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March 24, 2005



Pat, if you are interested in a good history of Vietnam and the American War, you should check out "Fire in the Lake" by Francis something or other. It's a great look at the cultural history of the country which shaped the responses to French and then American intervention in both North and South Vietnam.

Re your Fog of War review above, I saw it as well and really enjoyed it. I think that Macnamara went and visited W before the begining of our current war and advised him against it.


Funny you should mention Fire On The Lake, it's one of the books Templer cites as creating a mythologized bunk history-reducing the people and history into stereotypes:

"What FitzGerald constructs is essentially the same as the French colonial picture of Vietnam as the dullard offspring of a richer Chinese culture. Vietnam's own complex history of conquest, integration, passivity, and resisitance does not figure here. The rich mix of religions and political beliefs, the evolving and changingsocial structures, the influences of colonialism and Vietnams's neighbors other than China are left out; FitzGerald and many other prefer no to muddy their clear COnfucian vision with any distractions." (Templer 17-18)


He could be right, I'm certainly no expert, but poking holes in a historical theory for reliance on perceived trend or stereotype is sort of a weak shot. To some extent, history begins with stereotype.

I'll admit, that Fitzgerald does dip into the Confucian well often as an illustration or explanation of a generalized Vietnamese reaction to French and American occupation, but as a fairly unshcooled reader it doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

In any case, it's well written, interesting and informative to the novice in Vietnamese history. Whether or not it is bunk, I don't know. I leave it to the academics.

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