Opimons & ViewsnDispersing the FognGuenter Lewy: America in Vietnam;nOxford University Press; NewnYork.nby Alan J. Levinen1 his is an inspiring book, evennthough it deals with a very gloomy subject.nFor Guenter Lewy has shown thatnit is possible to uncover essential truthsnabout an event of recent history thatnhas been obscured by more controversy,nconfusion and deliberate lies, thannalmost any other in the twentieth century.nUsing original documents onlynrecently available, Lewy has done morento dispel the “fog of war” than anynother writer.nIn the first half of his book Lewy providesnthe reader with a sound, detailednaccount of the United States’ role innVietnam from the start of help to thenFrench in 1950 until the collapse ofn1975, concentrating on the period afternthe 1954 Geneva “agreements” andnparticularly on the massive Americannintervention after 1964. The latter halfnof the book is an analytical treatment ofnthe most controversial aspects of thenwar; the legality of American militaryntactics, war crimes, and the bombingnof North Vietnam.nBeyond explaining what happened,nwhich he does superbly, Lewy reachesntwo principal conclusions. First, thenfailure of American policy was due primarilynto failure within Vietnam; i.e.,nnot to political constraints or the collapsenof support for the war effort innthe United States. Second, and morenimportant, that “the sense of guiltncreated in the minds of many Americansnis not warranted and that the chargesnof officially condoned immoral conductnare without substance.” Lewy finds thatnthe war was proportionately less destructivenof civilian lives than WorldnAlan ]. Levine, a historian, is a frequentncontributor to these pages.n6nChronicles of CulturenWar II or Korea. There is no attempt tonblink the real war crimes that were committed;nthey are reviewed at sickeningnlength. However, Lewy shows convincinglynthat they were in no sense typicalnor simply the inevitable results ofnAmerican tactics. Lewy’s own viewnseems to be that the war was justified,nthough he argues that the Americannthe last possible minute during 1964-n1965. The Tonkin Gulf incidents werennot staged to provide an “excuse” fornAmerican intervention, and Johnsonndid not secretly decide to send Americanntroops or bomb North Vietnamnbefore 1965. When Johnson orderednthe Marines to land in March 1965, thisnwas part of a limited move to defend an”In cssi’nce. LL-WV has writrfP a cold war tract in ;hf gui.’ic ot senilis; rhenrecord siraisjhi on Vicmam . . . Lewys doubli’ standard oi moral appraisalnis eerywhere evident, albeit in a sneaky. coert sort of way . . . This makesnit a real weajion in the idetilogical campaign to restore American confidtnienin its imperial destiny in the; third world.”n— Satin )in”As scholarship. i.ev’s bocjk is a shodily piece ot work: as a moral undertaking,nii is sim[ily shameful.”n— Proiiressivengovernment continually overestimatednthe importance of both Vietnam andnSoutheast Asia as a whole in worldnpolitics. But he is content—or perhapsnjust sly enough—merely to remark thatnevents since 1975 lend “strength to thenview that the American attempt to preventna communist domination of thenarea was not without moral justification.”nWhat is left of the vast output ofnattacks on American policy in Vietnam,nwhich became virtually a growth industrynin the late 1960s and early 1970s.”nVery little. Lewy exposes most of thenantiwar charges, and certainly all ofnthe more extreme ones, as nonsense.nAn examination of the accusations madenagainst the conduct of the air war againstnNorth Vietnam, in particular, tends tonconfirm Hitler’s view that the biggernthe lie, the more easily it is believed.nLewy shows that the charges of deceptionnmade against President Johnsonnwere mostly unfounded, though thenfacts do show that while Johnson wasnhonest, he was guilty of wishful thinkingnand postponing difficult decisions untilnnnkey base, just as the President said, andnnot as a sneaky way of committing troopsnto a major ground campaign; that decisionnwas reluctantly made later. Contrarynto the claims of Theodore Drapernand Roger Hilsman, the government didnnot predate the enemy’s commitmentnof regular North Vietnamese troops tonjustify its action; it merely reported thenfacts as it knew them—in fact the sizenof the North Vietnamese force was underestimated.nThe claims of deceptionnturn out to be as false as the tediouslynsimilar claims made about many previousnAmerican wars, including WorldnWar II. The ready acceptance of suchncharges by American liberals, againstna liberal administration which strovenheroically to carry out their domesticnprogram, is astounding in retrospect.nThe wilder charges made by the leftnfare even less well. Lewy, of course,neasily disposes of the crazy argumentnthat the United States was committingn”genocide” in Vietnam. The claims thatnthe South Vietnamese government heldnhundreds of thousands of political prisonersnin terrible conditions—remembernthe “Tiger Cages”?—widely publicizedn