inexplicable for the apologists for US terror.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
too broad of a generalization 7 Jun. 2007
By Mai Linh Nguyen - Published on
Format: Paperback
I find this type of history to be dubious. The author looks at one province and then generalizes his findings over the entire South Vietnamese nation. If one were to look at the attitudes of American colonists during the Revolutionary war by region one would find great disparities of opinion and support for the independence cause. Some areas of the colonies were strongly loyalist. Did this make the independence movement less valid? Another example; take two cities in Texas, Austin and Fort Worth. Survey the populations of these areas about their opinions of President Bush. You would find greatly divergent aggregate views. My point is that this type of regional analysis is of limited use if you are trying to generalize over a population larger than the one investigated.

It was no different in Vietnam. There were areas where the locals strongly supported the insurgency, such as in the Iron Triangle which included Hau Nghia I believe. It is no surprise that the author found support for the insurgency here. On the other hand there were many places were the population strongly opposed the insurgency and even fled their arrival. Finally, let us not forget that during the Tet offensive there was no general uprising against the South Vietnamese government as the communists fully expected there would be. Quite to the contrary in fact. The ARVN fought valiantly and the general population tried to stay out of the way and let the military restore order. Much as the general population does in all conflicts.

This sort of parochial view of situations can have devastating effects on Policy, just as it did with the over throw of Ngo Dinh Diem. The Saigon elites wanted Diem gone. But the Saigon elites had no more in common with the populace at large in Vietnam as Wall Street Financiers have with Iowa wheat farmers. Again, the ideas of a small sampling were generalized over a large population and policy was formulated based on this. Another example of this concept can be found in one of the oft criticisms of Diem. Diem was often faulted for being a catholic in a predominantly Buddhist country. Calling Vietnam a Buddhist country is like calling the USA a Christian country. Probably most Americans call themselves Christian, but what does this mean? It means many things and encompasses many ideas. Ideas that are often at odds with each other. The same was true in Vietnam at the time. This kind of historic generalization is of limited usefulness to understanding the larger context. The Author should have refrained from extending his conclusions to the larger whole based on an otherwise interesting investigation.

As for those who served in Vietnam and had their opinions validated by this text. Again, this is a question of generalizing over the whole one's own personal experiences. We all like to think of ourselves as representative of everyone else, but this is not necessarily true either. I have the utmost respect for those who served in Vietnam. They did their duty during a difficult period in our history. However, most American service personnel did not speak the language, were isolated from the local population, and only received a limited understanding of the situation in Vietnam. How can one truly fromulate a concrete understanding of something in such circumstances? Also, is the perspective of the grunt humping the boonies going to be the same as a Saigon warrior? Clearly not. Many soldiers came away from Vietnam with opinions about the local population that were shaped by an extremely limited exposure to them in a myriad of different contexts. One does not have to look far, however, to find countless books by soldiers and civilians who worked closely with the Vietnamese and local populations and came to completely different conclusions. Most of the books written by those who understood the language, or dealt with the Vietnamese regularly show a strong belief in the cause of aiding the Vietnamese. Those who got to truly know the Vietnamese most frequently came away with a very positive feeling toward them, believed they were worthy of the efforts being expended by the USA, and were sincere in their desire to be free of communist domination.

It has been my intention here to point out the limitations of interpreting broad historical events by looking at microcosms in history. Having established this, I do believe that this book is a worthwhile read. It is an interesting regional investigation of a complex environment. I would just admonish people to approach it with an appreciation of its limitations and seek other sources to contrast this book with for a broader understanding of the war in general.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Bottom-Up Analysis of Warfare in Vietnam 16 July 2010
By Kevin M. Boylan - Published on
Format: Paperback
An earlier review of this title was critical of Eric Bergerud's generalizing about the Vietnam War as a whole based upon his bottom-up analysis of a single province (Hau Nghia). While I agree in principle with that reviewer's critique, one must add that such generalizations are inevitable and that most readers would be disappointed if DYNAMICS OF DEFEAT did not address the large question of how its findings might apply to the Vietnam War as a whole.

Moreover, the earlier reviewer fails to note that most studies of the Vietnam War employ purely top-down analyses based upon what are necessarily generalizations about the course of the war in South Vietnam's provinces. Since these works depend upon data (HES scores, PHOENIX 'neutralizations,' body counts, etc.) aggregated at the national level -- and subject to deliberate and accidental distortion at many stages as they passed up the chain of command -- one cannot rely upon them as a sure indication of what was actually happening in the provinces.

In short, we will not be able to build a truly accurate picture of the Vietnam War until we have works like DYNAMICS OF DEFEAT covering many of South Vietnam's other 43 provinces in similar detail.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Case Study in "The Dynamics of Defeat" 16 Oct. 2006
By Jon Thomas - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was highly impressed by this book on Vietnam. It's a densely written historical account loaded with military of acronyms of the history of the Vietnam war in the strategic small province of Hau Nghia. This former province was located just northwest of Saigon.

I think the author really got the war right. His accounts of the US pacification projects, attitudes of the civilian population towards the US military, attitudes of the GI's towards the rural Vietnamese, anti-colonial nationalism of the Vietnamese, etc. all ring true to my ears. It's consistent with my experience of 6 months in Vietnam with the 25th and with my subsequent attempts to understand the nature of that very troubling war.

I believe the author learned the main lesson of Vietnam very well. There are very real limits to the use of military power. You cannot change people's "hearts and minds" with military force. That is ultimately the reason why we lost in Vietnam. We didn't lose militarily, we lost politically. The great majority of Vietnamese saw us as trying to colonize Vietnam--mistakenly I believe. Vietnam was more of an ideological crusade by the US than a sought after economic prize--it simply never had the resources. The North Vietnamese Communists, despite all of their massive shortcomings, were largely seen by the rural South Vietnamese as being their nationalistic "anti-colonial" liberators. It was a war that we couldn't win is the author's conclusion. I'm in agreement with him. The South Vietnamese government never achieved any degree of credibility with the rural population--no matter how many bombs we dropped on their behalf.

One wonders if this book might have slowed down our present White House occupant and his band of advisors if they had bothered to read it?

Probably not. They are too busy repeating history to take the time to learn anything from it. Maybe all of that oil mesmerized them and all of that old history was simply too boring to take the time to read about.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Persuasive book with an unusual approach 17 April 2004
By Jon Duncan - Published on
Format: Paperback
The book details many or most of the important dynamics of the war as it took place within a single provice. In the process Bergerud reveals much about what is important to know about the war as a whole.
For me personally this is possibly the most important Vietnam book I've read. This is because it provided me a framework for understanding the war, from the beginning of American involvement to the end, that I still use.
For many readers, this could be an important first book to read about Vietnam and America's relations to it.
Right ON 15 Jun. 2013
By Team 99 - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I operated out of the Province Capitol Bao Tri and fought with Tiger Man and Tiger Lady, Major Le Van Don. He was killed January 1967 in a fierce battle in Duc Hoa. It was hell each day. Ho Chi Minh Trail ending in your back door, the Oriental River, Cu Chi tunnel city a few miles north, the Tay Ninh Swamp.....VC everywhere and of course the Iron Triangle just across the swamp a few miles.....what a hell hole it was too....the writer has done a good job sorting reality from BS.......This is where was war was happening in 1966 with the US 25 th too. In Tet 1968 the VC almost killed all of the American Advisors and support team and occupied the town for two days. Great book ......I was there and saw it real world........some good pictures...he should have contacted me he would have really had some great photos.......
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