Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 140

of Vietnam (ARVN), echoing Andrew Weist’s argument that sufficient spirit of resistance remained within it, only needing more encouragement. His chapter entitled “The Americans Abandon the South Vietnamese” will startle—and possibly shock—some readers with its very brief description of the terms of the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 and the subsequent drastic reduction in foreign aid that all but guaranteed the Republic of Vietnam’s demise at the hands of its communist enemies. The chapters on the 1968 Tet Offensive and the 1972 Easter Offensive contain analysis more familiar to military readers, as these recount the unmitigated tactical disasters the ARVN and their American and free world allies inflicted. Less well known are the notions that the South Vietnamese public rallied against the Communists in the wake of Tet and that the ARVN enjoyed a much-needed morale boost after it turned back the Easter Offensive, admittedly with help from American airpower. In addition, the intense vitriol that the author employs against the American press for intentionally misrepresenting the situation at specified times and places is not surprising. While readers probably have been exposed to this before, they will appreciate some of the specifics he relates in precise detail. Next, we come to the bad: The reader cannot escape Professor Joes’ continuously asking, “What if?” While a wonderful exercise in imagination and fuel for counterfactual reasoning scenarios in historical war-gaming, this is not strictly history. One might have titled the book Why South Vietnam Should Not Have Fallen, given how it is written. Professional historians of the war will be unsatisfied as Joes provides little that has not already been said in the other works he cites. There are no new sources brought to light here, no new archival discoveries, no correspondences recently discovered, nor any other documentary revelations. The real value this book provides to historians will be its grist for debate, further research, and far weightier published argument and counterargument. One imagines a slew of master’s degree theses and PhD dissertations inspired by Professor Joes’ conclusions herein. One should also keep in mind other worthwhile scholarly treatments the author chose not to use, or, if he did use others, perhaps he decided not to list them in his references. Discerning scholars will no doubt notice that works that disagree with the author’s assumptions and conclusions are missing. For example, John Prados’ book on the Ho Chi Minh Trail was consulted; his other books on the Vietnam 134 War, among them The Hidden History of the Vietnam War and Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 19451975, apparently were not. Just comparing the title of the latter work with the argumentative thrust of Why South Vietnam Fell, one can easily guess why. Finally, we finish with the ugly. This book should have been an entry point for new students of the Vietnam War, given how it synthesizes much current scholarship, eloquently articulates a stimulating viewpoint, and provides good recommendations for further reading in the notes to the text. But, it costs eighty-five dollars retail. As of this writing, no paperback or e-book at significantly less cost is available. It is hard to imagine readers buying one of their first books on the Vietnam War at such a high price. The larger military academic and university librari