Today's best young scholars tend to question the dogma of an antiwar left that has grown gray without abandoning its animus toward those who served. As one example, Mark Moyar won the 1993 prize for historical research at Harvard University by peeling away the shibboleths that have surrounded the Phoenix program, an effort directed against Vietcong leaders. Mr. Moyar's book, Phoenix and the Birds of Prey, is a product of that research and a groundbreaking piece of revisionist history on the war.
Wall Street Journal
This is a fine effort. Moyar does not seek to moralize or even rationalize, only to explain. No one should speak or write about the Phoenix Program without first consulting this work.
Mark Moyar, a young (born in 1971) Harvard-trained historian, unburdened by the stories drummed into the public psyche by those who built careers on the conventional wisdom, has written a remarkable book that challenges what has become the "Jane Fonda" interpretation of the Vietnam War. Based on primary documents and interviews of firsthand participants on all sides of the conflict. Moyar's book focuses on the CIA role in the now notorious Phoenix Program... [Moyar] displays an uncommon grasp of the problems of agent recruitment and handling peculiar to Vietnam, the social and practical challenges faced by the American advisors and the Vietnamese at all levels, and the blinkered reaction of those reading, watching, and criticizing at home. One is forced to wonder how Phoenix and the Birds of Prey will be received by the many contemporary commentators who for years promulgated as truth views that the book exposes as myths, if not falsehoods. Dare we hope for a broad public debate, or is it more likely that Oliver Stone will produce his own "truth" about Phoenix?
World Intelligence Review
Mr. Moyar does not moralize; war as he describes it is brutish and occasionally gruesome... Mr. Moyar ably demonstrates that young persons can emerge from Harvard with their senses intact, provided they keep their minds open. This is a fine war read.
Explodes myths surrounding the CIA's top-secret effort to destroy the Viet Cong by neutralizing its civilian leaders, drawing on recently declassified documents and interviews with US, South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese sources. Dissects various attempts to eradicate the Viet Cong infrastructure and analyzes the effectiveness of each, offering a new interpretation of the rise of the Viet Cong and the role the shadow government played in its ascent. Discusses the effects of the program on South Vietnamese villagers, and offers an insider's view of intelligence operations based on officers' and mercenaries' accounts. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Mark Moyar has a mission. As Colonel Harry Summers explains in his preface, Moyar deplores the reality that “of tens of thousands of books and articles on the Vietnam War, that conflict remains almost completely misinterpreted and misunderstood.” Moyar seeks to set the record straight, at least in regards to part of that war—the history of the CIA’s Phoenix program. He succeeds admirably. His work could be a textbook for the do’s and don’ts of counterinsurgency warfare. His accomplishment is even more astonishing when he reveals that his study started as his senior thesis at Harvard.
Asian Thought & Society
Few aspects of the Vietnam War are less understood and subject to more myth and misinformation than the Phoenix program. Only a few solid works, such as Richard Hunt’s Pacification (1995) and Dale Andrade’s Ashes to Ashes: The Phoenix Program and the Vietnam War (1990), exist on the topic. Now Mark Moyar’s thoroughly researched, balanced perspective, and fascinating new study, which draws heavily upon interviews with more than 100 American and Vietnamese participants, becomes the premier work on the topic. Moyar began this study as an undergraduate thesis at Harvard, and even though he is now only in his mid-twenties, this book makes him a serious scholar of the Vietnam War.
As an impartial, credible observer, Mark Moyar deserves a laurel for bringing the facts of the Phoenix Program to light. His book is recommended reading for all soldiers, but particularly for those interested in a greater understanding of the Vietnam conflict and the intelligence functions conducted during the war.