978-0-520-22919-8 / 9780520229198

Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam


Publisher:University of California Press



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About the book:

When the first American Marines marched into Vietnam in March 1965, historical consensus holds, they were there because there was no alternative. President Johnson's hand had been forced by the right-wing hawks and the Communists. The general public wholeheartedly supported defending South Vietnam, as did our allies in Europe.

That's not really the case, argues Fredrik Logevall, in Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam. His provocative thesis--that Kennedy, Johnson, Rusk, McNamara, and Bundy chose to escalate American involvement when the war could have been avoided--is well supported by careful archival research and newly declassified documents. Logevall focuses on what he calls "The Long 1964"--18 critical months between August 1963 and February 1965, at the end of which President Johnson made the decision to "Americanize" the war. Despite many opportunities to negotiate a settlement, the Kennedy and the Johnson administrations were opposed to early negotiation--in part because they were worried about being seen as "soft on Communism" before the 1964 presidential election. Where this book is most interesting--and, in the long run, most valuable--is in Logevall's careful study of the conflict and American policymaking in international context. Looking at how the war played in London, Paris, Ottawa, Tokyo, Moscow, and Beijing--not just in Hanoi and Washington--reveals that even our allies had grave doubts about the probable outcome of a war. Both our allies and our enemies understood that "the Vietnam conflict's importance derived in large measure from its potential to threaten their own political standing--and their party's standing--at home." Compelling and controversial, Logevall's book is an excellent addition to the literature on the Vietnam War. --Sunny Delaney

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