Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam

Fredrik Logevall. Random, $40 (880p) ISBN 978-0-375-50442-6
Cornell University’s Logevall specializes in the Vietnam War’s international aspects. His latest work masterfully pre-sents the war’s roots in the U.S. reaction to the French colonial experience. And that experience was inextricably linked to the global changes wrought by WWII, the beginning of the cold war, and America’s new role as the pre-eminent power in Asian and world affairs. Without neglecting the military aspects of the Franco-Indochina War and its aftermath, Logevall concentrates on political and diplomatic aspects. He presents “a contingent [story], full of alternative political choices.” Initially, the odds were against the Viet Minh—but France could never decide to seek a compromise. With Vietnam’s division after the Franco-Indochina War’s end in 1954, Ngo Dinh Diem dominated South Vietnam’s politics. But his limited concept of leadership and facile resort to repression alienated anticommunist nationalists. That was America’s problem as well. Logevall makes a detailed case that America’s Vietnam involvement replicated the French experience: the U.S. was fighting against an anticolonialist revolution and giving the Democratic Republic of Vietnam legitimacy that would be neither discredited nor defeated in 10 more years of war. 43 photos, 13 maps. Agent: John Dawkins & Associates. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 04/02/2012
Release date: 08/21/2012
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