Vietnam by Stanley Karnow

Vietnam: A History

Vietnam by Stanley Karnow is a comprehensive and detailed account of the Vietnam War. The book covers the underlying causes of the war, from the end of World War II to the final takeover of South Vietnam by its Communist neighbor.

The author, a former Southeast Asian correspondent for “Time” and “Life” magazines, and “The Washington Post,” provides a balanced and fair analysis of the conflict, dissecting the American failures, especially by the upper echelon.

The central theme of the book is that America’s leaders, prompted as much by domestic politics as by global ambitions, carried the United States into Southeast Asia with little regard for the realities of the region. The book explores the themes of courage and guilt, the struggle between feeling proud of being a member of the United States military and coming to terms with playing a role in the destruction of a country.

Useful takeaways from the book include the lessons learned from the Vietnam War, such as the United States committed war crimes, including torture, Washington lied, the war was a crime, not just a mistake, and the media did not oppose the war, only how it was fought. Additionally, the book highlights the absence of a viable local ally as a reason why the United States lost the war.

What I Liked

I really liked how the book gets into the day to day details of the war, while still maintaining a pace to cover all 20+ years in an approachable book. Excellent history book.

What I Did Not Like

Nothing – solid read.

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