This volume convincingly disproves the 'fighting with one hand tied behind our backs' explanation of America's defeat in Vietnam.
This comprehensively researched monograph, based on the author's Ph.D. dissertation, depicts U.S. political leaders as the consistent driving force behind America's Vietnam commitment. Military leaders were wary of intervention from 1945 onward and deeply divided over U.S. prospects to the point that they frequently offered bleak evaluations of the situation. Dissenters in the armed forces, however, were stifled by a command structure that shifted the burden of decision-making onto political authority by demanding levels of escalation that were politically impossible to implement. The military thus dodged its share of responsibility for ``losing'' an unwinnable war. Buzzanco exaggerates the armed forces' appropriate role in policy-making; at times he virtually implies that the Joint Chiefs of Staff should have said ``Enough'' on their own authority, defying the political leadership if necessary. That overstated argument makes this a book to be used with caution, despite its valuable analysis of the military's negative perspective on the Vietnam War. (Feb.)