- The A to Z of the Vietnam War
With The A to Z of the Vietnam War, Clemson University professor Edwin Moïse has provided a dictionary and brief introduction to the study of the Vietnam War. Moïse and his editor, Jon Woronoff, assert that the complex nature of the issues and personalities involved led many previous scholars, fiction writers, and film producers to explain the conflict with stereotypes and generalizations. This volume, they maintain, "attempts to sort things out, to make them more clear, but without oversimplifying what is inherently complex" (p. vii). Thus, the work provides a starting point for students to begin their study of the war.
Moïse's volume begins with sections on acronyms and abbreviations, maps, selected photographs, and a chronology of events from 1954 to 2004. A section that outlines the basic issues of the war follows. Moïse presents a brief narrative overview and discusses two theories that explain the underlying origin of the war. Moïse observes that while some believed Northern aggression was responsible for the outbreak of hostilities, others blamed an internal rebellion that sought to overthrow the inept Diem government. U.S. intervention, Moïse asserts, stemmed from a desire to support either the Diem government specifically, or to oppose communist-led revolutions in general. Likewise, the U.S. military community presented two possible operational approaches; some advocated a conventional approach to military operations, while others believed that counterinsurgency techniques would achieve victory. Moïse also illustrates the contrast between those military leaders who advocated the tactical use of airpower, and others favoring strategic bombing. In addition, Moïse briefly discusses the unequal resources of the combatants, the demographics of American military personnel, the role of the media during the war, and the legacy of the conflict. The remainder of the work is devoted to dictionary entries, an eight-page bibliography, and name and operations indexes.
Moïse's work provides an overview of the terms and issues surrounding the conflict in a straightforward popular style, and introduces students to several significant histriographical controversies. However, the bibliography is somewhat dated (it omits Christian Appy's Working Class War, on the socio-economic status of American troops, and recent contributions by [End Page 1314] noted scholars such as James Willbanks' Abandoning Vietnam, and Mark Moyar's Phoenix and the Birds of Prey, for example). A discussion of Vietnamese strategy, or dau tranh, and a more comprehensive discussion of the war's legacy for the Vietnamese and American veterans and society (see Arnold Isaacs, Vietnam Shadows, for an example) would improve the work. In the final analysis, Moïse achieves his goal of simplifying the conflict for students beginning their study of the Vietnam War.
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