vietnam: the ten thousand day war

this the name of a book i have been reading by a journalist and documentary maker, Michael Maclear, who also made a film of the same name. so far i've read almost half of this book, which deals with the conflict in a lot of detail and background, starting with the beginning of the Vietnamese liberation war against the French after WWII. i'm now up to 1965 - the start of the US land war. as you might expect, this book is to a certain extent centred on the demands and effects of the war on US and South Vietnamese history and society. i chose this book because while i had been reading some history about Southeast Asia in this period, i didn't know that much about the actual history of the conflict.

this is the problem with history - once you have become interested in something, you can't simply read one book on it - there have to be several viewpoints before you can make any sense of or form an opinion on anything. a very interesting book about the wider issues and conflicts in South East Asia during this period is "An Eye for the Dragon" by Dennis Bloodworth. Dennis Bloodworth was the London Observer correspondent to the Far East from 1956. This description of his book was taken from Pointer, the journal of the singaporean armed forces:

In his second book An Eye for the Dragon, Dennis Bloodworth writes on the turbulent events in Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines and Singapore in the period 1954 to 1970. He tells of the megalomaniac Sukarno of Indonesia, Cambodia's Prince Sihanouk, the love-hate relationship the Prime Minister of Singapore has with his former British masters and the story of how the colonial masters ­ the British, French, Dutch have been involved in this region.

prior to this i read "At War with Asia" by Noam Chomsky, which deals in 3 sections with the US aggression against Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. as usual in his books, Chomsky focuses on a critique of the actions and propaganda of the US government and military in this sphere.

my initial inspiration to read all these books, and generally become interested in Vietnam, was the brillian spy novel "An Honourable Schoolboy" by John le Carré. this is the second in his "smiley vs. karla" trilogy, begun by the well-known "tinker, tailor, soldier, spy". while the first book in the trilogy, is a more straightforward whodunnit, and the third is mainly concerned with the resolution of the conflict between the British and Russian spymasters, this second book draws a wide journalistic arc outside of le Carré's usual Cold War stories, and through the entire South East Asian region at the time of the American pull out. Jerry Westerby, the book's genial antihero, is sent on a mission which takes him through Hong Kong, communist China, war torn Laos, besieged Saigon, Phnom Penh under the Khmer Rouge and a vast American airbase.

like all of le Carré's books, this features a compelling plot of spies, double agents, treason and secret war, however, in a manner most like his more recent books ("The Night Manager", "The Constant Gardener", "Single vs Single", as well as, less recently "The Little Drummer Girl" and others), he seems to use the novelistic form deliberately as a form of journalism, in order to reveal to us the truth about the horrors and absurditites of this war and other political issues. This means the casual reader will pick up a lot about Vietnam from "The Honourable Schoolboy", and I recommend it, but especially with "An Eye for the Dragon" as a 'factual' companion to anyone interested in this period of history.

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