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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
A decorated troop commander in the Persian Gulf War and former history teacher at the United States Military Academy, Major H.R. McMaster, Ph.D., has written a new book that unearths disturbing new evidence concerning the Vietnam conflict. It deftly proves how America's top leaders in the 1960s and '70s forgot their responsibility to the American public while manipulating the country into a vicious war that it could not win. Major McMaster wrote Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies That Led to Vietnam after reflecting on his service in the Gulf. "As a cavalry troop commander in Operation Desert Storm," he writes, "I was struck by how easily I could connect our unit's actions with the stated war aims of the American government. The contrasts between America's military experience in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf were stark and analogies between the two were evident in public commentary. My experiences in the Gulf and my scholarly interest in recent American history sparked my desire to research and write about Vietnam."
McMaster's research included poignant interviews with key policy-makers of the Vietnam era; he was also one of the first people granted access to recently-declassified audio tapes and documents previously scuttled away in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the LBJ library. The resulting evidence showed how Lyndon Johnson, and his top civilian and military advisors, turned the problem of Vietnam into a full-scale American war that claimed 58,000 American and over1,000,000Vietnamese lives. Lyndon Johnson's role is shown to be much more prominent than he admitted in his own memoirs, and as Washington steadily lost control of the war, McMaster argues how much of it is due to arrogance and political agenda, including deliberate deception of the American public that would ensure Johnson's reelection in 1964 on the platform of a "peace candidate."
Dereliction of Duty is a sobering, well-written account of how the Vietnam War was all but conceded in closed meetings by top officials in Washington, D.C. long before battles in the bush, skepticism in the press, or protest on college campuses. The clear and factual details that McMaster relays reinforces the tragedy of Vietnam, a war essentially without a clear purpose and orchestrated by political figures who sacrificed lives not so much in the name of national security, but political greed. "I want readers to understand," says the author, "that the disaster in Vietnam was uniquely due to human failure and not an inevitable outgrowth of the Cold War mentality of containment. This failure resulted from a fundamental dishonesty, and an abdication of responsibility to the American people, on the part of Lyndon Johnson, top advisors like Robert McNamara, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff."