Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

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Remembering the Vietnam War; Conversation with Neil Sheehan, 11/14/88 by Harry Kreisler

This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.

Welcome to a Conversation on International Affairs. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our topic today is "Remembering the Vietnam War," and our guest is Neil Sheehan. A writer and journalist, Mr. Sheehan covered the Vietnam War for The New York Times. His paper later won the Pulitzer Prize for his articles on the Pentagon Papers. Mr. Sheehan has just written a new book, published by Random House, called A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam.

  1. Background ... long-term project ... involvement with the Vietnam war
  2. John Paul Vann as a Metaphor for U.S. Involvement in Vietnam ... Vann's funeral ... Vann as mentor to Vietnam reporters ... moral outrage ... American military strategy
  3. The American Dilemma in Vietnam ... whose war? ... Vann's sensitivity to Vietnamese plight ... evolution of Vann's thinking ... losing touch with reality ... bringing in the big guns
  4. John Paul Vann's Mysterious Death
  5. Sheehan's Intellectual Journey ... decision to write a book ... journalism versus fiction ... the Heart of Darkness analogy ... the participant observer
  6. Return to Washington ... the Pentagon Papers ... covering the debate at home ... critique of U.S. military and political leadership ... arrogance and delusion of the powerful ... failure of imagination flawed strategies ... anti-communism ... consequences for the Vietnamese
  7. Lessons of the War ... face-saving explanations ... true lessons ... role of the press ... coming to grips with the war

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