Grand Delusion: America's Descent into Vietnam

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A Grand Delusion is the first comprehensive single-volume American political history of the Vietnam War. Spanning the years 1945 to 1975, it is the definitive story of the well-meaning but often misguided American political leaders whose unquestioning adherence to Cold War dogma led the nation into its tragic misadventure in Vietnam. At the center of this narrative are seven such men-Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, J. William Fulbright, Mike Mansfield, and George McGovern. ...
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Overview

A Grand Delusion is the first comprehensive single-volume American political history of the Vietnam War. Spanning the years 1945 to 1975, it is the definitive story of the well-meaning but often misguided American political leaders whose unquestioning adherence to Cold War dogma led the nation into its tragic misadventure in Vietnam. At the center of this narrative are seven such men-Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, J. William Fulbright, Mike Mansfield, and George McGovern. During their careers, each occupied center-stage in the nation's debate over Vietnam policy.Mann focuses in particular on the role played by leading members of Congress, including senators' Mansfield and Kennedy's shaping of American policy toward Vietnam in the 1950s; Congress's acquiescence in the 1950s to the Eisenhower administration's support of the American-backed Diem government; and the blank check that Congress gave to Lyndon Johnson with the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Mann considers as well the evolution of opposition to the war, including pivotal hearings conducted by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1966 to 1968; the small band of war opponents led by senators Fulbright, McGovern, and Wayne Morse; Mansfield's quiet-but-persistent lobbying campaign to dissuade his friend Lyndon Johnson from escalating the war in 1965; the bitter political feud that erupted between Fulbright and Johnson-erstwhile friends-over the war; McGovern and Hatfield's determined effort to force Richard Nixon to withdraw American forces from Vietnam; and Congress's assertion of its Constitutional role in war making in the early 1970s, culminating in the passage of the War Powers resolution in 1973. In addition to being a piercing analysis of the political currents that resulted in and eventually ended the war, A Grand Delusion is an epic tragedy filled with fascinating characters and a keen reflection on the antagonisms and beliefs that divided the nation during those tumultuous years.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
He turns complicated history into a vivid and engaging story. A Grand Delusion is the longest and most ambitious narrative of the policy-making process since David Halberstam's book of nearly thirty years ago.
Los Angeles Times
A considerable achievement, albeit a depressing reminder of the compounded misjudgments of four presidents and the wholesale lies and illegalities of two.
Alan Brinkley
[Mann] describes an aspect of this history much less well understood by casual observers -- the unromantic and fundamentally political nature of the decisions that created the war. If this appealingly accessible book attracts the audience it is clearly designed to serve, it could provide a useful counterweight to the popular transformation of this military and political disaster into an evocative myth.
New York Times Book Review
Denver Post
. . . [Mann] has permanently altered the landscape of serious scholarly debate on the one topic that draws passionate scholarly attention from all walks of American life.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mann, a former Senate aide, puts Senate-president politics at the center of this masterful political history of America's involvement in Vietnam, which began with Truman's commitment to support the French in the wake of charges of "losing" China to the Communists. Many of the senators who attacked the Truman administration were isolationists who voted against the realistic anti-Communist institutions such as NATO and the Marshall Plan. Yet such contradictions mattered little, as the Democrats' disastrous political defeat in 1950 and 1952 convinced them to never let another "loss" be blamed on them. The twin strands of ideological surrealism and political realism interweave throughout Mann's account in various forms, illuminating the persistent patterns and underlying motivational logic of presidential lies and congressional acquiescence. Eisenhower promised to end Truman's containment policy, but he delivered the Korean armistice and refused to fight in Vietnam. Two major congressional resolutions authorizing use of force led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Johnson promised "no wider war" while escalating for fear of "losing" Vietnam. Mike Mansfield - the Senate's foremost Asia authority, as well as majority leader - opposed America's deepening involvement, but his concept of his institutional role made him publicly loyal to Johnson's policies, which in private he strove mightily to change. Each participant responded distinctively to fundamental contradictions, brilliantly elucidated by Mann's highly nuanced account of presidential policy and the tortured evolution of Senate opposition. This book's unique perspective in illuminating Congress's role in the Vietnam War should permanently alter and deepen our understanding of that conflict. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Recent volumes suggest that America's lengthy involvement in the Vietnam War was the necessary cathartic event that allowed the Cold War to be abandoned at last. While not elucidating that thesis, this book reinforces it with its involved rendition of the collision of personalities throughout the White House, Congress, and elsewhere during that era. Mann's history concentrates on seven American leaders in the halls of power rather than on the battlefield, a subject that has been thoroughly covered elsewhere. A former press secretary to two U.S. senators, Mann has the perspective of a generation not closely associated with the events, so his approach can be analytical, lacking the emotional component that has kept us from examining our actions dispassionately in the first place. At times, his excellent description of the war's political evolution reads like an unlikely novel. Here is Mike Mansfield, senator and Asian political expert, whose eventual opposition to the war was discounted because at first he was a proponent of military intervention, and Lyndon Johnson, whose forceful personality kept him from listening to the very people whom he first believed when they eventually grew disenchanted with his policies. This is a gripping tale, well told and voluminously documented, with the 1960s and 1970s as a volatile background. A good complement to A.J. Langguth's Our Vietnam (LJ 1/01), a view of the war from both sides that emphasized the military. Mel D. Lane, Sacramento, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Mann, a US Senate aide and former newspaper reporter, augments the many military, diplomatic, and social studies of the Vietnam War by examining the role of politicians and policymakers who shaped US foreign policy from 1945 to 1975. Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Fulbright, Mike Mansfield, and McGovern march across the tapestry. Chronicling their failure, he recounts how their virulent anti-Communism led the country into one of its darkest periods of the 20th century. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A comprehensive history of the political causes of the American conflict in Vietnam. As the extreme divisiveness that marked the Vietnam War slowly fades into America's cultural consciousness, historians have busied themselves trying to place the conflict in an appropriate historical perspective. Mann, a veteran US senatorial staffer and acclaimed author (The Walls of Jericho, 1996), combines his insider's understanding of the era's political climate with a keen talent for narrative history to produce an insightful analysis of the American experience in Indochina. He casts the conflict as a series of false assumptions and miscalculations, and argues that Ho Chi Minh's struggle against South Vietnam was not a Cold War expansion of communism so much as it was a nationalist struggle against western colonialism. After having presented Vietnam to the public as conflict over the containment of communism, Mann suggests that US presidents faced the unhappy dilemma of either appearing soft on communism or further miring the nation in an unwinnable war-and he demonstrates the heavy political price paid by Mike Mansfield, George McGovern, and others who opposed the fighting on principle. Mann further implies that such political risk led to Johnson's gradual and ineffective escalation of the hostilities and Nixon's equally cautious reduction of American commitment to the region. His research attempts to convince readers of how and why key politicians and policymakers led the nation into the foreign and domestic tumult caused by the war. His focus on political history provides a fresh view of the conflict and allows his account to rise above the many ideologically tainted histories ofAmericain Southeast Asia. A credible and intellectually honest reevaluation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465043705
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 821
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 2.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Mann has served as an aide to two U.S. senators and is the author of a widely praised book on the civil rights movement, The Walls of Jericho: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Russell and the Struggle for Civil Rights. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


The "Loss" of China
1949-1950

* * *


The congressional election returns were hardly surprising, considering the momentous events of the previous year. President Harry Truman and his Democratic Party had endured an especially turbulent political season—and the voting on November 7, 1950, reflected the political misfortunes that had befallen the White House. While the president confidently predicted an electoral endorsement of his foreign and domestic policies, a restless and disgruntled nation expressed precisely the opposite. Voters were worried about the course of the Korean conflict and disturbed that Truman and his State Department had allowed China to fall into communist hands in late 1949. They were largely indifferent to the president's liberal Fair Deal proposals. Perhaps most significant, many voters were not as eager as Truman to reject the charges of communist infiltration that Senator Joseph McCarthy had leveled against the State Department. Where there was smoke, there might be fire—and the reckless Wisconsin Republican had generated plenty of smoke.

    Earlier in the day, after voting in his hometown of Independence, Missouri, a beleaguered Truman returned to Washington to await the election results. That evening, as he and his military and White House aides cruised the Potomac River on the presidential yacht Williamsburg, the depressing election news arrived over radio telephone: in the Senate, Republicans had come within two votes of seizing control. The Democrats' 54-to-42 margin had all butdisappearedand, with it, most chances that Truman would have his way with the new 82nd Congress. In the House, the Democratic losses were just as distressing—twenty-seven Democratic seats now belonged to the Republicans.

    It was a severe blow. Truman appeared to blame himself for the losses. At first, he tried to lessen his shock by consuming generous quantifies of bourbon. One aide later remarked it was the only time he had ever seen Truman drunk. Finally, at 9:00 P.M., weary and depressed, he turned in for the evening. The next morning, the Chicago Daily News summed up the election's import in a front-page story. "President Truman's policies were stingingly repudiated," the paper reported—and its characterization was beyond dispute. Truman had not only lost five crucial votes in the Senate; voters had rejected the Senate's two Democratic leaders, leaving Truman and his troubled legislative agenda adrift in uncertain and treacherous waters. A coalition of Republicans and southern Democrats—hostile to most of Truman's Fair Deal agenda—would now have a working majority on a host of issues. Some even speculated that the decidedly more conservative majority might elect a southerner—Richard Russell of Georgia or Harry Byrd of Virginia—as majority leader. Regardless who ran the Senate, Truman knew that his ambitious domestic agenda was dead.

    The defeats of Majority Leader Scott Lucas of Illinois and the Democratic whip, Francis Myers of Pennsylvania, were the sharpest rebukes and left the Senate Democrats in disarray. While the two men had not always been strong or innovative legislative strategists, the president could usually rely on them to champion his programs and defend him against the verbal assaults of conservative Republicans. Now the fates of his foreign and domestic policies would depend on the questionable loyalty of a narrow, more conservative Senate majority.

    Other losses were also disheartening. The election claimed Armed Services Committee Chairman Millard Tydings of Maryland and Labor Committee Chairman Elbert Thomas of Utah. The Maryland veteran had fiercely disputed McCarthy's charges of communism in the State Department and, thus, had drawn the withering enmity of McCarthy's rightwing loyalists. At least two new members had gained entrance to the Senate with charges that their opponents were communist sympathizers. In Florida, conservative Democrat George Smathers had knocked off incumbent Democrat Claude Pepper with a barrage of innuendo and invective. With help from Smathers and his supporters, the Florida incumbent became, among other things, known as "Red" Pepper, In California, an ambitious House member named Richard Nixon scored a decisive victory over his liberal Democratic opponent, Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, by questioning her patriotism and her adherence to Truman's China policies. Nixon dubbed her "the Pink Lady." She, in turn, named him "Tricky Dick."

    In every region but the South lay the dead political bodies of Truman's House and Senate supporters. It was not as devastating as the absolute repudiation Truman had suffered in 1946, when Republicans seized both houses of Congress, but it was an electoral disaster by almost any definition. "Senate Democrats," Newsweek observed in the aftermath, "were a battered army whose command post had been blown up."


* * *


The carnage of November 1950 was, in large measure, the first electoral reaction to a series of unfortunate political and foreign policy developments that had begun in the late summer of 1949. In September, Truman had stunned the American public when he announced that the Soviet Union had recently detonated an atomic bomb. Since the end of World War II, America's sole possession of the bomb had been regarded as the most effective deterrent to another World War and had firmly secured the nation's status as the world's most powerful military force. It was a distinction that comforted an American public still weary from the turmoil and sacrifice of nearly four years of World War. Truman's staggering announcement, however, changed the essence of the Cold War and reordered America's worldview. No longer a war of words waged with strong rhetoric and competing economic assistance, a new militaristic Cold War had dawned. Some believed that a military showdown between the United States and the Soviets was now inevitable. Those fears appeared more justified than ever in January 1950, when Truman announced that the nation would respond to the Soviet bomb test by developing a hydrogen bomb—a device vastly more destructive than any existing atomic weapon.

    U.S. relations with the Soviets had turned sour in the aftermath of World War II and had only grown more adversarial in subsequent years. With increasing alarm, Truman's foreign policy and defense advisors had come to see a Soviet Union bent on imposing communism on the rest of the world—a chilling declaration that former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill eloquently expressed in his famous "Iron Curtain" speech in early 1946. "From what I have seen of our Russian friends and allies during the war," Churchill said, "I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than weakness, especially military weakness." While Truman, having accompanied Churchill to Missouri for the speech, did not immediately endorse the former British leader's thesis, U.S. foreign policy soon reflected the president's deep distrust of Stalin and his communist regime. In particular, the visionary thinking of George F. Kennan, a Russian scholar and Foreign Service officer stationed in Moscow, greatly influenced official attitudes toward the Soviets. It was Kennan who turned official heads when he asserted that the nation's approach to the Soviet Union "must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies." Thus was born the nation's "containment" policy in Europe, aimed at Soviet expansionism and later widened, to Kennan's dismay, to include military opposition to communism around the globe.

    Events in early 1947 had placed the United States in direct conflict with the Soviets' perceived hegemonic aims. In February, Great Britain informed the Truman administration that it could no longer afford to keep the peace in Greece and Turkey in the wake of a budget crisis that forced the country to withdraw half of its military force from the region. From Athens, U.S. diplomats sent word that the British withdrawal would almost certainly mean the collapse of the Greek government. The message was clear: if the government fell, it would fall in the lap of a totalitarian government with close ties to the Soviet Union. In a foreshadowing of the later rationale for U.S. involvement in Vietnam, one of Truman's advisors warned that the outcome might be that "the whole Near East and part of North Africa" were "certain to pass under Soviet influence."

    Without consulting its leaders, Truman quickly demanded that Congress appropriate $400 million in aid to prop up the governments of Greece and Turkey. Dominated by members of their isolationist Midwestern wing, congressional Republicans were initially cool to the idea. But Truman had one important Republican ally: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, a former political isolationist himself, who urged the president to present the threat of Soviet expansionism to Congress and the nation in the starkest of terms. The only way to get the aid, Vandenberg advised, was to "make a personal appearance before Congress and scare the hell out of the American people." On March 12, 1947, Truman, before a joint session of the House and Senate, did just that, painting the picture of a world teetering toward communist domination. In articulating a set of principles—later known as the Truman Doctrine—the president declared: "I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."

    In May, both houses of Congress overwhelmingly approved Truman's plan and, thus, set the nation on a determined and idealistic forty-five-year crusade against communism—from Europe to Africa to Latin America to Southeast Asia. The Truman doctrine was a major turning point in U.S. foreign policy, not simply because Truman identified the Soviet empire as a totalitarian threat to the rest of the world (this had already been articulated), but because the United States had, for the first time, intervened on behalf of nations threatened by communism.

    Still reeling from the news about the Soviets' atomic test, Americans were far more aroused in October 1949, when Mao Tse-tung's communist forces in China finally drove General Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist army from the mainland onto the island of Formosa. For years, China had held a special place in the hearts of many churchgoing Americans who regarded the nation as the world's most fertile field for Christian evangelism and Chiang as a devout Christian. American churches and Christian organizations had supported missionaries in China for generations and had developed a deep and lasting affection for the country and its people. Thus, many Americans were shocked and heartbroken by the communist victory, largely unaware that Chiang actually ruled a corrupt and undemocratic regime destined to fall of its own weight—although its collapse was greatly hastened by an effective, intense, and ideologically driven communist opposition.

    Truman and his State Department knew the truth and understood that the president could have turned the tide in China's civil war only by massive military intervention. That would have meant making the country a U.S. protectorate—something that even Chiang's most ardent supporters opposed. In truth, U.S. efforts to save China had been far from paltry. Since the end of World War II the United States had given $3 billion in economic and military assistance to the Nationalist government—with little to show for it. The communists routed Chiang's poorly trained and unmotivated troops over and over. As Secretary of State Dean Acheson aptly observed, the Nationalists failed because "the almost inexhaustible patience of the Chinese people in their misery [had] ended. They did not bother to overthrow this government. There was really nothing to overthrow. They simply ignored it throughout the country." Additional U.S. aid to China would have been wasted. "There is no evidence," Acheson accurately told Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Tom Connally in March 1949, "that the furnishing of additional military materiel would alter the pattern of current developments in China."

    That Chiang was a corrupt leader in charge of an inept army was obvious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of China. Truman's political enemies, however, saw China's woes in a far different light. Foremost among those critics was Time publisher Henry Luce, born in China to missionary parents, who argued that the communist victory was a result of American irresolution, not Chiang's perfidy. "At no time in the long chronicle of its failure [in China] had [Truman's administration] displayed a modest fraction of the stamina and decisiveness which had checked communism in Europe," Time said in a vitriolic broadside against the Truman administration in August 1949.

    Congressional Republicans exploited the developments in China with a relentless assault on the Truman-Acheson foreign policy. Leading Republicans echoed Luce's charge that while Truman and Acheson were preventing communist expansion into Western Europe, they had, in the words of New Jersey Republican H. Alexander Smith, "left the back door wide open in Asia." In the Senate, California Republican William Knowland—whose intense devotion to Chiang earned him the mocking title "Senator from Formosa"—led a vigorous Republican attack on Truman and Acheson. Truman's policies, he charged, had "accelerated the spread of communism in Asia" so much that "gains for communism there have far more than offset the losses suffered by communism in Europe." Chiang's corruption and inept leadership notwithstanding, Knowland charged that the "debacle solely and exclusively rests upon the administration which initiated and tolerated it." Truman and Acheson, he suggested, were guilty of "appeasement," as well as "aiding, abetting and giving support to the spread of communism in Asia."

    Further compounding the political damage were allegations—partly true—that some U.S. Foreign Service officers had systematically disparaged and undermined Chiang while expressing their admiration and support for the Communists, thereby abetting the Nationalists' defeat. Senate Republican leader Robert Taft, in arguing that the United States could have prevented the communist victory, charged that Truman's State Department was "guided by a left-wing group who obviously have wanted to get rid of Chiang, and were willing at least to turn China over to the communists for that purpose."

    U.S. disillusionment with Chiang, however, was nothing new, nor was it indigenous to a small coterie of Foreign Service officers. It dated back to early 1942, when General Joseph Stilwell arrived to oversee military operations in the China-Burma-India Theater. Given the task of repelling Japanese aggression in China and Southeast Asia, Stilwell quickly concluded that Chiang, was far more interested in preserving his crumbling regime—that is, fighting the Chinese Communists—than in stopping Imperialist Japanese aggression. Unable to persuade Chiang to provide the troops needed to oppose Japan, a frustrated Stilwell finally suggested that communist forces should be enlisted for the fight. Supporting Stilwell were a handful of respected State Department China experts—men like John Patton Davies, John Stewart Service, and John Carter Vincent—who shared an intensive disdain for Chiang and urged U.S. pressure to force him to reform. Taft, Knowland, and other conservatives thought it even more appalling that the "China hands," as they became known, had expressed respect for Mao's communist disciples, particularly their personal asceticism, espousal of self-government, and the easy way they moved among the peasants. In October 1944, at Chiang's insistence, Roosevelt finally recalled Stilwell.

    In late 1945—more than a year after President Franklin Roosevelt had dispatched Major General Patrick Hurley to China to persuade Chiang to unify the Nationalist and communist forces against Japan—this newest general resigned and blamed his failure on the China hands. In a letter to President Truman, Hurley charged that "the professional Foreign Service men sided with the Chinese Communist armed party and the imperialist bloc of nations whose policy was to keep China divided against herself." The China hands, Hurley said, "continuously advised the Communists that my efforts in preventing the collapse of the National Government did not represent the policy of the United States."

    The fall of China was a call to arms for the conservative Republicans. Frustrated by their inability to regain the White House after seventeen years in political exile, they sensed the makings of a potent campaign issue. Chiang's Nationalist government, they alleged, did not fall because of economic and political forces beyond the control of U.S. policymakers; liberal Democratic foreign policy experts, sympathetic to communism, had "lost" China and thereby jeopardized U.S. national security.

    In light of world developments, the allegation seemed plausible. Less than five years after the end of World War II, Russia had, indeed, made substantial gains throughout the world. As U.S. News & World Report observed in early 1950, "Communist governments—many of them led by men trained in Moscow—are in command of nations ruling almost 800 million people." The result, the magazine reported, "is that the West finds it has lost more than 1 billion people from its sphere in less than 60 months." A "Red Tide," it seemed, was consuming the nations of the world. And Truman's stubborn refusal to dispatch a military mission to bolster Chiang's exiled regime only served as further proof to the Republicans that Democrats could no longer be trusted to stop the march of communism across the world stage. "This is the year," the liberal New Republic observed.


when the feverish fear of Communism is fanned higher by elections; when the men who legislate our futures think less of a hundred million votes in Asia than of a thousand votes in the Fourth Ward; when any gesture of conciliation to end the cold war is smeared as a surrender by an opposition whose dearest ambition is to pin the communist label on our chief of state.


    But the demagoguery was not confined to the Republican Party. Some conservative Democrats, aware of their constituents' alarm over the communist victories, also fanned the flames of fear. Speaking to a veterans group in January 1950, U.S. Representative John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts said Truman should send troops to Formosa and blamed him for Chiang's failure in China. "What our young men had saved, our diplomats and our president frittered away." The nation must now "prepare ourselves vigorously," he said, "to hold the line in the rest of Asia."

    If the "loss" of China was a call to arms for Republicans, the conviction in January 1950 of Alger Hiss, a former State Department official charged with perjury for lying about his Communist Party activities, gave them even more ammunition against Truman. Although not among the country's top diplomats, Hiss was well regarded by his colleagues and was among the advisors President Roosevelt had consulted at the Yalta Conference in early 1945. It was at Yalta, conservatives alleged, that Roosevelt had sentenced millions of Eastern Europeans to communist slavery by acceding control over their nations to the Soviet Union. Hiss's perjury conviction (the three-year statute of limitations on his alleged espionage activities had expired) vindicated Republican Congressman Richard Nixon and other members of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) who exposed Hiss's communism during the committee's wide-ranging investigation.

    The Hiss conviction gave Truman's foes yet another opportunity to buttress their argument that a decade of treachery and treason by liberal Democrats had reaped a whirlwind of communist gains throughout the world. Hiss, they alleged, was the thread that connected the "fall" of China to the "giving away" of Eastern Europe. South Dakota Republican Karl Mundt, a former HUAC member, wondered aloud about "what influence Alger Hiss might have had in writing a pro-Soviet foreign policy toward China" and suggested that Hiss had engineered "that most calamitous of all decisions at Yalta by which we agreed to give to the Russians control of the Communists in China." To Mundt and other conservatives, the Hiss case suggested a State Department crawling with Communists.

    To be sure, Acheson's subsequent public defense of Hiss—the brother of a close family friend—only made matters worse for Truman and increased the Republicans' antipathy toward the secretary of state. It did not help that only six days after Hiss's conviction, authorities in England arrested German-born Klaus Fuchs—a noted physicist who had worked on the Manhattan Project—for passing atomic secrets to the Soviets. Arrested in connection with Fuchs were two New Yorkers, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. "How much more are we going to have to take?" Republican Homer Capehart of Indiana asked the Senate on February 9. "Fuchs and Acheson and Hiss and hydrogen bombs threatening outside and New Dealism eating away at the vitals of the nation! In the name of Heaven, is this the best America can do?"

    To regain the White House and Congress, the Republicans would have to do much more than smear a few mid-level diplomats. Maximum political gain would result only if the "plot" to support Soviet communism could be traced to the higher echelons of Truman's administration. For this purpose, Acheson made the perfect villain. The son of an English-born Episcopal bishop, Acheson exuded an air of East Coast intellectual elitism that masked his lifelong devotion to liberal democratic causes. A committed New Dealer, he served briefly in Franklin Roosevelt's Treasury Department and later as FDR's assistant secretary of state for economic affairs. In Truman's administration, he had distinguished himself as an effective and brilliant under secretary of state. To his friends, he was a warm and witty man with an impressive intellect and a high degree of personal rectitude. To his enemies in Congress, however, Acheson was an arrogant, intellectual snob who communicated an infuriating air of superiority. As Truman biographer Alonzo L. Hamby observed,


Angry Republicans, most of them embittered isolationists, saw [Acheson] as representing all the trends that had disturbed them for the past twenty years: the rise of the welfare state and big government, the dominance of an Ivy League-northeastern establishment, the embrace of a Europe they considered distant and corrupt, the "loss" of China, the specter of international Communism. He would become the focal point of a politics of revenge bent on deposing Democrats and restoring "true Americanism" in Washington.


    Although Republicans saw political gold in their attacks on Truman, Acheson, and the State Department, they never anticipated that the primary standard-bearer in their unseemly election-year enterprise would be a dishonest, second-rate senator from Wisconsin—Joseph McCarthy.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Prologue: That Little Pipsqueak: February 1965 7
Part 1 The Roots of War
Chapter 1 The "Loss" of China: 1949-1950 21
Chapter 2 Paralyzed with Fear: 1950 30
Chapter 3 Korea: 1950 38
Chapter 4 The Part-Time Isolationists: 1951 50
Part 2 The Initial Descent
Chapter 5 Nothing But a Grim Joke: 1945-1950 63
Chapter 6 The Keystone in Southeast Asia: 1951 77
Chapter 7 A Great Crusade: 1951-1952 88
Chapter 8 Pouring Money Down a Rat Hole: 1953 101
Chapter 9 You Shall Not Fight Unaided: 1953 118
Chapter 10 La Guerre Sale: 1954 128
Chapter 11 We Cannot Engage in Active War: 1954 145
Chapter 12 Diplomacy of Bluster and Retreat: 1954 165
Chapter 13 The Best Available Prime Minister: 1954-1955 177
Chapter 14 This Is Our Offspring: 1955-1956 193
Chapter 15 A Blank Grant of Power: 1957-1958 203
Chapter 16 Nothing More Than a Mirage: 1958-1960 209
Part 3 Into the Morass
Chapter 17 Vietnam Is the Place: 1961 225
Chapter 18 You're Just Crazier Than Hell: 1961 234
Chapter 19 A World of Illusion: 1962 254
Chapter 20 The Beginning of the Beginning: 1962 270
Chapter 21 You Did Visit the Same Country, Didn't You?: 1963 277
Chapter 22 A Stone Rolling Downhill: 1963 292
Part 4 Escalation and Deception
Chapter 23 Get In, Get Out, or Get Off: 1963-1964 303
Chapter 24 The Damn Worst Mess I Ever Saw: 1964 322
Chapter 25 Aggression Unchallenged Is Aggression Unleashed: 1964 342
Chapter 26 No Wider War: 1964-1965 371
Chapter 27 Harder Choices: 1965 392
Chapter 28 We Are Very Deep Already: 1965 416
Chapter 29 This Could Be a Quagmire: 1965 438
Chapter 30 Sliding Farther into the Morass of War: 1965 459
Chapter 31 Let Them Know They Are in a War: 1966 478
Chapter 32 Once Our Flag Is Committed: 1966 499
Chapter 33 Where Does It All End?: 1966-1967 518
Chapter 34 There Is a Rot in the Fabric: 1967 540
Chapter 35 A Very Near Thing: 1968 570
Chapter 36 Everyone Has Turned into a Dove: 1968 589
Chapter 37 The Vice President Has Very Few Guns: 1968 609
Part 5 Nixon's War
Chapter 38 Win the Peace: 1969 627
Chapter 39 This Chamber Reeks of Blood: 1970 651
Chapter 40 We'll Bomb the Bastards Off the Earth: 1970-1971 671
Chapter 41 Peace Is at Hand: 1972 692
Chapter 42 A Spirit of Doubt and Contrition: 1972-1975 711
Conclusion 723
Notes 733
Bibliography 787
Index 801
Acknowledgments 819
About the Author 822
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2004

    Very thorough, easy read

    This is the 15th book I have read on Vietnam and easily rates in the top four. Very thorough, very interesting and a very easy read. Should be read along with 'Our Vietnam'(Languth), which is another remarkable book. If you have an interest in Vietnam both of these books are must reads.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2004

    Useful account of failed US aggression

    This thorough account of US intervention in Vietnam covers the years 1945 to 1975. Postwar French governments fought a brutal colonial war against the Vietnamese people from 1945 until their resounding defeat at Dienbienphu in 1954. The US government paid the entire costs of France¿s war against Vietnam, and then assumed the French role. The Vietnamese, led by the Communists, fought a war of national liberation against the foreign occupier. The US government fooled itself into believing that because the nationalist leadership was Communist it could not be genuinely nationalist, that it must be an agent of a foreign power. But of course, the foreign troops in Vietnam were not Chinese or `North Vietnamese¿, but first French and then American. And the agents of a foreign power were not the Communists but the US government¿s allies and puppets. Ho Chi Minh called the 1954 Geneva agreements a great victory. The US government pledged to accept the agreements. It promptly trashed them by sending military teams to attack the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and by encouraging President Diem not to hold the promised elections. President Kennedy, the liberals¿ hero, increased the military¿s budget by 14% in his first year, adding $42 million in `defence payments¿ to Vietnam. He expanded US intervention in Vietnam sending 16,000 troops, sorry, military `advisors¿, ordered the use of Agent Orange, and backed the coup against Diem that resulted in his murder. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson won the election on his promise of `no wider war¿, and expanded US troop numbers up to 547,000. He conned Congress into giving him a blank cheque for aggression with the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin resolution. In 1968, Richard Nixon won the election on his promise of an `honourable peace¿, which he followed by five more years of war, 20,000 more US soldiers dead and 300,000 more Vietnamese. In the war, 200,000 soldiers died fighting for the US-imposed government, 500,000 Vietnamese soldiers died and two million civilians. The US government spent $145 billion on the war. But no Vietnamese ever launched a terrorist attack against the USA.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2001

    who's been hiding this author!

    Finally the truth about the conflict that started before most of the men who died in the war were born. Mann's imformation and descriptions were overwelming. GREAT READING

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