Bailey83221 (bailey83221) wrote,

==New York Times on [[Guenter Lewy]]’s book America in Vietnam ==

"To journalists in the field, scholars at home often seemed isolated from empirical truth, over dependent on official documents and too easily entrapped by a point of view, be it dovish or hawkish."

Lewy’s book on Vietnam is likely to expose him to exactly this class of criticism, fair or otherwise.

Dr. Lewy's views are shared by many Americans...Lewy holds that America was justified in involving itself in Vietnam, that...the US observed the rules of war while its enemy did not, and that our side should and probably could have won, if things worked out differently.

Dr. Lewy organizes his frequently interesting archival material to fit (his) views, and "America in Vietnam" is, in many respects, a tract.

It is flawed by some evident biases, some errors and the monochromatism (colorblindness) arising from the author's apparent lack of first-hand experience in Vietnam.

But interesting though his documentary reporting is, military archives taken in themselves, as Dr. Lewy has done, can be monstrously misleading.

Balance is strikingly lacking in Dr. Lewy’s book.

One senses in this and other books of the genre that the author’s instinctive scientific skepticism has been dazzled and blunted by gaining access to what were once official secretes. Secrecy in itself seems somehow to connote truth.

…Dr. Lewy acknowledges repeatedly in his book that both Vietnamese and American officials were powerfully motivated to make their efforts appear to their superiors more successful than they really were. Throughout a decade and a half of war, official reporting therefore tended to move between mildly inflated optimism and outright lies, and this was as true of secret intelligence reporting as it was of public propaganda. The exaggeration process applied to bomb-damage assessments , pacification progress reports, enemy prisoner interrogation transcripts and every other kind of official data.

Having allowed this, Dr. Lewy invites the reader to accept these same reports to support his book’s sweeping conclusions, some of which, in this reviewer's opinion, are grossly askew.

From the perspective afforded by seven years in Indochina covering the war at very close quarters, this reviewer is inclined to accept Dr. Lewy’s assertion that American atrocities in the field were neither countenanced by official policy not common. The bland use of words like genocide by some of the antiwar zealots seemed utterly unwarranted and unconscionable.

On the other hand, Dr. Lewy makes some dubious assertions to support his case. He writes, for example, that “as of now…we have no firm evidence of any direct danger to human health caused by herbicides.” The scientific literature hardly sustains such a statement. The scientific literature hardly sustains such a statement. Whatever the justifications and good intentions of the defoliation campaign in Vietnam, there seems little doubt today that defoliating spray sometimes contains dioxin, an impurity that is a deadly poison in minute quantities (see, for example, the study by Dr. Coleman D. Carter, et al., on tetrachlorodibenzodioxin as a source of poisoning in humans and animals, published in the May 16, 1975 issue of Science.){{ref|NYT}}


# {{note|NYT}} Selling The War; Vietnam Malcolm W. Browne. [[New York Times]] Nov 19, 1978. p. BR3
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