David J. Kilcullen, Counterinsurgency (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 272 pp., $15.95.
Ted Morgan, Valley of Death: The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War (New York: Random House, 2010), 752 pp., $35.00.
Megan K. Stack, Every Man in This Village is a Liar: An Education in War (New York: Doubleday, 2010), 272 pp., $26.95.
WHILE DISSIMILAR in style and focus, these three books—a history, a memoir and a theory—address the core of any insurgency: the relationship between a government and its people. Pulitzer Prize–winner Ted Morgan has created a masterpiece of research and insights connecting the front lines of Dien Bien Phu with the politics of the 1954 Geneva Conference that marked America’s entry into the Vietnam War. Los Angeles Times reporter Megan Stack presents a devastating collection of personal anecdotes about callous, oppressive male rulers in the culture of the Middle East. David Kilcullen, a former Australian Army officer, reprises from previous lectures and essays his theory about benign counterinsurgency in support of nation building.
Valley of Death: The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War THE THIRTEEN thousand defenders at Dien Bien Phu, 185 miles west of the main French garrison in Hanoi, were supplied only by parachute drops. Their mission was to await the assault of the Vietminh and then destroy General Giap’s forces by overwhelming defensive firepower. It was the Valley of Death. Morgan limns the colossal ineptitude of the French generals and colonels who deluded themselves while Giap methodically whittled down the defenders using barrages from Chinese-supplied artillery combined with wave attacks by fifty thousand soldiers.