Year of the Hawk: America’s Descent into Vietnam, 1965

James A. Warren. Scribner, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-982122-94-2
Historian Warren (God, War, and Providence) delivers a solid study of the Vietnam War focused on the rapid escalation of the conflict beginning in 1965. Drawing largely on memoirs and secondary sources, Warren details the history of Vietnamese resistance to French colonial rule, the U.S. government’s decision to support France’s war against communist insurgents in the 1950s, President Lyndon Johnson’s fears that the fall of Saigon would severely damage “American prestige” and his own reputation, and the rise of an American antiwar movement that saw the conflict as “an inherently immoral, inhumane enterprise.” He suggests that the war may have been unwinnable, but blames Gen. William Westmoreland’s resistance to counterinsurgency tactics in favor of “big-unit search-and-destroy operations,” and the South Vietnamese government’s “fractiousness and dysfunction,” for dooming any chance of victory. Warren also stresses that American and South Vietnamese political and military leaders never gave the Vietnamese people a palatable alternative to Ho Chi Minh’s brand of nationalism, which offered “both unity and freedom from foreign domination.” Though Warren treads familiar ground, he lucidly explains the origins and “strategic blunders” of the Vietnam War. This is a worthy introduction to a conflict that continues to haunt American politics and culture. Agent: John F. Thornton, the Spieler Agency. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 08/31/2021
Release date: 11/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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