Hanoi's War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam
University of North Carolina Press (Footprint), $56.95 hb, 458 pp, 9780807835517
Although the Vietnam War ended thirty-nine years ago, we have had to wait until now for a full and rigorous scholarly analysis of Hanoi’s policies during that war. Much important material from the war years survived in the archives of the former North Vietnamese ministries, but for a long time it was off limits to Westerners. Gradually, over the past twenty years, things have changed. Hanoi has opened up on the war, first through meetings between former leaders, such as Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and General Vo Nguyen Giap, then through academic research groups and conferences, and more recently through the granting of archival access to independent Western scholars. This increasing access to information is, of course, part of Vietnam’s wider process of developing closer relations with other countries, especially the United States, to hedge against Chinese domination in South-East Asia. It is ironic that there is now a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement in place between the United States and Vietnam and that Vietnam has had a similar Partnership Agreement with Australia since 2009. What on earth was that war about?