Read American Reckoning : The Vietnam War and Our National Identity by Christian G. Appy Free Online
Book Title: American Reckoning : The Vietnam War and Our National Identity|
The author of the book: Christian G. Appy
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 35.84 MB
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Reader ratings: 7.2
Edition: VIKING PRESS USA
Date of issue: March 19th 2015
ISBN 13: 9780670025398
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I bought this book with the expectation that it would examine how the Vietnam War changed the U.S., during, and more so, after it ended in 1975.
In the introduction the author states he does not want to give a “conventional chronological history”. I wanted an exploration, as the subtitle suggests, of “Our National Identity” and how it changed.
I don’t feel the book was successful in this. What we do get is another history of the Vietnam War that, for the most part, has already been dealt with in other books. For example My Lai is brought up as how American troops became vicious, massacring Vietnamese civilians – and that it was only one of many such incidents in Vietnam. But this is nothing new.
The author discusses how Americans are imbued with the aura of their “Exceptionalism” – they are a God-selected nation preordained to spread the Goodness of democracy through-out the world (one might say the same of the British and French Empires of centuries ago). But a more careful reading of American history does away with this myth – slavery, the genocide of all the indigenous peoples, and the raw imperialism of Manifest Destiny. But as the author states, particularly those in power, cling and expound this “Moral Exceptionalism”.
The author does claim, that for many Americans, Vietnam obliterated this “Exceptionalism”. But this, again, is not news; think of the countless newsreels, documentaries and movies spawned from Vietnam portraying a very negative America.
The author is passionate, but the book is a re-hash of history. He did kindle my interest when he spoke of how the U.S. during the 1970’s and 1980’s became transformed to a “victim nation” – victimized by the oil producing countries and the Iran hostage crisis. Reagan, to some extent, removed the guilt of Vietnam but replaced it with patriotism. But the damage had been done, with many Americans losing faith in their government. The Reagan image was above government.
I would have liked more of an examination of the Vietnam War’s impact on the concept of “liberalism” which has now become a very dirty word in the U.S.
I would also have liked a discussion of how a country, like the U.S., which has a free press, copes with war. As a contrast, one reason given for the collapse of the Soviet Union, was that the Soviet people were unaware of what was going on in Afghanistan during their war in the 1980’s where so much blood was shed. The Soviet people, more than the U.S., felt betrayed by their government.
The author summarizes many recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan in a very cursory fashion and vaguely connects these to Vietnam. Overall this book lacked substance.
Here are some books that probe further:
A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam
Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975
Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism 1959-1975
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