Reviews for Embers of War : The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam
Booklist Reviews 2012 July #1
Most American studies of the Vietnam War concentrate on the period following the introduction of U.S. combat units under President Johnson. However, contemporary Vietnamese accounts view the "American phase" as the concluding act of a prolonged nationalist struggle to gain independence from Western imperialism. Logevall, professor of history at Cornell, leans toward the latter approach--that is, American involvement must be inseparably linked to the doomed French effort to maintain imperial control over Indochina. Of course, American policy makers insisted their goals were different; unlike the French, they wanted an independent South Vietnam free from both colonial and communist control. Yet, as Logevall eloquently illustrates, the U.S. followed essentially the same dreary path and made the same errors as its French predecessors. We failed to comprehend the nationalist yearnings of Vietnamese "communists" and were blind to their support among a wide swath of the people. That blindness led us to prop up hopelessly inept or hopelessly compromised Vietnamese "leaders" like Ngo Dinh Diem. This is a superbly written and well-argued reinterpretation of our tragic experience in Vietnam. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2012 July #2
Comprehensive history of the early years of what in Vietnam is called "the American War"--the time in which one Western power took the place of another, only for both to be defeated. Logevall (International Studies and History/Cornell Univ.; Terrorism and 9/11: A Reader, 2002, etc.) opens his long, deeply complex narrative with a little-known event: namely, a fact-finding mission to Vietnam on the part of then-Sen. John F. Kennedy in 1951, reporting on his return home that France was foolishly trying to cling to an empire even as the people of Vietnam rejected the French-installed Vietnamese puppet government. But much as President Obama inherited George W. Bush's war in Iraq, by the time Kennedy became president, he was saddled with Truman's and then Eisenhower's Vietnam. Logevall is careful to point to roads-not-taken without belaboring the point, to which readers will respond all the same by wishing, for one thing, that Franklin Roosevelt had lived beyond 1945--for it was he who was urging a postwar world without overseas empires, who "had reached the conclusion that, for good or ill, complete independence was foreordained for all or almost all the European colonies." In the real development of early events, there was nothing foreordained, however; much of what shaped up in Vietnam was the result of historical accidents, such as the fact that, as Logevall notes, the Potsdam Agreement favored Ho Chi Minh by placing northern Vietnam under Chinese control, which allowed his Viet Minh to build up its armaments and political power. The opposition mounted by Ngo Dinh Diem, though, was ineffectual; he had enough on his hands trying to deal with the organized crime gangs that really ran South Vietnam. By the end of 1963, things really were locked into inevitability, especially after Ho decided to escalate the war precisely in order to make the Americans go home. It didn't work that way, of course. Logevall's exhaustive study shows chapter and verse why not--and why the ensuing American war was doomed to fail. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2012 March #1
Yes, many, many books have been written about Vietnam. But Cornell history professor Logevall is presented as leading a new generation of scholars now investigating the debacle. Over the course of 12 years, he did original research in diplomatic archives in Hanoi, Paris, and Washington, finally concluding that, like France, America failed to recognize the realities of Vietnam. Covering the four-decade buildup to the war, this book is called definitive. We'll see, but it's certainly important--and certainly scarily relevant today. [Page 70]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal Reviews 2012 July #1
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.--Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA [Page 92]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
Yes, many, many books have been written about Vietnam. But Cornell history professor Logevall is presented as leading a new generation of scholars now investigating the debacle. Over the course of 12 years, he did original research in diplomatic archives in Hanoi, Paris, and Washington, finally concluding that, like France, America failed to recognize the realities of Vietnam. Covering the four-decade buildup to the war, this book is called definitive. We'll see, but it's certainly important-and certainly scarily relevant today. - "Barbara's Picks " LJ Reviews 2/2/2012 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 April #1
Cornell University's Logevall specializes in the Vietnam War's international aspects. His latest work masterfully pre-sents the war's roots in the U.S. reaction to the French colonial experience. And that experience was inextricably linked to the global changes wrought by WWII, the beginning of the cold war, and America's new role as the pre-eminent power in Asian and world affairs. Without neglecting the military aspects of the Franco-Indochina War and its aftermath, Logevall concentrates on political and diplomatic aspects. He presents "a contingent , full of alternative political choices." Initially, the odds were against the Viet Minh--but France could never decide to seek a compromise. With Vietnam's division after the Franco-Indochina War's end in 1954, Ngo Dinh Diem dominated South Vietnam's politics. But his limited concept of leadership and facile resort to repression alienated anticommunist nationalists. That was America's problem as well. Logevall makes a detailed case that America's Vietnam involvement replicated the French experience: the U.S. was fighting against an anticolonialist revolution and giving the Democratic Republic of Vietnam legitimacy that would be neither discredited nor defeated in 10 more years of war. 43 photos, 13 maps. Agent: John Dawkins & Associates. (Aug.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC