- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Indiana University Press (1 Jun. 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0253213010
- ISBN-13: 978-0253213013
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,143,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
In the Jaws of History (Vietnam War Era Classics) (Vietnam War Era Classics Series) Paperback – 1 Jun 1999
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" ... important ... gives [Americans] a candid look at ourselves as the Vietnamese saw us." - The Washington Times "Diem has written the most extraordinary tour d'horizon of the Vietnam War I have ever read, a document all the more remarkable for its absence of bitterness." - San Francisco Examiner
About the Author
Bui Diem is now a consultant on Vietnamese affairs living in Rockville, Maryland. David Chanoff is the co-author of several other books on Vietnam.
Top Customer Reviews
Reading that book has introduced to the hardship, however without falling into the drama.
What I enjoy the most, was that I browsed to the history, but feel like I was reading a novell.
Outstanding job !!!!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
If there is a more insightful, objective and comprehensive explanation of the war written by an active participant and person of influence, I am unaware of it. As I reread it a second and third time I was amazed by the book's richness, and density of information.
Although an ardent Vietnamese patriot and intellectual, and as someone who knew and personally worked with nearly every single one of the key political and military decision makers and influencers in South Vietnam and the United States from the 1950s into the 1970s (he even knew many of the communists and was briefly in the 1940s a student of Vo Nguyen Giap), Bui Diem writes with uncanny humility, grace, and equanimity. With the outcome apparent to the reader prior to beginning to read his story, Ambassador Bui shows no bitterness; but instead calm, mature refelection.
All too often Americans see the world solely from their own very narrow, solipsistic viewpoint; giving scant consideration to the world outside their own, as they seem to continually do with allies until they become a liability. "In the Jaws of History" pays great attention to the American perspective but likewise exposes the reader to beyond what is obvious, giving insight into what it was like to be on the receiving end and controlled by American support.
Ambassador Bui, in great detail, and without making excuses, describes the foibles and limitations of his own country. With calm resignation he likewise understands and explains the limitations of American support, and the deleterious impact that waning support had for the Republic of Vietnam.
"In the Jaws of History" is one of the critical books on the Vietnam War. It is a book which ought to be thoroughly studied in every American war college and by anyone with serious interest in that war. It remains an undiscovered gem.
When I planned to return to Vietnam, I realized I still knew virtually nothing about Vietnam's history and the political machinations that occurred before, during, and after America's military engagement there. I started by watching the excellent documentary: "Vietnam: A Television History" and then read Halberstram's "The Making of a Quagmire" which gave me good insight on the difficult situation American military advisors faced working with the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem.
I read this book - In the Jaws of History - after returning home from Vietnam in 2014. I thank those earlier reviewers who praised the book because I found it extremely helpful to my understanding of how (and whom) we ended up supporting in South Vietnam. I agree with other reviewers who indicated the most valuable part is learning about the nationalist parties who wanted to take Vietnam in a more positive direction than the Communists but whom were out-organized and out-propaganda-ized by Ho Chi Minh and his cohorts. Bui Diem was one of these outflanked nationalists and his personal history since the end of WWII makes his story an excellent insight into the arc of Vietnam's history during this period.
The book is also extremely well written: I found it hard to believe any non-native English speaker could write it - then I realized his co-author, David Chanoff, might deserve some of the credit here.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of a sad and turbulent time for Vietnam and the US.
In the final chapter, Mr. Bui lists the main reasons why the war was so unmanageable and why the US (and coincidentally S. Viet Nam) eventually lost it. The reason listed last (the problems resulting from US intervention) is the focus of his book.
"The South Vietnamese people, and especially the South Vietnamese leaders, myself among them, bear the ultimate responsibility for the fate of their nation, and to be honest, they have much to regret and much to be ashamed of. But it is also true that the war's cast of characters operated within a matrix of larger forces that stood outside the common human inadequacies and failings. And it was these forces that shaped the landscape on which we all moved."
"First...was the obduracy of France, which in the late forties insisted on retaining control of its former colony rather than conceding independence in good time to a people who hungered for it. Second was the ideological obsession of Vietnam's Communists. Not content with fighting to slough off a dying colonialism, they relentlessly sought to impose on the Vietnamese people their dogma of class warfare and proletarian dictatorship. Finally came the massive intervention by the United States, inserting into our struggle for independence and freedom its own overpowering dynamic. These three forces combined to distort the basic nature of Vietnam's emergence from colonialism, ensuring that the struggle would be more complex and bloodier than that of so many other colonies which achieved nationhood during mid-century."
In this book, you definitely will get a S. Vietnamese diplomat's point of view. I was hoping for more on the common man's outlook, the characteristics of the Vietnamese people themselves, and the demographics of the country, but it is not provided at all in this tome. I think this would have done a lot to make the actions of the S. Vietnamese government understandable, if not excusable.
Also, another weakness of the book is that Mr. Bui is always quick to point out American missteps, but rarely expounds on S. Vietnamese imperfections. For example, he writes that one huge problem was corruption. But he never fully elaborates on the nature of this corruption.
The story is easy to read except for when you start to get towards the end. The reason being that no more new insights will be given, and you already know what the disastrous outcome will be.
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