Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Those who ignore history

Well now I think I need to go back and read all the Vietnam books I have been meaning to read. There are many ways in which the Iraq War is not like the Vietnam War, but in both cases we see mismangement of the war , a military command that doesn't serve its advisory role correctly, a domineering and visionary SecDef, tactics that don't match the enemy and, worse, lose the hearts and minds, a misreading of the local actors and political situation and a disconnect between military action and the ultimate political goals. All of these similarities make me want to revisit the Vietnam War to see if there is anything that can learned.

A Bright Shining Lie. How have I not read this? I own a copy of this Pulitzer winner, but it remains a future read. Sheenan uses the career of Lt. Col. John Paul Vann to show the many failures of American policy in South East Asia. Thanks to Vann's extensive experience there, the book can be read as a history of the entire war. An excellent format for a future book on Iraq.

A Better War. This one is controversial. It argues that, militarily, the war was won in the early 70s, thanks to a change in military leadership. Sorley argues this was not understood by elites in the US who pressed for an end no matter what. This one is (was?)popular in DC recently because it argued that you could turn around a poor military policy with a better one. Critics say this is just the stab in the back theory recast for Vietnam, and there is a point there. Still I think this one might have value.

They Marched into Sunlight. This book tells the tale of twodays in 1967, in Vietnam and in Madison, Wisconsin. One story concerns protesters and the other concerns a unit that was ambushed and fought a two day battle. In this way, the book is meant to capture the whole war. Sounds interesting.

Street without Joy. This one is actually about the French war in Vietnam. I believe it is the one of the best accounts in English.


Steve said...

They Marched into Sunlight sounds better than it is. As a concept, putting a student sit-in alongside military action should be a great window into the different experiences of the war. In practice, it makes you want to throttle the self-absorbed hippie losers who actually compare being roughed up by the Madison police to the decimation suffered by the Black Lions. Even worse, Maraniss seems to buy into the moral equivalence of the two experiences, I suppose to shill his own story. At 30 years remove he should know better. Do not waste your time.

Tripp said...

Dude?! WTF? Why did you give me your copy? So U could be mired in it? Curse you Steve

Steve said...

It is one of those that the more I thought about it, the more pissed off I got at the author's world view. I will say that the parts set in Vietnam are good.

Like you haven't sent a few clinkers my way, anyhow.

Tripp said...

No way, mine go through a multi step review process.