In This Review

Vietnam, the Necessary War: A Reinterpretation of America's Most Disastrous Military Conflict
Vietnam, the Necessary War: A Reinterpretation of America's Most Disastrous Military Conflict
By Michael Lind
Free Press, 1999, 320 pp
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A wave of new books on the Vietnam War, based on fresh archival evidence, is beginning to break. Among these is Lind's book, which says the liberal Cold Warriors like Lyndon Johnson, McGeorge Bundy, and Dean Rusk were right about Vietnam: the North Vietnamese did rule by terror, and they allied themselves with their Chinese and Soviet allies for a purposeful global strategy. American credibility was at stake. The setbacks of 1965-68 were largely the fault of the military strategists, but Nixon made matters worse by prolonging this failure. While Lind throws a salutary bucket of cold water on conventional wisdom on Vietnam, his answers are more stimulating than convincing. His treatment of credibility mixes three very different situations -- before American troops were massively committed, after they were in, and after America decided to withdraw them. He scarcely bothers to analyze the Nixon period of the war at all, and relaxes too easily into anticommunist vituperation, calling his opponents "apologists" for communists. This may be chicken soup for the conservative soul, but it will mitigate the influence of some otherwise good thinking. Better to take up Lind's bracing challenges and then go find answers in books like Fred Logevall's Choosing War, below.