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Publisher's Summary

"The most thoughtful and judicious one-volume history of the war and the American political leaders who presided over the difficult and painful decisions that shaped this history. The book will stand for the foreseeable future as the best study of the tragic mistakes that led to so much suffering." (Robert Dallek)

Many books have been written on the tragic decisions regarding Vietnam made by the young stars of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Yet despite millions of words of analysis and reflection, no historian has been able to explain why such decent, brilliant, and previously successful men stumbled so badly.

That changes with Road to Disaster. Historian Brian VanDeMark draws upon decades of archival research, his own interviews with many of those involved, and a wealth of previously unheard recordings by Robert McNamara and Clark Clifford, who served as Defense Secretaries for Kennedy and Johnson. Yet beyond that, Road to Disaster is also the first history of the war to look at the cataclysmic decisions of those in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations through the prism of recent research in cognitive science, psychology, and organizational theory to explain why the "Best and the Brightest" became trapped in situations that suffocated creative thinking and willingness to dissent, why they found change so hard, and why they were so blind to their own errors.

An epic history of America’s march to quagmire, Road to Disaster is a landmark in scholarship and a book of immense importance.

©2018 Brian VanDeMark (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Interesting interpretation of Vietnam decisions

This new book on the Vietnam War takes a different approach to the usual book on the subject. It focuses on the personalities and decision-making of the Washington DC based politicians (Eisenhower, Kennedy & Johnson administrations), cabinet members & other advisors, and the military leadership. Van DeMark also gives a window to flaws in the psychology, personal and organizational, that contributed powerfully to decisionmaking patterns. He usefully explicates the flaws in decisionmaking in the context of Vietnam, but employs examples from the psychology research literature to illustrate these points. The book is not the be all & end all on Vietnam, no book can be. But because of its focus on decisionmaking it makes a great new contribution to understanding what happened & why it happened. The book has good narrative drive and a very effective narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • cbspock
  • Holbrook, NY United States
  • 12-28-18

Incomplete study of the war

The book does not cover the decisions made during the entire war. It stops once LBJ leaves office. The book also covers the early Kennedy administration and the wrong lessons it learned from the bay of Pigs to the Cuban missile crisis. All of which led to decisions that led to diving into Nam in incorrect assumptions. The book was interesting and you must have to work around the author’s bias since it feels like he is carrying water for certain players. You may not want to throw around adjectives like genius, smart, well intentioned to describe people who couldn’t get past their own egos and felt it better to just pour lives into the grist mill.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • D. Littman
  • OH
  • 10-19-18

Interesting interpretation of Vietnam decisions

This new book on the Vietnam War takes a different approach to the usual book on the subject. It focuses on the personalities and decision-making of the Washington DC based politicians (Eisenhower, Kennedy & Johnson administrations), cabinet members & other advisors, and the military leadership. Van DeMark also gives a window to flaws in the psychology, personal and organizational, that contributed powerfully to decisionmaking patterns. He usefully explicates the flaws in decisionmaking in the context of Vietnam, but employs examples from the psychology research literature to illustrate these points. The book is not the be all & end all on Vietnam, no book can be. But because of its focus on decisionmaking it makes a great new contribution to understanding what happened & why it happened. The book has good narrative drive and a very effective narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • cbspock
  • Holbrook, NY United States
  • 12-28-18

Incomplete study of the war

The book does not cover the decisions made during the entire war. It stops once LBJ leaves office. The book also covers the early Kennedy administration and the wrong lessons it learned from the bay of Pigs to the Cuban missile crisis. All of which led to decisions that led to diving into Nam in incorrect assumptions. The book was interesting and you must have to work around the author’s bias since it feels like he is carrying water for certain players. You may not want to throw around adjectives like genius, smart, well intentioned to describe people who couldn’t get past their own egos and felt it better to just pour lives into the grist mill.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • D. Littman
  • OH
  • 10-19-18

Interesting interpretation of Vietnam decisions

This new book on the Vietnam War takes a different approach to the usual book on the subject. It focuses on the personalities and decision-making of the Washington DC based politicians (Eisenhower, Kennedy & Johnson administrations), cabinet members & other advisors, and the military leadership. Van DeMark also gives a window to flaws in the psychology, personal and organizational, that contributed powerfully to decisionmaking patterns. He usefully explicates the flaws in decisionmaking in the context of Vietnam, but employs examples from the psychology research literature to illustrate these points. The book is not the be all & end all on Vietnam, no book can be. But because of its focus on decisionmaking it makes a great new contribution to understanding what happened & why it happened. The book has good narrative drive and a very effective narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • cbspock
  • Holbrook, NY United States
  • 12-28-18

Incomplete study of the war

The book does not cover the decisions made during the entire war. It stops once LBJ leaves office. The book also covers the early Kennedy administration and the wrong lessons it learned from the bay of Pigs to the Cuban missile crisis. All of which led to decisions that led to diving into Nam in incorrect assumptions. The book was interesting and you must have to work around the author’s bias since it feels like he is carrying water for certain players. You may not want to throw around adjectives like genius, smart, well intentioned to describe people who couldn’t get past their own egos and felt it better to just pour lives into the grist mill.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful