Friday, March 18, 2016

The Lost Mandate of Heaven (Ignatius Press)

The Vietnam War was a dark point in world history. The U.S. lost the lives of many soldiers, and those that returned fell through the cracks of our medical system, suffering physically, mentally, and emotionally. There were also countless lives lost by both North and South Vietnam, but ultimately North Vietnam and the communists "won." There was apparently more to this dark war that went on than we knew about until very recently. Primarily, former President John F. Kennedy and the United States were responsible for the death of South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem. The book The Lost Mandate of Heaven, by Geoffrey Shaw, explains this betrayal.

The book begins reflecting on the assassination of Diem and how even years later, Vietnamese people were trying to keep his memory alive. It then explains how he believed family was one of the most important responsibilities of society. It also details how he tried to restore traditional Vietnamese society. The book then is essentially a history lesson on relations between the U.S. and South Vietnam. You will read about diplomacy in  South Vietnam in the 1950s-1960s, U.S. ambassador Dubrow's condescension towards South Vietnam and Diem, the new ambassador Nolting, isolation and doubt in Diem's ability to lead South Vietnam, and the coup that eventually led to Diem's death.

This book was very difficult to read for many reasons, but I will just focus on two. For starters, the history aspect of it is very specialized. It is a mix of U.S., Vietnam, and military history and the level of detail, while impressive, can weigh the casual reader down. The other reason the book is tough to read is you know how it is going to end. The book does a good job of painting Diem in a good light, but you ultimately know he is going to be assassinated, so it's tough to read, because it feels like you are just waiting for it to happen. Those complaints aside, I think it was important that this book was written. Too often, history is written by the winners. It was nice to expose light on a dark moment in U.S. and Vietnam history and was pleasing that the truth came out, even if it is a poor reflection of our nation. All that said, I am not the audience for this book, but if you think you might be the audience for this book, I recommend it. If not, perhaps just borrow it from a friend, as it might not be your cup of tea.

This book was provided to me for free by Carmel Communications in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!