Victory at Any Cost: The Genius of Viet Nam’s General Giap, by CecilB. Currey, Brassey’s, New York, 1996, $25.95.
In Victory at Any Cost, Cecil B. Currey presents the Vietnamese perspective of the Viet Minh’s struggle for power. There is no other account of North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap’s life and his ability to build “a victorious peasant war machine” as in-depth and honest as this work. Readers come away with a better understanding of not only what has occurred in Vietnam in the past 50 years, but why it happened.
Currey describes with impressive thoroughness all the players involved in the numerous campaigns that plagued Vietnam since the 1940s. Most books that describe the 1954 battle between the French and Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu or the United States’ struggle in Vietnam during the 1960s place most, if not all, of the focus on what the allies did right or wrong. Ancillary to the failed U.S. diplomacy and battlefield “blood and guts” narratives is the characteristic overview of who the Viet Minh are and why they behaved as they did.
Currey’s book, however, offers the reader an in-depth account of “the only general in modern history to launch battle against his foes from a position of grave weakness.” This valuable volume provides a clearer understanding of why the Viet Minh, under Giap’s charismatic leadership, performed as they did.
While Victory at Any Cost does not vindicate Currey’s 1981 tirade on the U.S. Army in his Self-Destruction, it is well worth a read. He has offered an honest look at General Giap’s life and has interwoven Clausewitzian principles and Maoist theorems in such a way that any reader can understand that Giap succeeded in “twinning political purpose with military action” in his 30 years of Viet Minh leadership.
Victory at Any Cost provides veterans and average readers with a better understanding of the Viet Minh and their motivations. They were survivors totally committed to people first and guns last. Giap, by his own admission, was a self-taught strategist and a self-made logistician. The only academy he ever attended was the bush, and because of his commitment to his cause, he proved to be a master strategist capable of putting up a great fight against the strongest of militaries. Clausewitz would have saluted him.
Major Dominic J. Caraccilo, U.S. Army