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The Vietnam War

Books on the Cold War

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The Vietnam War was the longest war in U.S. history, up to that time. It was a battle between the richest country in the world and one of the poorest, between the most powerful industrialized nation on earth and a feudal society that had not even entered the industrial age. It cost the U.S. over $450 billion, wrecked the American economy, grievously damaged U.S. prestige in the world, and resulted in the deaths of over 58,000 Americans. It also resulted in the direct deaths of an estimated 3 million southeast Asians. It divided the U.S. as no event since the Civil War ever had. It was the first war that America ever lost.

The War grew out of a bedevilingly complex mixture of colonialism, nationalism, anti-communism and a civil war much like America’s that pitted a secessionist south against a unifying north. Its occurrence, from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s, spanned the most dangerous years of the Cold War. Its major tensions almost perfectly mirrored the essential tensions of the Cold War. And precisely because of this, it proved impossible for the U.S. to stay out of Vietnam. But for reasons we shall see below, it also proved impossible for the U.S. to win. This was the fundamental source of the “quagmire” and the tragedy of Vietnam: the U.S. couldn’t stay out; but it could never manage to win.

This book traces the War’s origin in the crucible of the Cold War, through its escalation in the 1960s, and its ending in the mid-1970s. It explores some of the major themes that defined the War. Then, it examines in some detail why the U.S. lost the War and the cost of that loss to the American self-image. Finally, it presents a timeline of major occurrences and turning points during the War.

Table of Contents to the book
  1. Introduction
  2. Thematic Stages of the War
    1. 1945 – 1954: Colonial Legacy and Anti-Communist Context
    2. 1955 – 1964: Creeping Entrapment
    3. 1965 – 1969 Escalation and Americanization
    4. 1970 – 1973: De-escalation and Vietnamization
    5. 1973 – 1975: Withdrawal and Collapse
  3. Prominent Themes During the War
    1. Rolling Thunder
    2. Search and Destroy
    3. Tet Offensive
    4. Persistent Lying to the American People
    5. Secret Bombing of Laos and Cambodia
    6. The First Televised War
    7. Massive Peace Protests at Home
  4. Why the U.S. Lost the Vietnam War
    1. Intelligence Failures
    2. Political Failures
    3. Military Failures
  5. Aftermath--The Loss of American Innocence
    1. Betrayal of America’s Revolutionary Roots
    2. Vietnam Syndrome
  6. Final Word
  7. Timeline
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