Reckoning: Vietnam and America’s Cold War Experience, 1945-1991

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The Cold War has been over since 1989 or maybe 1991. The jury may still be out on the exact death knell of the East-West tensions. Reckoning is a comprehensive take on the Cold War through the lens of the Vietnam War. The author sees the left (Democrats) bearing as much blame as the right (Republicans) for Korea and Vietnam. Some wars have been cast as good wars while others have been called bad. Reckoning attempts to rectify and modify the views on the conflicts engaged in the fight against Communism. The end of World War II saw the US victorious yet already paranoid about their former ally, the Soviet Union. President Truman assumed the mantle of hawk in his attempts to defeat Communism through aid to European countries and covert action. Containment was a key word. The alleged penetration of the previous FDR administration by Communists or those with Communist sympathies had led to appeasement of the “Evil Empire.” Truman was attempting to check these advances, which led to the conflict in Korea.

A brutal war with far too many casualties led to a stalemate in 1953. Truman was out, Eisenhower was in. Covert actions across the globe would be initiated while Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy spotted Communists in every corner of government, leading to shattered lives and the left’s willingness to sell out their dovish natures. The beginnings of the Vietnam quagmire had already appeared with the French fall at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and the US allocating money to a doomed occupier. The Kennedy administration allocated military advisors to the divided Vietnam, where a Catholic leader was out of step with his Buddhist citizens, among others. The Kennedy administration oversaw the disaster at the Bay of Pigs, where Cuban exiles attempted to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime but were quickly beaten back and humiliated. The author sees Kennedy as a reckless warrior whose failures would ultimately come back to haunt the US and future administrations. LBJ’s lies regarding the Gulf of Tonkin mired the US in Vietnam for future years, leading to death and destruction that wouldn’t end unofficially until 1973. The failures and occasional successes would last up to and including the George HW Bush administration when Communism fell.

Reckoning is a comprehensive re-examination of a tumultuous 40 years in our world where annihilation never seemed too far away. Neal Thompson was able to view the goings on of the Cold War through his military service. The reader may take exception to the author’s opinions, but that should not detract from a powerful read in which new questions are raised about our political and military history. An excellent work.


Reviewed By:

Author Neal F. Thompson
Star Count 4.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 545 pages
Publisher Amazon Books
Publish Date 2013-May-01
ISBN 9780615622729
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue January 2018
Category History
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