SOCIAL SCIENCES

Embers of War

The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam
Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam. Random. Aug. 2012. c.880p. photogs. maps. index. ISBN 9780375504426. $40. HIST
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Placing the Vietnam War in a global context, Logevall (John S. Knight Professor of International Studies, Cornell Univ.; Choosing War: The Last Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam) concludes that it was not an unavoidable quagmire. (Indeed, France, from its own experience, had warned that the war was unwinnable and advised U.S pursuit of diplomatic rather than military solutions.) His engrossing investigation begins in 1919 with an idealistic Ho Chi Minh seeking Vietnam's freedom from the French and concludes with the 1959 deaths of the first two American soldiers in the second Indochina War. In between, Logevall vividly recounts the demise of French imperialism in Southeast Asia and the emergence of a war-torn Vietnam during the Cold War. The highlight is the author's recounting of the 1954 Geneva Conference, which brought the ruthless and despised Ngo Dinh Diem to power in South Vietnam and made inevitable the permanent partitioning of Vietnam and the second Indochina War.
VERDICT This deeply researched narrative by arguably the leading authority on Vietnam diplomacy untangles four decades of complicated foreign policy and includes fascinating stories of the U.S., Vietnamese, French, and British leaders who held conferences, forged treaties, and endured the consequences. Highly recommended for all serious readers of the Vietnam War; essential for scholars of the era.

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