The Vietnam War is notoriously difficult to explain. The war lasted so long, passed through so many phases, and involved such a wide range of people and groups in Vietnam, the United States, and other countries that the task of explaining it all in a single volume is nearly impossible. Several recent books have tried to make sense of the conflict, with varying degrees of success. The books under review are syntheses aimed at undergraduate students and general readers. Although both books have their strong points, neither of them provides a comprehensive or satisfactory account of the war.

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