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Response to Review no. 711

I appreciate the thoroughness of Professor Horwood’s review of my book and for his kind comments about the approach and findings. With respect to his criticisms, it was not my intent to be ‘condescending’ towards revisionists in a couple of passages, but I can understand why that might appear to be the case; more importantly, the resolution of the ‘sovereign states’ or ‘civil war’ debate cannot, I agree, be resolved by a quantitative measure of relevant scholarly works. This relates directly to the ‘nation-building’ issue. The difficulty of measuring the ‘hearts-and-minds’ battle is underscored in the several local histories that I cite, but they also point to the challenges facing the Saigon government in rural South Vietnam; the ineptness of that regime often made the situation worse. Saigon was ‘winning’, they seem to say, but not ‘conclusively’. So it was a more fluid situation than orthodoxy traditionally acknowledges, and Professor Horwood sums up the point exceedingly well by observing that the illegitimate birth of South Vietnam did not mean that ‘the majority of the southern population supported the communists (though the extent to which they were enthusiastic about the Saigon government is of course debatable)’.

Lastly, I am pleased that Professor Horwood finds in my book the ‘first glimmerings’ of a synthesis of the scholarship on Vietnam. One reader of this manuscript objected to giving prominence to the ‘Clausewitzians’ and while I felt it necessary to highlight the best-known strain of revisionism, the relative demise of that argument in recent years (especially as evidence substantiates the great risks such a ‘victory’ strategy entailed) has led to a more productive and more scholarly strain of revisionism, which deals with the war more on its own terms and with due attention to the political-social dynamics within South Vietnam. That emphasis will facilitate the prospects of a post-revisionist synthesis.