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Posted February 8, 2010
As a former army officer who entered active duty just after the Vietnam War ended, The War Managers simply is a "must read" for those interested in understanding the outlook and opinions of the senior American military leadership throughout the American involvement in Vietnam.
What especially in retrospect is most striking is that General Kinnard gathered his data in 1973/74 -- AFTER the American military involvement in Vietnam essentially had ended, but BEFORE 1975, when the North Vietnamese overran the South Vietnamese, thus adding a poignant exclamation point to the futility of the American effort in Southeast Asia.
General Kinnard writes with a flawless style, and his crisp analysis of the opinions of his fellow generals is superb -- punctuated as it is with often brutally blunt comments by American general officers about policies which they thought were folly, if not unavoidably self-defeating.
Nor are the opinions of those senior military officers towards the media and certain civilian authorities any less candid and informative.
Given that when the data was gathered and the analyses made, it appeared as if the South Vietnamese government (with the aid of continued logistical support, when necessary, American airpower) might survive as an independent entity, General Kinnard's analysis has that much more of a "crystal ball" aura to it as his predictions for events in Vietnam and for future decades of U.S. foreign policy (and the use of American military force as a vital element of that policy) is eerily prescient.
Sadly, one can read this book, absorp its lessons, apply them to Iraq and Afghanistan, and (for different reasons, as those two conflicts are quite different in nature) come away quite unsettled by US diplomatic and military policy in each of those two areas of conflict.
If I have one regret "The War Managers," it is only that I wish it were longer (it is under 200 pages) because I found it to be so informative and one of the great insights into the psychology of the commanders whom this nation sends to fight its wars.
Perhaps the best endorsement I can give is to note that after reading this excellent and compelling work, I sent copies to a half dozen friends who had commanded major units in Iraq and Afghanistan, and each thought that this book was a provocative and sobering read.