In This Review

Telltale Hearts: The Origins and Impact of the Vietnam Antiwar Movement
Telltale Hearts: The Origins and Impact of the Vietnam Antiwar Movement
By Adam Garfinkle
St. Martin's Press, 1995, 370 pp

A provocative and wide-ranging, if somewhat unwieldy, examination of the Vietnam antiwar movement, from its origins in traditions of dissent to its impact and continuing influence. Garfinkle, executive editor at The National Interest, insists that public revulsion against the ‘irresponsibility and willful antipatriotism’ of radical protesters means that the antiwar movement cannot deserve credit for limiting and ultimately halting U.S. involvement. Garfinkle is refreshingly iconoclastic on a wide range of issues and as acerbic toward the Johnson administration as its radical critics. However, his claim that L.B.J.’s decision to reverse course might have come sooner had the antiwar movement not become radicalized is implausible. More implausible still is his claim that ‘it was the Nixon administration itself that elected not to take the time or spend the political capital necessary to save South Vietnam,’ which minimizes the responsibility, for good or ill, of the antiwar Democratic Congress for terminating U.S. involvement in Indochina. This book is unlikely to make the ‘telltale hearts’ of tenured radicals throb with guilt, but for those who hated the war and the radical opposition, Garfinkle provides an often brilliant though not always convincing assessment.