Was the U.S. military prevented from achieving victory in Vietnam by poor decisions made by civilian leaders, a hostile media, and the antiwar movement, or was it doomed to failure from the start? Twenty-five years after the last U.S. troops left Vietnam, the most divisive U.S. armed conflict since the War of 1812 remains an open wound not only because 58,000 Americans were killed and billions of dollars wasted, but also because it was an ignominious, unprecedented defeat. In this iconoclastic new study, Vietnam veteran and scholar Jeffrey Record looks past the consensual myths of responsibility to offer the most trenchant, balanced, and compelling analysis ever published of the causes for America's first defeat.
Sure to spark widespread discussion and argument among veterans, academics, policy-makers, military professionals, and interested citizens, this landmark contribution breaks new ground by candidly examining the strategic failures of the military's leadership—long portrayed as innocent victims—and exploring whether a different policy could have avoided defeat. With a rare blend of relevant personal experience and impeccable scholarship, Record establishes four root causes for the U.S. defeat in a logical, easy-to-follow argument that explodes earlier professional assessments and popular appraisals. Vietnam-noble cause, international crime, or strategic mistake? Record's surprising and sometimes incendiary answers to these and other questions critical to the future success of the civilian-run military will ensure that the armed forces' accountability in Vietnam is no longer overlooked.