Vietnam Books Playing Key Role in Afghan War Debate

Competing works on Vietnam War top policymakers' reading lists
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 7, 2009 8:24 AM CDT
"Lessons in Disaster" describes how McGeorge Bundy, who pushed for escalating the war in Vietnam during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, came to regret that decision.   (Amazon)
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(Newser) – A pair of books on the Vietnam War—one on why America should never have gotten involved, and one on how it could have won—are providing the framework for the Washington debate over Afghanistan strategy, insiders say. Lessons in Disaster, which describes how the White House was pushed into an "unwinnable" war by the military, is being read in the West Wing, while A Better War, which describes a military that has figured out how to counter an insurgency just as it is forced to end the fight by politicians, is on Pentagon reading lists.

A Better War, which argues that American intervention in Vietnam would have succeeded if the strategies employed after 1968 had been used from the outset, helped convert many skeptics on Capitol Hill in 2007 ahead of the surge in Iraq. Opponents of increasing troops in Afghanistan now say Lessons in Disaster neatly sums up their concerns. Both books, the Wall Street Journal notes, have been flying off the bookshelves in DC so fast it's now tough to find a copy of either one.