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For many Westerners, the Vietnam War summons images of American soldiers patrolling rice paddies, battling an elusive enemy as helicopters circle overhead. But there were, in fact, many Vietnam wars—an anti-colonial war with France, a cold war turned hot with the United States, a civil war between North and South Vietnam and among southern Vietnamese, a revolutionary war of ideas over the vision that should guide Vietnamese society into the postcolonial future, and a postwar war of memory. This book explores the complex ways in which the Vietnamese themselves have made sense of those conflicts.
Drawing upon the author's twenty years of research—much of it made possible by recently opened Vietnamese archives and other sources—Vietnam at War departs sharply from prevailing narratives in the West that have made the Vietnamese almost invisible in the making of their own history. Mark Philip Bradley not only probes the thought and actions of high policy makers in Hanoi and Saigon but also explores how northerners and southerners, men and women, soldiers and civilians, urban elites and rural peasants, and radicals and conservatives came to understand the thirty years of war that enfolded them and how they reckoned with its aftermath. He sets these experiences within a wider global context by examining the place of the United States, France, the Soviet Union, and China in Vietnamese histories of the war.
Today, as Vietnamese civil society becomes increasingly heterodox and the Vietnamese state seeks to develop a market economy while maintaining its commitment to socialism, the meanings of the conflicts that shaped so much of the country's recent history remain deeply contested. Vietnam at War is essential reading for anyone who seeks a clearer understanding of the paradoxes and tensions that underlie the Vietnam experience to this day.
1. Visions of the Future
2. The French War
3. The Coming of the American War
4. Experiencing War
5. War's End
6. Coda Suggested Reading
Posted March 7, 2012