Q: What are some of the significant questions in the field that you feel need to be addressed in greater detail or, alternatively, which questions need to be reconsidered by contemporary scholars?
How can historians best represent what Phillip B. Davidson accurately called a “mosaic war”?
How can they make generalizations about a conflict that was so multifaceted and differed from place to place and changed in character, rather significantly, over time? Provincial studies long have been important to our field in answering such questions, beginning with Jeffrey Race’s War Comes to Long An and continuing with Eric M. Bergerud’s The Dynamics of Defeat: The Vietnam War in Hau Nghia Province. More recent historians are adding their voices by helping us understand the war’s sometimes dizzying complexity. Among these are: Losing Binh Dinh: The Failure of Pacification and Vietnamization, 1969-1971 by Kevin M. Boylan; To Build as Well as Destroy: American Nation Building in South Vietnam by Andrew J. Gawthorpe; and The Control War: The Struggle for South Vietnam, 1968-1975 by Martin G. Clemis.
For me, the key is embracing this complexity, avoiding searches for either blame or easy answers. As directors Ken Burns and Lynn Novick tried to demonstrate in their epic ten-part documentary The Vietnam War, “There is no single truth in war.”
Read the full article here.