Bitter Victory

In This Review

Bitter Victory

By Robert Shaplen
Harper & Row, 1986
309 pp. $16.95
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A veteran correspondent who has been covering Vietnam for 40 years has combined history with penetrating observation and interviews to provide an absorbing account of what has happened in Vietnam and Cambodia since Hanoi won the war. Shaplen concludes that the Vietnamese want an accommodation with the United States in order to diminish their dependence on the U.S.S.R., and he also believes that they seek to mend their breach with the Chinese. To achieve these goals, however, the Vietnamese will have to withdraw from Cambodia and allow a genuinely neutral and independent government to exist there. Despite Shaplen's mild optimism, there are few signs that Hanoi is ready to do this. Nor is there much reason to believe, as he suggests, that the Chinese might in time be persuaded to stop backing the Khmer Rouge. Shaplen's Vietnamese interlocutors do provide an intriguing insight into how they won the war. According to them, the single most important factor in their success was the control of the Ho Chi Minh trail through eastern Laos-a clear violation of the Laotian neutrality agreement of 1962 negotiated by the Kennedy Administration.

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