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Lawrence (history, Univ. of Texas, Austin; Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam) has written a fine brief history of the Vietnam War that relies primarily on a wide reading of secondary sources but also employing newly accessible archival materials from China, Russia, and Vietnam. Lawrence focuses on U.S. policy, yet he provides an international context, offering a healthy dose of information on the role of other major players, including North and South Vietnam, the USSR, the People's Republic of China, and several European nations. He subtly incorporates major interpretations of the war and presents a balanced, nonideological narrative. If he has an overall thesis, it is that the war was an enormously complex phenomenon that does not lend itself to simplistic analysis and simple answers. Because of the book's brevity and focus on policy, Lawrence devotes relatively little space to actual combat from the ordinary soldiers' perspective. Nonetheless, this important book will be of great value to educated lay readers as well as college students looking for a readable overview. Recommended for major libraries.