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The Vietnam war and its legacy

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The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam. By Max Boot. Liveright; 768 pages; $35. Head of Zeus; £30.

BECAUSE the Vietnam war was the first that the United States unequivocally lost, American treatments of it are often couched as might-have-beens. Liberals look for moments when America might have avoided the war; conservatives search for ways that it could have been won. The latter temptation grew after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, when America again became mired in guerrilla conflicts. In the late 2000s, neo-conservative authors began arguing that America could have triumphed in Vietnam (and, by extension, could win in Afghanistan and Iraq) by committing to so-called “counter-insurgency” strategies, which involve political nation-building rather than relying solely on firepower. Practitioners of counter-insurgency (including H.R. McMaster, who later became Donald Trump’s national-security adviser) rose to the top of…Continue reading

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