The Vietnam War Debate: Hans J. Morgenthau and the Attempt to Halt the Drift into Disaster

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9780739137697: The Vietnam War Debate: Hans J. Morgenthau and the Attempt to Halt the Drift into Disaster
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This book tells the story of how America's national leadership failed the nation and produced the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history to that time. It is foremost, however, the story of a great man who tried to halt his nation's drift into what became an American tragedy. It is also a story that has never before been told. As the war escalated, a variety of critics emerged to challenge the war policy and thus my book is about the national debate in which University of Chicago Professor Hans J. Morgenthau emerged as the chief opponent of the war. Morgenthau argued relentlessly in teach-ins around the country, in public debates and in hundreds of articles that Vietnam was never a threat to America's security and that the war should never have been fought. In the history of the national debate on Vietnam, it is Morgenthau who is the hero of the anti-war movement and the centerpiece of my study. Morgenthau had written the basic text on foreign policy, Politics Among Nations, and had established the field of international relations as an independent discipline of study. His arguments against the war derive from these earliest writings and are elaborated in this book, the principles of which remain valid today. The war ended in 1975 as North Vietnamese troops marched into Saigon after over 58,000 American servicemen and millions of Vietnamese had died in the fighting. The war could have been averted, Morgenthau was ignored, American policy-makers misunderstood the nature of the civil conflict in Vietnam. As Morgenthau told an interviewer in July, 1965, "What I have said recently I have been saying for years, without anybody paying any attention."

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About the Author:

Louis B. Zimmer is professor emeritus of history at Montclair State University.

Review:

Hans Morgenthau was my teacher, mentor and friend. He recommended me for my law professorship. It was my great honor and distinct pleasure to have studied with Morgenthau while he was heroically leading the forces of opposition to the genocidal Vietnam War at great personal cost to himself and his family. Morgenthau’s stellar example of brilliance in the service of courage, integrity and principles has inspired and motivated me now for over four decades. After reading Zimmer’s compelling book, Morgenthau will do the same for you. Zimmer vividly brings back to life Morgenthau, his epic battle against the Vietnam War, and those tumultuous and tragic events that shaped my generation and determined the destinies of two nations only now beginning to reconcile—a volte-face preternaturally predicted by Morgenthau during the darkest days of the wars. This book is required reading for all those seeking to pursue peace with justice in today’s increasingly troubled and endangered world. Humanity desperately needs more like Morgenthau in order to survive. Zimmer explains why. A real tour de force of engaged historical research and scholarship. (Francis A. Boyle, University of Illinois)

Dr. Zimmer provides an exhaustively researched account of Hans J. Morgenthau's campaign against the United States's involvement in the Vietnam War. Zimmer reminds us about the central role that Margenthau played in formulating an authoritative and intellectual framework for opposing the war. (David E. Settje, Concordia University Chicago)

Louis B. Zimmer has written a compelling study of Hans J. Morgenthau, international foreign policy expert and principal critic of the American war in Vietnam. Through extensive research, Zimmer’s book provides a thorough account of Morgenthau’s arguments and demonstrates clearly how history has proven him to be right. Endorsing Morgenthau, Zimmer makes a strong argument against ideological bases for foreign policy decisions and the strength of his book lies in his voluminous research that draws both an explicit and implicit parallel to contemporary foreign policy decisions. (Pamela A. Pears, Washington College)

This is an intriguing peek into the public debate before and after the final commitment of ground troops in Vietnam in 1965, seen through the eyes and opinions of Hans Morgenthau, a widely respected foreign policy expert and academic. It is a good start in analyzing the language of intervention. Morgenthau forthrightly warned that Vietnam was a hopeless venture and urged restraint. Contrasting his transparent approach was the often hazy language of careerists and political advisors seeking fame and the pleasing of their bosses. Zimmer (emer., Montclair State Univ.) is particularly harsh on McGeorge Bundy and Robert McNamara, seeing them as dishonest, both in and out of government....Zimmer does carefully examine the often dishonest and contradictory nature of the so-called liberal organs, such as The New York Times. An interesting work on all levels. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. (CHOICE)

The sheer breadth of primary-source-material research that Zimmer undertook for this book is impressive. Immersion in the archive allows him to gain insight into the mentalities of both the architects of the conflict and, at least for Zimmer, their most significant critic. Zimmer’s documentary approach reveals both the depths of the American foreign policy elite’s ideologically driven crusade against monolithic Communism and the extent of their rage against Morgenthau’s opposition to their politics in Vietnam....Zimmer’s book is very valuable in that it examines the debates and issues of the 1960s through the prism of the career of one of America’s foremost public intellectuals.... Zimmer provides an excellent insight into the importance of knowing Morgenthau to a new generation of IR students who can benefit from his insights in an age also characterized by long-standing wars and serious crises. (The Review of Politics)

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