It is a commonplace observation that history is interpreted and written by the victors. In this case however, it seems to have been the vanquished, i.e., the United States and the western world, which has succeeded in predominantly defining the nature of the conflict in Vietnam and its environs, including Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. With the special hubris and arrogance of the young ascending American academic establishment and its struggle to redefine the world in terms less dystonic to its neo-conservative worldview, we have suggested seemingly endless theories relating to how it is that "we" actively lost the war through incompetence, treachery, or misunderstanding, without ever seriously considering the quite formidable nature of the foe, and what the opposite side did to win the same conflict. Herein this imbalance is corrected, with thoughtful essays offered by nine noted scholars with convincing credentials regarding the war in Southeast Asia.
The several essays succeed marvelously in exploring the myriad of ways in which the Vietnamese actively prosecuted a multifaceted campaign against their American antagonists and ultimately defeated them, both on the battlefield, but much more critically, in terms of the revolutionary political struggle which was central to final success in transforming the country and uniting the people under a single flag. In so doing, they put the lie to such conventional wisdom as has gathered momentum in the last decade or so here in this country through the active if somewhat disingenuous ministrations of a bevy of enthusiastically neo-conservative authors who have redefined Vietnam as a so-called "necessary war".
This volume is masterfully edited by Professor Marc Jason Gilbert. Gilbert, a history professor, has managed to gather together an impressive collection of pertinent essays by such noted authors as Jeffrey Record, John Prados, William Duiker, and George Herring, among others. The essays cover a broad array of issues and concerns relating to the conduct of the war, and include discussions of elements such as foreign and domestic policy here in the United States, employment of military tactics, long term strategy of both sides, and the many ways in which the Vietnamese opposition laid the groundwork for the seemingly sudden collapse of the South Vietnamese capital in 1975. It also includes provocative examination of our intelligence failures on the ground in Vietnam, our misunderstanding and lack of appreciation for the nature of the civil war that underlay the whole conflict, and the ways in which our defeat would reverberate through our system of international relations. This is a wonderful book, and one I would recommend for use in an introductory class for undergraduates for both a balanced and fresh look at one of the most troubling military involvements of the U.S. military in the last century. Enjoy!