Synopses & Reviews
"Masterful. . . . Logevall presents a vivid and tragic portrait of the elements of U.S. decision-making on Vietnam from the beginning of the Kennedy administration through the announcement of the American ground war in July 1965. In the process he reveals a troubling picture of top officials in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations persisting in efforts to boost the fortunes of sucessive governments of South Vietnam, even while they acknowledged that their chances for success were remote. In addition, he places the decision-making squarely in the international context."and#151;Robert D. Schulzinger, author of A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975
"Stunning in its research and highly sophisticated in its analysis, Choosing War is far and away the best study we have of Lyndon Johnson's escalation of the conflict in Vietnam."and#151;George C. Herring
"In this fine book, Fredrick Logevall offers the first detailed examination of why diplomacy failed to head off the Vietnam War. Grounding himself in documentary research and other sources from several countries, Logevall comes closer than anyone ever has to explaining what happened. His clear writing and deep analysis may well change our understanding of Vietnam as a quagmire."and#151;John Prados, author of The Hidden History of the Vietnam War
"A rising star among a new generation of historians, Fredrik Logevall has written the most important Vietnam book in years. By explaining the international context of that tragic conflict, Choosing War provides startling answers to the question, Why did the war happen? Controversial yet fair, this account challenges the reader to think through John F. Kennedy's and Lydon B. Johnson's individual responsibility for Vietnam. The effect is compelling, unforgettable history."and#151;Timothy Naftali, co-author of "One Hell of a Gamble:" Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, 1958-1964
In one of the most detailed and powerfully argued books published on American intervention in Vietnam, Fredrik Logevall examines the last great unanswered question on the war: Could the tragedy have been averted? His answer: a resounding yes. Challenging the prevailing myth that the outbreak of large-scale fighting in 1965 was essentially unavoidable, Choosing War
argues that the Vietnam War was unnecessary, not merely in hindsight but in the context of its time.
Why, then, did major war break out? Logevall shows it was partly because of the timidity of the key opponents of U.S. involvement, and partly because of the staunch opposition of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations to early negotiations. His superlative account shows that U.S. officials chose war over disengagement despite deep doubts about the war's prospects and about Vietnam's importance to U.S. security and over the opposition of important voices in the Congress, in the press, and in the world community. They did so because of concerns about credibilityand#151;not so much America's or the Democratic party's credibility, but their own personal credibility.
Based on six years of painstaking research, this book is the first to place American policymaking on Vietnam in 1963-65 in its wider international context using multiarchival sources, many of them recently declassified. Here we see for the first time how the war played in the key world capitalsand#151;not merely in Washington, Saigon, and Hanoi, but also in Paris and London, in Tokyo and Ottawa, in Moscow and Beijing.
Choosing War is a powerful and devastating account of fear, favor, and hypocrisy at the highest echelons of American government, a book that will change forever our understanding of the tragedy that was the Vietnam War.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 499-516) and index.
About the Author
Fredrik Logevall is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations Used in the Text
1. The Kickoff: 29 August 1963
2. Breaks and Continuities: September to November 1963
3. "I Will Not Lose in Vietnam": November 1963 to January 1964
4. "A Deeply Dangerous Game": February to April 1964
5. Rumblings of Discontent: April to June 1964
6. Campaigns at Home and Abroad: June and July 1964
7. Provocations: August 1964
8. Standing Logic on Its Head: September and October 1964
9. The Freedom to Change: November and December 1964
10. "Stable Government or No Stable Government": January and February
11. Americanization: February to July 1965
12. Choosing War
List of Abbreviations Used in the Notes