A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

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by Lewis Sorley
     
 

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Neglected by scholars and journalists alike, the years of conflict in Vietnam from 1968 to 1975 offer surprises not only about how the war was fought, but about what was achieved. Drawing from thousands of hours of previously unavailable (and still classified) tape-recorded meetings between the highest levels of the American military command in Vietnam, A Better

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Overview

Neglected by scholars and journalists alike, the years of conflict in Vietnam from 1968 to 1975 offer surprises not only about how the war was fought, but about what was achieved. Drawing from thousands of hours of previously unavailable (and still classified) tape-recorded meetings between the highest levels of the American military command in Vietnam, A Better War is an insightful, factual, and superbly documented history of these final years. Through his exclusive access to authoritative materials, award-winning historian Lewis Sorley highlights the dramatic differences in conception, conduct, and-at least for a time-results between the early and later years of the war. Among his most important findings is that while the war was being lost at the peace table and in the U.S. Congress, the soldiers were winning on the ground. Meticulously researched and movingly told, A Better War sheds new light on the Vietnam War.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Using a host of oral interviews, 455 tape recordings made in Vietnam during the years 1968-1972 and numerous other sources, military historian Sorley has produced a first-rate challenge to the conventional wisdom about American military performance in Vietnam. Essentially, this is a close examination of the years during which General Creighton Abrams was in command, having succeeded William Westmoreland. Sorley contends that Abrams completely transformed the war effort and in the process won the war on the battlefield. The North Vietnamese 1968 Tet offensive was bloodily repulsed, he explains, as was a similar offensive in 1969. Together, the 1970 American incursion into Cambodia and a 1971 Laotian operation succeeded in reducing enemy combat effectiveness. Renewed American bombing of the North and Abrams's use of air power to assist ground operations further reduced Hanoi's ability to wage war. Sorley argues that the combination of anti-war protests in America and a complete misunderstanding of the actual combat situation by the diplomats negotiating the 1973 Paris accords wasted American military victories. In spite of drug use and other problems, Sorley maintains, the army in Vietnam performed capably and efficiently, but in vain, for South Vietnam was sold out by the 1973 cease-fire, America's pullout and the failure of Congress to provide further military assistance to the South. Sure to provoke both passionate and reasoned objection, Sorley's book is as important a reexamination of the operational course of the war as Robert McNamara's In Retrospect is of the conflict's moral and political history. Maps and photos not seen by PW. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Jeffrey Record
...[A] comprehensive and long-overdue examination of the immediate post-Tet offensive years, perhaps the most fascinating years of the war.
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A fawning paean to General Creighton Abrams, Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, and former CIA chief William Colby and their "stewardship" of the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1975. The stab-in-the-back theory is alive and well in Sorley's (Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Times, 1992, etc.) heavily footnoted but biased and flawed analysis of the post-1968 Vietnam War. Sorley's heroes are Abrams, Bunker, Colby, and others who worked to turn the war over to the South Vietnamese. His villains are those he claims subverted that effort: Congress (especially Ted Kennedy), the antiwar movement (especially Jane Fonda), and the American media. In making this weak argument, Sorley lionizes virtually every action taken by his heroes and demonizes the actions of those he considers villains. His sections on Congress, the antiwar movement, and the media are brief, facile, and one-sided. His analyses of Abrams, Bunker, et al., are long, worshipful, and one-sided. Sorley contends that by late 1970 the Americans and South Vietnamese had won the war, a victory snatched away by a defeatist Congress and abetted by the antiwar movement and the media, particularly Walter Cronkite. In focusing on the war's last eight years, Sorley sets out to right a wrong: "Most of the better-known treatments of the Vietnam War," he says, "as a whole have given relatively little consideration to these later years." But he sabotages his own argument by providing almost no background on the war, even though the US became involved in the area in 1950. He assesses the post-1968 period virtually in a vacuum. And what came before had a great deal to do with how the war was prosecuted afterward, includingthe actions of those in Congress, the antiwar movement, and the media. A partisan, wholly unconvincing attempt to explain the Communist victory in Vietnam. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen; 5 maps)

From the Publisher
"Sorley's book is as important a reexamination of the operational course of the war as Robert McNamara's In Retrospect is of the conflict's moral and political history."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"An extraordinary piece of work that is bound to become a valuable part of historical documentation about the war in Vietnam. The first to set the record straight concerning the outcome of that conflict."—H. Norman Schwarzkopf, General, U.S. Army, Retired

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547417455
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
06/03/1999
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
577,453
File size:
4 MB

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