Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965

Author: Mark Moyar
Cambridge University Press

In reading this book one should keep in mind the difference between fact and judgment. Dr. Moyar's book offers his judgment about facts that he presents. Orthodox historians of the war in Vietnam can accept his facts, add some facts of their own and make judgments contrary to Moyar's. Judgment about U.S. military involvement in Vietnam is going to continue to be divided according to conflicting big-picture interpretations.  

In Chapter One, Moyar writes that "driving out foreign invaders was not the main chord of Vietnam's national song; in-fighting was the primary chord." Moyar wishes to deny the nationalism that motivated Ho Chi Minh and his supporters: the desire to be rid of rule by foreigners. Nationalism was a major force in the twentieth century. It played a role in attracting some in Asia, including Ho Chi Minh, to social revolution and Communism. Ho Chi Minh was a Marxist-Leninist who resorted to brutal methods, but to say that "infighting was the primary chord" is an absurdity. Infighting is not a goal. Infighting is the result of conflicting goals.    

To Moyar's main point, he judges the rule of Ngo Dien Diem south of the 17th parallel in Vietnam to have been legitimate. Communists and their supporters in Vietnam believed the Diem regime was not legitimate, and they believed they had more right to apply their wills in Vietnam, north and south, than did we Americans. Moyar has his facts. Those who judge differently from Moyar have their facts: the 1954 Geneva Agreements, the phony elections in South Vietnam in 1955 that gave Diem his presidency (look it up) and so on. Moyar's book has a statement before the title page that claims:

Drawing from a wealth of new evidence from all sides Triumph Forsaken overturns most of the historical orthodoxy on the Vietnam War.

This claim is preposterous. We know that Diem was a sincere nationalist and much more, but it does not destroy the arguments of the many scholars and others who believe that U.S. intervention in Vietnam was a mistake. They have their facts and the facts presented by Moyar.

And there will continue to be those in the U.S. who believe that, no matter what, more military force should have been applied in Vietnam for the sake of triumph in rolling back Communism.

Copyright © 2007-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.