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Praise for A Better War

“The hot book among Iraq strategists this season is A Better
War. . . . I noticed that the head of Central Command, Gen. John
Abizaid, was reading it when I traveled with him in September.
The influential State Department counselor Philip Zelikow read
the book earlier this year. And I’m told it can be found on
the bookshelves of senior military officers in Baghdad. . . . What
caught my eye in Sorley’s book was the phrase ‘clear and hold.’
For the identical words appeared in Secretary of State Con-
doleezza Rice’s Oct. 19 testimony to the Senate Foreign Rela-
tions Committee, in which she laid out the clearest articulation of
U.S. strategy in Iraq that I’ve seen.‘Our political-military strategy
has to be clear, hold and build: to clear areas from insurgent con-
trol, to hold them securely, and to build durable, national Iraqi
institutions.’” —David Ignatius, The Washington Post

“An extraordinary piece of work that is bound to become a valu-
able part of historical documentation about the war in Vietnam.
It answers many of the questions that have been too long on the
minds of all of us who fought in that war. It also is the first to set
the record straight concerning the outcome of that conflict.”
—General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S.Army (Retired)

“The successes of the Free World forces (as they were once known)
in the 1968 –72 period have disappeared down the memory hole.
Lewis Sorley fills in those blanks with his important new book,
A Better War.” —The Wall Street Journal

“The post-1968 war clearly deserves more attention and a more
positive appraisal than most historians have given it. A Better War
helps fill the gap.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Forcefully and convincingly argued . . . a provocative and impor-
tant contribution to the history of the Vietnam War.”
—Foreign Affairs
“A Better War deserves strong consideration by anyone interested in
Vietnam.” —Slate

“Sorley’s book is as important a reexamination of the operational
course of the war as Robert McNamara’s In Retrospect is of the
conflict’s moral and political history. . . . A first-rate challenge to
conventional wisdom about American military performance in
Vietnam.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A masterful treatment of military realities and court intrigue, of
strategic competence and political betrayal.There are revelations
on every page. A Better War goes a great distance in correcting re-
peated historical inaccuracies and filling massive gaps and pur-
poseful omissions in our historical understanding.”
—John M. Del Vecchio, author of The 13th Valley

“A compelling narrative and a powerful antidote to the self-
justifying myth that the Vietnam War was ‘unwinnable.’”
—James R. Schlesinger, former Secretary of Defense

“The story of how Creighton Abrams moved toward his better war
is one that must be told if ever we are to understand what hap-
pened to us as a nation in those tragic years. It will be a long time
indeed before anyone tells that story better than it is set forth by
Lewis Sorley in this magnificent book.”
—General Donn A. Starry, U.S.Army (Retired)

“The research supporting A Better War is the best I have seen on
the conflict in Vietnam. Lewis Sorley’s insight and analysis far
surpass other books about the war.”
—General Bruce A. Palmer, Jr., U.S.Army (Retired)

“It doesn’t matter whether you served in Vietnam or how many
books you’ve read on the subject, this book is essential reading.”
—Marine Corps Gazette
A
Better
War
ALSO BY LEWIS SORLEY

Arms Transfers under Nixon:A Policy Analysis

Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the
Army of His Times

Honorable Warrior: General Harold K. Johnson and the
Ethics of Command

Vietnam Chronicles:The Abrams Tapes, 1968–1972
(as editor)
LEWIS SORLEY

A
Better
War
THE UNEXAMINED VICTORIES
AND FINAL TRAGEDY OF
AMERICA’S LAST YEARS IN VIETNAM

A Harvest Book
Harcourt, Inc.
Orlando Austin New York San Diego Toronto London
Copyright © 1999 by Lewis Sorley

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval
system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work
should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed
to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

www.HarcourtBooks.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Sorley, Lewis, 1934–
A better war: the unexamined victories and final tragedy
of America’s last years in Vietnam/Lewis Sorley.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Vietnamese Conflict, 1961–1975—United States. I. Title.
DS558.S65 1999
959.704'3373—dc21 99-10495
ISBN 978-0-15-100266-5
ISBN 978-0-15-601309-3 (pbk.)

Text set in Bembo
Designed by Linda Lockowitz

Printed in the United States of America

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