The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked

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The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked

By Leslie H. Gelb, with Richard K. Betts
Brookings, 1979
397 pp. $14.95

If an historian were allowed but one book on the American involvement in Vietnam, this would be it. It is simultaneously a history and an analysis of American decision-making and a valuable historiographical critique of the literature and interpretations of the subject. The main theme is the domination of American policy by the doctrine of containment, which "worked" throughout the period of American military involvement. The authors recommend that "Presidents should eschew ambitious new conceptual and overall policy doctrines"-such as undifferentiated "containment"-and that "dissent should be institutionalized by rewards and promotions." Gelb directed the compilation of the Pentagon Papers and is now director of politico-military affairs in the State Department.

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