When it comes to the Vietnam War, we face almost the same situation that we do with physics: there’s really no “grand unified theory” among either scholars or the public. The staggering complexity of that conflict resists any conclusive definition of what, precisely, it was about.
Journalists often claim to write the first draft of history, but that statement raises the question when a story turns from current events into history. The Vietnam War now stands closer to World War II than 2017. A formative experience for the baby boom generation, those who came of age after 1990 see Vietnam as an episode in history. Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns captures the immediacy of the conflict in the ten episode series The Vietnam War airing on PBS. The series also raises larger questions about American foreign policy that resonate today.
On a movie set many years ago, actress Geraldine Page found herself seated between actor Ward Bond, an enforcer of the blacklist of communists then raging in Hollywood, and his friend, the conservative actor John Wayne. Page was only accustomed to being around her fellow show business liberals, so she listened to the two men’s conservative views with a sense of “horror.” But as the conversation went on, she developed a marginally more favorable view of Wayne, whom she called a “reactionary for all sorts of non-reactionary reasons.”
This important book is the first volume of a two-part examination of one of the most dishonorable chapters in the history of the United States. For approximately two years, the United States Congress, comfortably ensconced thousands of miles from the battlefield, abetted the North Vietnamese violation of the 1973 Paris Peace accords and the subsequent destruction of the Republic of South Vietnam. Remarkably, a majority of members of Congress did not care about the fate of South Vietnam, and in some cases yearned for a North Vietnamese victory. George J. Veith is a retired U.S. Army Captain whose mastery of the…