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Where the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam 1945-1995
In Where the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam 1945-1995, James S. Olson and Randy Roberts provide a compact history of the war and its resulting aftermath. The authors work to explain one of the most important and difficult issues in war history - the U.S. And its involvement in the Vietnam War. Throughout the years since the war ended, people have said that it was the wrong war, the wrong time, and the wrong place. That sentiment is accurate in explaining the basic gist of the book, as well. The entire ordeal is explained by the authors, and the historical facts to back it up are provided. Since there is so much confusion that often surrounds talk of the Vietnam War, Olson & Roberts (2008) sort out the information and allow the reader to simply see the facts and interpret the meaning on his or her own. That is far different than many other books on the war, as they often focus on issues such as propaganda and how a person should feel about the war, as opposed to simply providing facts and information that allow a person to decide his or her own feelings about the U.S. presence in Vietnam during the war and all that took place.
The overall content is very entertaining, and there is a lot that can be learned from this particular book. The narration is in a chronological style that allows for clarity. People who are not familiar with the Vietnam War can follow the events and understand everything that is taking place. It is not necessary for the reader to have a good, working knowledge of the war before starting to read the book, and that helps all readers of the book feel comfortable with the presented information. Readers will not get lost in this book in any way, whether they are war buffs or they are just starting to look for and read information that will provide them with a better understanding of what actually happened in Vietnam. By providing an overview of the past of Vietnam as a country, Olson & Roberts (2008) set the groundwork for the book and provide the reader with a better understanding of the culture and life in the country in which the war was being fought. That adds a dimension to the book that would have been lost without the introduction and backgrounding.
One of the best things about the book was the way Olson & Roberts (2008) skillfully wove the past and the present together. They carefully explained the actions, behaviors, and decisions of the Vietminh and used supporting facts that came directly from history. Significant people in the war were always introduced to the reader by a short background, and that allowed the reader to feel as though he or she really knew the people who were discussed in the book. Many books introduce characters, whether they are fiction of nonfiction, but this book did a particularly good job of giving the reader a feel for the character right away and allowing the character's most important attributes to shine through. By doing that the authors showed not only that they understood what was important to the reader, but that they also clearly understood the Vietnam War and the key players who were part of that war. There are so many names with which to contend and there were so many significant individuals who were involved in the Vietnam War that the authors' use of detail was really vital to clear up any perplexity that would have occurred from simply discussing so many people. The background information helped to show the reader which characters throughout the book were the most important and had the most to contribute.
Instead of allowing their book to become another tale of propaganda, Olson and Roberts (2008) instead decided to facilitate a good understanding of the military aspects of the Vietnam War. There were many operations and a host of different battle sites in the war, and the authors made sure to discuss them all. Each military action had a concise definition, and an explanation followed that action and definition. In addition, the authors included opposing views so as to show that they had really done their homework on the war. Experience as well as verified facts from the past were both used to support the information that was provided. Politics were a big part of the Vietnam War, and the book addresses that quite clearly. However, Olson and Roberts (2008) go a step further and recognize that politics was not the only issue that was being faced. Culture and religion were both very important, and they should not be ignored in the context of the war. Because there are so many issues that the authors bring to light, the book is a very well-rounded account of the war. The supporting statements are credible, and it is clear that Olson and Roberts (2008) really want to do justice to the war and ensure that everyone who reads their book is aware of all of the issues surrounding it and the implications that it provided for politics during that time period.
Many people who are too young to remember the Vietnam War - and a large number of people who are not too young to remember that time period in history - have misconceptions about the war. They tend to either idealize it and glorify it in some way, or they are so against it that they have trouble explaining why they feel that way and what they are really against, overall. Some see it in very black-and-white terms, where the communists were bad and the Americans were good, and that was the end of the discussion. That simple grasp of the concept has influenced many books that have been written about the Vietnam War, and has also influenced the way many people read books about the war. If one goes into reading this book with that mindset, one will miss out on so much of what the authors have to convey about the war and its affect on the lives of so many different people. By going into this book with an open mind and setting aside anything one may previous know or think that he or she knows about the Vietnam War, it is possible to collect a great deal of good information that can be provided and that can change the way one thinks about the world, one's place in it, and the history of which one has been a part.
The communists were not ruthless murderers, as they have been portrayed in so many books. Instead, they are shown as fiercely nationalistic and wanting only the best for their country (Olson & Roberts, 2008). They believed that what their country needed was socialism and reunification. Whether that was the best choice or not is not really the argument that the authors are interested in making. What they are more interested in doing - and what they do quite well - is to show that there is so much more to the Vietnam War than what the majority of people today have been told. Issues (especially those that involve wars with other countries) are rarely black and white. There are all sorts of shades of gray that have to be considered if one is to truly be honest with oneself about something as complex as a war. Wars are not fought over nothing, or for no reason. Regardless of which side is right or wrong in the eyes of others, both sides have something for which they feel a fight is necessary. They believe in the merit of what they are doing, so much so that they will go to war to defend it. That is the message that Olson & Roberts (2008) convey so well in their account of the Vietnam War and the issues that surround that period in history.
One of the biggest concerns for many Americans regarding the Vietnam War was the reason behind the war itself. Why was America fighting? What were the American soldiers over in Vietnam for, and what did they hope to accomplish? By the end of the war, the soldiers and the rest of America really could not answer those questions. Instead, the Vietnam War had become a political game where politicians with opposing points-of-view fought against one another for the approval of the American public (Olson & Roberts, 2008). There were four presidents that presided over the war, and three of them had the option to pull out of that war at any time - but yet they did not. In the eyes of many people, these presidents placed their careers in politics far ahead of the lives of thousands of soldiers, simply because they did not want to be known as a president who had lost a war. There were irrational decisions made due to immense…[continue]
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