Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975
By Max Hastings
As a military historian, Max Hastings makes an excellent attempt at understanding the Vietnam War in “Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy.” He points to the lack of a strategy to win the war as the reason for the U.S. failure there. Counterinsurgency is the most difficult sort of conflict, in part because the enemy is native to the battlefield and therefore has better intelligence and, more important, a better understanding of it than the occupier does. The most eager recruits for the South Vietnamese army were insurgents who gave the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese superb strategic intelligence about the intentions of the Americans and the South Vietnamese. The Americans, fighting in a foreign country, were at a strategic disadvantage.
In all organizations, when initial confidence gives way to mounting evidence of failure, there’s a tendency toward denial. Hastings’ strength is in unraveling the confusion and denial of the Ame