This beautifully crafted and solidly researched book explains why and how the United States made its first commitment to Vietnam in the late 1940s. Mark Atwood Lawrence deftly explores the process by which the Western powers set aside their fierce disagreements over colonialism and extended the Cold War fight into the Third World. Drawing on an unprecedented array of sources from three countries, Lawrence illuminates the background of the U.S. government's decision in 1950 to send military equipment and economic aid to bolster France in its war against revolutionaries. That decision, he argues, marked America's first definitive step toward embroilment in Indochina, the start of a long series of moves that would lead the Johnson administration to commit U.S. combat forces a decade and a half later. One of the first scholars to mine the diplomatic materials housed in European archives, Lawrence offers a nuanced triangulation of foreign policy as it developed among French, British, and U.S. diplomats and policymakers.
He also brings out the calculations of Vietnamese nationalists who fought bitterly first against the Japanese and then against the French as they sought their nation's independence. Assuming the Burden is an eloquent illustration of how elites, operating outside public scrutiny, make decisions with enormous repercussions for decades to come.
Table of Contents
Preface Introduction PART ONE: CONTESTING VIETNAM 1. Visions of Indochina and the World 2. U.S. Assistance and Its Limits 3. Illusions of Autonomy PART TWO: CONSTRUCTING VIETNAM 4. Crisis Renewed 5. Domestic Divides, Foreign Solutions 6. Closing the Circle Conclusion Notes Bibliography Index
Mark Atwood Lawrence is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin.