Book Review: The Political Incorrect Guide To The Vietnam War

The Politically Incorrect Guide To The Vietnam War, by Phillip Jennings

I have read one book in this series previously [1], and because one of my frequent online readers suggested a book in the series, I decided somewhat on a whim to read the entire series, and this happened to be the first of twelve books (!) I got from the library in the series to read.  I don’t consider myself a particularly politically correct person, although admittedly the Vietnam War [2] is not something I have any particular enjoyment in reading about.  Basically, the author’s view is similar to my own, although I would say that he is far more militaristic than I am, and there is a great deal of nuance that this book has that many readers (especially hostile readers) are likely to miss because of the rather strongly held patriotism the author has and his disdain for leftist cultural elites, all of which will likely make this book less than appealing to those who consider themselves in alignment with those views.  Even so, this book certainly is politically correct, although I’m not sure the extent to which this book may be judged as historically correct.  It definitely has a defensible position that asks some searching questions about American military involvement, though.

This book of a bit more than 200 pages is divided into six chapters with three appendices that are well worth reading.  The author begins with a discussion of why we were in Vietnam and the attempts at nation building after the departure of the French after Dien Bien Phu (1).  After this the author gives a critical view of JFK’s muddling and his botched overthrow of Diem, the only genuinely capable Nationalist leader in South Vietnam (2).  This is followed by a discussion of LBJ’s War and how it failed largely due to the overly politicized constraints on the military and the somewhat contradictory goals of the United States (3).  The author is at his best in a discussion of the unheralded victory of Nixon and why they are ignored in most histories of the Vietnam War because they do not support the narrative the historians are trying to paint (4).  After this the author has some savage things to say about the Communist leanings of much of the Anti-War movement (5) as well as some striking comments on the experience of successful veterans coming home (6).  After some warm acknowledgements the author includes three appendices that point out Senator JFK’s remarks at the Conference on Vietnam (i), a short guide to the Pentagon Papers (ii) and a Vietnamese view of the war (iii) that add some important context.

Overall, I thought this book to be a worthwhile one that provided a route to victory.  The author, though, points out that the way to victory for the United States in Vietnam was narrow–the US was focused both on anti-imperialism as well as anti-Communism (a combined worldview I happen to share personally) and needed to allow its commanders to provide a winning tactic that was focused on providing security commitments over the long haul and cultivating native South Vietnamese leadership that was able to overcome questions of corruption.  At a best case scenario South Vietnam could have ended up being a country like Thailand where a central elite periodically overthrows elected leadership that gets too leftist, and that’s not a terrible scenario and likely one that the United States could accept in a foreign ally.  Unfortunately, domestic political problems and the lack of honor among Democratic congressmen made it impossible to provide the support that South Vietnam needed to endure the hostile forces of the North Vietnamese, which was definitely a preventable problem, even if it is easy to understand how the United States would be reluctant about having a permanent presence in South Vietnam like we had in South Korea, whose defense we still guarantee to this day.


[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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