Note: to see Rufus Phillips' recent media appearances and coverage about Afghanistan please go to the Media/Events page here: Media/Events

To see some of Rufus Phillips' recent commentary on Afghanistan please see the Afghan Matters blog: Afghan Matters

Telling the Truth about Vietnam
Applying Vietnam's Lessons to Iraq
and Afghanistan

Why Vietnam Matters

“Why Vietnam Matters is a major contribution to the history of Vietnam. It contains important lessons for the wars America is currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. So much of what the current generation of military and civilian officials claim are new doctrines and ideas are identical to programs and strategies that were virtually all tried in Vietnam.”
Richard Holbrooke from his Foreword for Why Vietnam Matters

[In his book] “Phillips clearly shows that those best and brightest, especially McNamara, exhibited ‘poor judgment, bureaucratic prejudice and personal hubris’ as they steered Vietnam Policy on a disastrous course. Phillips adds a short chapter on lessons learned from the Vietnam War calamity. It should be mandatory reading in Washington, D.C.”
VVA Veteran magazine, November/December 2008, review by Marc Leepson

“Regardless of whatever else history may say about the man, the author of this book, Rufus Phillips, should be recorded in the annals of history for a singular act he performed on September 10, 1963. On that day the then 33-year-old Phillips walked into the White House and, before the entire national security team, told the president of the United States the full, unvarnished truth. Why Vietnam Matters is unblinking about Vietnam and our involvement there. But beyond that, the book closes with a tightly written evaluation of how the lessons we should have learned during Vietnam might be applied to Iraq and Afghanistan. What Phillips has to say is nothing less than fascinating. One can only hope those who might profit from these lessons read this book.”
Vietnam magazine, April 2009 issue, review by Robert Bateman

“From the beginning, Mr. Phillips realized that the war was one of political causes not military might…that to win the war the Vietnamese army needed to learn how to win the trust and support of the people. General Maxwell Taylor, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff….[reportedly] told General Westmoreland, “Westy, you get out there and fight the war the right way, the way we did it in France.” As Mr., Phillips notes, that sort of mind-set eventually cost us dearly in Vietnam and caused much grief….in Iraq…A sobering read from a man who knows what he is talking about.”
Washington Times newspaper, February 22, 2009, review by Joseph C. Goulden

“An extraordinary memoir and history that sheds fresh light on the American experience in Vietnam.  The ability to learn from Vietnam has been clouded by emotion and a tendency to try to fit the US experience into contrived interpretive frameworks. A combination of personal experience and incisive analysis, Why Vietnam Matters illuminates the ideological, political, psychological, and human dimensions of the Vietnam War. Phillips makes an important contribution not only to understanding the Vietnam War, but also to understanding the complex conflicts in which the United States is engaged today.”
H.R. McMaster, PhD, Colonel, U.S. Army author of Dereliction of Duty

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An eyewitness account of lessons not learned

In this must read book, author Rufus Phillips gives us the untold story of what really happened in Vietnam and provides lessons learned for Iraq and Afghanistan. In The Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam described the moment when Rufus Phillips told President Kennedy about failures in Vietnam: it was “a remarkable moment in the American bureaucracy, a moment of intellectual honesty.”

With that same honesty, Phillips’ new book, Why Vietnam Matters, offers an extraordinary eyewitness account of the most critical years of American involvement in Vietnam from 1954 to 1968, and explains why it still matters.

"For several crucial years in the 1960’s, [Phillips] was probably the best-informed American on events in the country as a whole, and perhaps the American most trusted and listened to by the Vietnamese," points out Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, whose initial Foreign Service posting in 1963 was under Phillips.

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