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Backfire and Vietnam Book Reviews

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In the book, “Backfire: A History of How American Culture Led Us Into Vietnam and Made Us Fight the Way We Did”, author Loren Baritz likens the American involvement in the Vietnam War to a fire complete with the “tinder” then the “fire” itself and ending with the “backfire”.  Baritz wrote this book in hopes to answer the following questions:

  • “Can our nation learn from the Vietnam experience that fire is hot?” 
  • Americans have the opportunity to play with lots of matches but do we know how not to get burned?
Backfire and Vietnam

There are various reasons to go to war according to each culture, and differences in ways of battle, but the connections of culture and war are seen in every nation.  The beginning part of the book, deals with the “tinder”.  It examines the assumptions  Americans make about values and traditional perceptions.  These assumptions are just taken for granted and seldom explained.  They are the myths that lay on the backbone of our patriotism and nationalism.  It is exactly this idealism that led Americans to Vietnam.

The second part of the book is called the “fire”.  It deals with the political reasons for getting involved with Vietnam.  All areas of government play a part in the political culture of Americans and it is their assumptions of power and past decisions that fueled specific thoughts on handling the Vietnam crisis.

The end of the book is compared to the “backfire”.  This examines the backlash brought on by the bureaucracy that made the war take place in Vietnam; the reactions of the men fighting the war; and the American way of life.  Military decisions must be examined in the real-life bureaucratic circumstance in which they would take place.

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