Apr 9, 2014

"Hanoi’s War"

Lien-Hang T. Nguyen , Associate Professor of History, University of Kentucky

Even though Lê Duẩn was the driving force behind Communist Vietnam’s pivotal half-century that witnessed revolution, war, and reunification set against the backdrop of the Cold War, little is known about him.  Obscured by the impenetrable “bamboo curtain” that surrounds decision-making in Hanoi during the Second Indochina War, little is known about the dynamics of leadership and the hierarchy of power in Hanoi. As the primus inter pares, Lê Duẩn managed to stymie domestic opponents, undercut southern rivals, and temper powerful foreign allies in order to wage the “Anti-American struggle for liberation and national salvation” in the manner that he deemed fit. Using archival materials as well as recently-published biographies and memoirs, this presentation will examine Lê Duẩn’s early career from colonial Indochina to postcolonial Vietnam, the Party he constructed in North Vietnam by 1960, and his policies that led to war not only with the Saigon regime but ultimately with the United States.  In doing so, it renders a more complex picture of the communist leadership in North Vietnam, one that perhaps leads to more questions than puts to rest any debates, but nevertheless sheds new insight into inner workings of America’s most indomitable enemy and the one it could not defeat.

Lien-Hang T. Nguyen is Associate Professor of History at the University of Kentucky. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and her PhD from Yale University and has held fellowships at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, the former John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, and International Security Studies at Yale University. Her first book, Hanoi's War: An International History of the War for Peace (UNC Press, 2012) won the 2012 Edward M. Coffman Prize, 2013 Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize, and was a finalist for the 2012 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize.  Nguyen has also published numerous peer-reviewed articles and scholarly essays on the wars for Vietnam, and has written pieces for The New York Times, BBC, and San Jose Mercury News.


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