Some of the most active debate about the Vietnam War today is prompted by those who believe that the United States could have won the war either through an improved military strategy or through more enlightened social policies. Eric Bergerud takes issue with both of these positions. Carefully analyzing the entire course of the war in a single key province, The Dynamics of Defeat shows that the Vietnam War was a tragedy in the true sense of the word: American policy could not have been much different than it was and could only have led to failure.Examining the war at the operational level, where political policy is translated into military action, The Dynamics of Defeat provides a case study of the efficacy on the ground of policies emanating from Washington. Many of the policy alternatives now proposed in hindsight were actually attempted in Hau Nghia to one degree or another. Bergerud is able on that basis to critique these policies and to offer his own conclusions in a thought-provoking but utterly unpolemical fashion.Based on extensive research in U.S. Army archives and many personal interviews with those who experienced the war in Hau Nghia, The Dynamics of Defeat is a story full of violence, frustration, and numbing despair, but also one rich with lessons for American foreign policy.
Based on interviews and extensive archival research, this is a first-class, scholarly study of the 1963-1973 struggle in a single province near Saigon. Bergerud, history professor at Lincoln University in San Francisco, traces the succession of U.S.-South Vietnam initiatives aimed at defeating the Viet Cong in Hau Nghia province and winning the allegiance of the rural population. Disputing the view that the Americans were only interested in big battles and high body counts, he reveals how the U.S. 25th Division worked steadily to support pacification programs in the province. In waging the necessary military campaign at the same time, however, the division caused much destruction and loss of innocent life. Addressing these and other harsh contradictions, Bergerud concludes that the problems facing the Americans--not only in Hau Nghia but in Vietnam as a whole--were ``virtually beyond solution,'' given the political/military realities: the peasantry perceived the Saigon government as aloof, corrupt and inefficient and the Viet Cong as honest, efficient and concerned about the people's welfare. Photos. (Feb.)
Most studies of the Vietnam War deal with the broad scope of the conflict and with major issues, organizations, or groups. Personal accounts predominate among titles dealing with more geographically focused books, e.g., the Central Highlands. Bergerud (military and American history, Lincoln Univ.) has written an important study at the province level, always in the context of wider events, which adds significantly to the understanding of the war. He concludes that the United States could not have won the war: the South Vietnamese government lacked legitimacy with its people; the National Liberation Front was organized and determined enough to overcome military setbacks; and even though Americans demonstrated an appreciation of the political aspects of the war, only in application of military strength were they effective against the enemy. For informed laypersons as well as specialists and scholars.-- Kenneth W. Berger, Duke Univ. Lib., Durham, N.C.
Product dimensions: 0.89 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)
Meet the Author
Eric M. Bergerud is professor of military and American history at Lincoln University in San Francisco and the author of Touched with Fire: The Land War in the South Pacific, Red Thunder, Tropic Lightning and The Dynamics of Defeat.