A Grand Delusion: America's Descent Into Vietnam
Political biographer Robert Mann minces no words when he characterizes America's "ill-advised military foray into Vietnam" as a sequence of delusions. America's citizens and lower-echelon political leadership, he writes, were deluded about the nature of the communist threat to Southeast Asia, which was less an expression of some grand design on the part of Moscow and Beijing than one of nationalist resistance to colonialism. Several presidents were deluded about the effects of their policies in Vietnam and the prospects for military success. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon deluded voters into believing that peace was close at hand, while the death toll mounted under their management of the war.
|von Robert Mann|
Vietnam, Mann suggests, was never vital to U.S. national security, as five presidents once insisted. Political from the outset, the war resisted the military solution those leaders promised. And it nearly resulted in a civil war at home, which, Mann writes, yielded a pervasive distrust of the government at all levels of society. "The Vietnam War," he concludes, "should be remembered as the kind of tragedy that can result when presidents--captivated by their grand delusions--enforce their foreign and military policies without the informed support of Congress and the American people."
Mann's book, a useful adjunct to such standard texts as Stanley Karnow's Vietnam: A History and A.J. Langguth's recent Our Vietnam, joins the history of the war in Vietnam to the conduct of the cold war at large. Controversial and provocative, it promises to find many readers. --Gregory McNamee
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