[E-Books] Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam
Author: Lien-Hang T. Nguyen
Lien-Hang T. Nguyen is Associate Professor of History at the University of Kentucky. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and her PhD from Yale University. Nguyen has also held fellowships at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, the former John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, and International Security Studies at Yale University. HANOI’S WAR won the 2012 Edward M. Coffman Prize for best military history manuscript from the Society for Military History. Nguyen has also published numerous peer-reviewed articles and scholarly essays on the wars for Vietnam, and has written pieces for The New York Times, BBC, and San Jose Mercury News.
The Soviet Union and China wanted to be seen as supporting Hanoi in the signal anti-colonial cum revolutionary struggle of the day. What they insisted upon in return was that Hanoi obey their dictates as to how the war should be fought, so that it accorded with their national interests and with communist ideology as they promulgated it. Their strictures could extend from weighty issues such as whether peace talks should be held — the Soviet Union largely in favor, China largely opposed — to the micromanaging of Hanoi’s military efforts. Mao, after all, was the fabled genius of guerilla war: to disobey his instructions could be taken as an insult to the Great Helmsman. China provided less material support to Hanoi than the Soviet Union but the threat of its intervention imposed some limits on the application of American force.
All this was further complicated by Nixon’s trip to China, and his subsequent visit to the Soviet Union. Both Moscow and Beijing sought the kind of relationship with Washington that would free them to confront other in earnest, in combat if necessary. Hang points out that the rivalry between the two Communist powers had pushed well beyond Marxist polemics by 1969 when “no fewer than 400 clashes occurred between the two nations’ border troops.”
Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam
While most historians of the Vietnam War focus on the origins of US involvement and the Americanization of the conflict, Lien-Hang T. Nguyen examines the international context in which North Vietnamese leaders pursued the war and American intervention ended. This riveting narrative takes the listener from the marshy Mekong Delta swamps to the bomb-saturated Red River Delta, from the corridors of power in Hanoi and Saigon to the Nixon White House, and from the peace negotiations in Paris to high-level meetings in Beijing and Moscow, all to reveal that peace never had a chance in Vietnam.
Hanoi’s War renders transparent the internal workings of America’s most elusive enemy during the Cold War and shows that the war fought during the peace negotiations was bloodier and much more far-reaching than thought before. Using never-before-seen archival materials from the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as materials from other archives around the world, Nguyen explores the politics of warmaking and peacemaking not only from the North Vietnamese perspective but also from that of South Vietnam, the Soviet Union, China, and the United States, presenting a uniquely international portrait.
Thomas E. Ricks, ‘Hanoi’s War’: A different view of how the Communists conducted the Vietnam war, Foreignpolicy.com, September 12, 2012.
I’m not a fan of diplomatic history, but still found parts of Hanoi’s War fascinating. It changed the way I think about the Vietnam War. For example: “Ho and Giap were sidelined by Le Duan and Le Duc Tho at nearly all key decision-making junctures . . . . It is worth contemplating how Hanoi’s war would have been different had Ho and Giap been in charge.”
The basic argument of the book is that Ho Chi Minh was a figurehead and that the war was run by “the Comrades Le.” In 1967, opposition inside the Communist Party to the planned Tet Offensive was so pronounced that there was a series of purges and arrests, including generals allied with General Giap. “The alleged traitors were imprisoned in central Hanoi at Hoa Lo, known to Americans as the ‘Hanoi Hilton.'” Giap himself was pushed in a kind of temporary self-exile.
The focus of participants to post-American Vietnam began to shift surprisingly early. In 1970, Hanoi already was beginning to fear that China would dominate postwar Indochina. Meanwhile, in Cambodia, not long afterward, Pol Pot began killing off his Hanoi-trained cadres.
Nor did I know that Hanoi was very upset and worried by Nixon’s 1972 visit to Beijing. And with good reason: That year, both Beijing and Moscow began cutting their military aid to the North Vietnamese.
All in all, it reminded me of Piers Mackesy’s classic The War for America, which shows us the American revolution through the eyes of the British government.
— Thomas E. Ricks
Whatever you think you know about the war in Vietnam will be challenged, revised, and deepened by this remarkable book. . . . Hanois War is a must-read. . . .The book deserves more attention than it has thus far received. It enriches our understanding of the War in Vietnam and by implication, subsequent American commitments, including the war in Afghanistan.
“Without question, Hanoi’s War stands as a major accomplishment and one of the most important scholarly works to appear on this later, and relatively understudied, phase of the struggle.”
“Whatever you think you know about the war in Vietnam will be challenged, revised, and deepened by this remarkable book. . . . ###Hanoi’s War# is a must-read. . . .The book deserves more attention than it has thus far received. It enriches our understanding of the War in Vietnam and by implication, subsequent American commitments, including the war in Afghanistan.”
—Short Fuse Book Review
“A must addition for any academic library today. Essential. All levels/libraries.”
“Hanoi’s War is first-rate. The scope is ambitious…. The value of Hanoi’s War is its use of existing records to produce a new interpretation of Hanoi’s struggle. It adds a valuable new chapter to the international history of the war.”
–Journal of Military History
“Stunning…. [Nguyen] presents a compelling view from “the other side of the hill.”
“[A] deeply researched, well-argued book.”
–The VVA Veteran
“Using important new documentation from across the world, most notably Vietnam, Lien-Hang Nguyen has written the first truly authoritative account of the negotiations that led to the 1973 Paris Peace Accords. Hanoi’s War is an extraordinary achievement, an indispensable contribution to the rapidly changing history of the conflicts in Vietnam.”
–George C. Herring, author of America’s Longest War: The United States in Vietnam, 1950-1975
“At last, a genuinely international history of the Vietnam war that solidly rests on Vietnamese sources in order to offer a deep analysis of the war from the other side. This is one of the most important books published on the Vietnam War in the last thirty years.”
–Marilyn B. Young, New York University
“Nguyen’s beautifully crafted and original book makes a transformative contribution to the study of the Vietnam wars. In offering a compelling analysis of newly available Vietnamese source material set against a capacious international canvas, Nguyen lets us fully understand how and why this tragic war finally came to an end. No one has so richly captured how the Vietnamese made their own history, and at the same time produced such a luminous work of international history.”
–Mark Philip Bradley, University of Chicago
“Nguyen’s magnificent book is truly an international history of the war, with new Vietnamese sources and serious attention to international actors. Scholars of the Vietnam War and the Cold War will be in her debt.”
–Andrew Preston, Cambridge University
Awards & Distinctions
2012 Edward M. Coffman Prize, Society for Military History