Robert Brigham

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Robert Brigham (1960) is a historian of what he calls "the wars for Viet Nam." He is a professor of history and international relations at Vassar College.

His work addresses the American understanding of the period from escalation of conflict in the 1960s through the fall of Saigon in 1975 to emphasize the independent action of Vietnamese often considered as puppets. His dissertation and first book, Guerrilla Diplomacy (1998), laid out the foreign policy of the National Liberation Front (NLF), the revolutionaries the Americans called the Viet Cong.

Vietnamese in the South used "Viet Cong" for both NLF and Ha Noi forces alike, ignoring the distinction between the governments which Brigham shows to have been actual and important. The Vietnamese Communist Party, in turn, considered the Saigon government as a puppet of the United States, as have a great many Americans. Brigham's second monograph, ARVN (2006), is a social history of the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam, using extensive interviews as well as the written record to insist upon the independent life of this Vietnamese army.

Brigham belongs to an age cohort for whom the American involvement in Viet Nam was not an episode in foreign relations, as it was for those Americans who led and fought the war, or a matter of history, as for those born later, but the central fact of public and private life. Understanding the wars for Viet Nam is for him a key to our times, expressed in his books analyzing the current US commitment in Iraq.

Dan Duffy started this entry.

Robert Brigham in print

  • Guerrilla Diplomacy: The NLF's Foreign Relations and the Vietnam War (Cornell, 1998)
  • Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy, with Robert S. McNamara and James G. Blight (Public Affairs, 1999)
  • ARVN: Life and Death in the South Vietnamese Army (Kansas, 2006)
  • Is Iraq Another Vietnam? (Public Affairs, 2006)
  • Iraq, Vietnam, and the Limits of American Power (Public Affairs, 2008)
  • The Global Ho Chi Minh (Potomac, 2009?)
  • The Wars for Vietnam, with Mark P. Bradley and Lien-Hang Nguyen (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010?)

Robert Brigham online