The Vietnam War Debate by Louis B. Zimmer | Books in Review

When you think of the most influential voices in the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War, the names Dr. Benjamin Spock, David Dellinger, Phillip and Daniel Berrigan, Abbie Hoffman, Rennie Davis, Daniel Ellsberg, Jerry Rubin, Joan Baez, Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Norman Mailer, I.F. Stone, and J. William Fulbright go to the top of the list.

According to Louis B. Zimmer, a professor emeritus of history at Montclair State University in New Jersey,  another name belongs in the group: the legal scholar and activist Hans J. Morgenthau of the University of Chicago. In The Vietnam War Debate: Hans J. Morgenthau and the Attempt to Halt the Drift into Disaster (Lexington Books, 430 pp., $85), Zimmer details Morgenthau’s extensive anti Vietnam War activism. Zimmer, as the subtitle indicates, also strongly condemns those who took America into the Vietnam as well as those who prosecuted the war.

The book, Zimmer says, “is the story of a great man who first established the specialized study of international relations with the publication of his earliest book and who then applied the principles contained in those studies that appeared in hundreds of articles and public forums in the attempt to alter American policy in Vietnam.”

Morgenthau, Zimmer argues, made the case that the the communist insurgency in Vietnam was never a threat to American national security and that the war should never have been fought.

Morgenthau is Zimmer’s hero in the book. As for his villains, they are the usual suspects: the government officials and journalists who supported the war. That list includes Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as top Vietnam War presidential advisers Henry Kissinger, McGeorge Bundy, Dean Rusk, Walt Rostow, and Robert McNamara, and the journalists Leo Cherne, Norman Cousins, and Joseph Alsop.

—Marc Leepson

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