A Time for Peace: The Legacy of the Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War left wounds that have taken three decades to heal—indeed some scars remain even today. In A Time for Peace, prominent American historian Robert D. Schulzinger sheds light on how deeply etched memories of this devastating conflict have altered America's political, social, and cultural landscape. Schulzinger examines the impact of the war from many angles. He traces the long, twisted, and painful path of reconciliation with Vietnam, the heated controversy over soldiers who were missing in action, the influx of over a million Vietnam refugees into the US, and the plight of Vietnam veterans, many of whom returned home alienated, unhappy, and unappreciated. Schulzinger looks at how the controversies of the war have continued to be fought in books and films and, perhaps most important, he explores the power of the Vietnam metaphor on foreign policy, particularly in Central America, Somalia, the Gulf War, and the war in Iraq. Using a vast array of sources, A Time for Peace provides an illuminating account of a war that still looms large in the American imagination.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The war on terror and the Iraq war have invited numerous comparisons to the Vietnam War. These three fine books show that as new information and declassified records become available about the conflict that fractured the 1960s and 1970s, new investigations and interpretations are worthy and deeply instructive. The Vietnam War may have ended more than 30 years ago, but its legacy still roils American culture, politics, and diplomacy. Fry (history, Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas; Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations, 1789-1973) focuses on the war-related congressional inquiries of the Johnson era, which framed and-unlike the Johnson administration-encouraged public debate about the war. The 1966 Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearings, chaired by Sen. J. William Fulbright, and the 1967 Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, chaired by Sen. John C. Stennis, were conducted by two Southern lions of Congress. Fulbright promoted a negotiated settlement, as he realized the war could not be won solely by American military might, while Stennis supported bombing North Vietnam into submission. The public majority slowly came to accept the Fulbright position. LBJ refused the recommendations of both committees and instead, as the author concludes, clung to a murky middle ground that diminished his credibility and ultimately drove him from a second term. Vivid retellings of testimonies by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Maxwell Taylor, and others enliven the text. These hearings were vital public education forums, and in the case of Fulbright's hearings, made opposition to the war respectable. Fry's book is strongly recommended for academic and larger public collections. Schulzinger (history, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder; A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941-1945) looks at U.S.-Vietnam relations in the decades since the war, from the frosty Ford/Carter years, through the slow thaw of the Reagan administration, to full diplomatic recognition during the Bush/Clinton era. His lively narrative covers veterans' frequently painful readjustment to life back home, and a most fascinating chapter portrays life in America for the million Vietnamese refugees who escaped the North Vietnamese onslaught in 1975. Rounding out this fine survey are discussions of the war's contribution-so to speak-to literature, notably in the works of Graham Greene, Tim O'Brien, and Norman Mailer, and deliberations on some of the more than 400 motion pictures and television programs that portray the Vietnam experience, e.g., Coming Home, Apocalypse Now, and Platoon. Schulzinger also assesses how the Vietnam Memorial and other monuments aided the nation's healing. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Wiest (history, Univ. of Southern Mississippi; Haig: The Evolution of a Commander) has collected 15 uniformly excellent new essays by highly regarded scholars, veterans, and victims from differing military, political, and academic perspectives to present the war in a global context. Readers will learn about the war as fought by South Vietnamese troops, by the North Vietnam army, and by American and Australian GIs. Bui Tai, a high-ranking Vietnam Communist Party official, tells how victory turned bitter when the victors threw 300,000 South Vietnamese officials into jail and created large numbers of "boat people" who drowned while attempting to escape imprisonment or death at the hands of their new Communist masters. Le Ly Hayslip (When Heaven and Earth Changed Places) chillingly tells how she and numerous villagers throughout the south were uprooted from their homes and brutally treated as sufferers of President Diem's Strategic Hamlet Program. Daniel Hallin's investigation of the media, which was often assailed for turning the public against the war, reveals that the press, rather than causing increased public uneasiness, more often responded to it. This accessible, multilayered overview will appeal to general readers and to specialists who want a good supplementary text for Vietnam War-era courses. Strongly recommended for academic and public libraries.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Schulzinger's analysis is insightful and respectful of disparate viewpoints."—kenton Clymer, The International History Review

"A new chapter has opened between the United States and Vietnam, and Robert Schulzinger provides the roadmap in A Time for Peace. Anyone interested in the factors that will be most critical for cooperation and issues likely to present obstacles and the factors affecting the relationship between former adversaries should read this marvelous and important book."—Larry Berman, author of No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger and Betrayal in Vietnam

"This extremely well-researched book finally paints a big picture that accurately depicts the long, painful, tense, and frustrating struggle for reconciliation between America and Vietnam. It also vividly captures the incredible experiences of the survivors of that all-too-long conflict. Every participant in the War and those who worked to facilitate reconciliation will find revelations in this book interesting and, very likely, surprising. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to know what really took place after the fighting stopped."—Ambassador Pete Peterson

"Fighting wars is a searing experience. Coming to terms with their legacy is equally wrenching. Bob Schulzinger has written a luminous account of American and Vietnamese efforts to grapple with the memory of their struggle. As Americans ponder their exit from Iraq, they can catch a glimpse of the external struggles and internal turmoil that awaits them. Schulzinger's book on the memory and history of the Vietnam War is a compelling and timely account of the long shadows cast by that tragic conflict." —Melvyn P. Leffler, University of Virginia

"Schulzinger provides a masterful and timely examination of the influence of the Vietnam War on American global politics, domestic politics, society, and culture over the past three decades. At a time when U.S. military forces are engaged in a bloody conflict in Iraq, A Time for Peace is a lesson and a warning. Schulzinger's engaging analysis details how the Vietnam experience left a conflicted legacy that contributed to U.S. engagement in Iraq and that gives the rest of the story when a war ends in failure and frustration." —David L. Anderson, author of The Columbia Guide to the Vietnam War

"For all the attention given to the Vietnam War, the aftermath has been neglected. Robert Schulzinger provides fascinating and fair coverage of this contentious ground in all its aspects. Both those who lived through it and those young enough to have been spared will learn an enormous amount."—Robert Jervis, author of American Foreign Policy in a New Era

"His lively narrative covers veterans' frequently painful readjustment to life back home, and a most fascinating chapter portrays life in America for the million Vietnamese refugees who escaped the North Vietnamese onslaught in 1975. Rounding out this fine survey are discussions of the war's contribution—so to speak—to literature, notably in the works of Graham Greene, Tim O'Brien, and Norman Mailer, and deliberations on some of the more than 400 motion pictures and television programs that portray the Vietnam experience."—Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195365924
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert D. Schulzinger is College Professor of Distinction of History and International Affairs at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The author of many books on the history of U.S. foreign relations and politics, including A Time For War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975 (OUP, 1997), he is a former President of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the Editor-In-Chief of Diplomatic History.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Memories of the Vietnam War
Part I
International Affairs
1. Bitterness Between the United States and Vietnam, 1975-1980
2. Estrangement and Détente, 1980-1988
3. Normalization, 1989-2000
Part II
Veterans and Vietnamese Americans
4. Vietnam Veterans' Readjustment
5. Vietnam Veterans Memorials and Memories
6. The Vietnamese in America
Part III
Cultural Legacies
7. The Burden of Memory in Vietnam Literature
8. Vietnam Memories Through Film
Part IV
Conclusion: Political Echoes of a War
9. The Living Legacy of the Vietnam War

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