By Cao Ky Nguyen and Marvin J. Wolf
Review by Allison Martin
Emerging from the shadows of 30 years of quiet American life, Ky attempts to set the record straight from his perspective. His book Buddha's Child describes how he felt destined to be a leader. Ky tells a story that has been missing from the Vietnam era dialogue, the veiw of a Vietnamese leader. He recounts how as Air Force Commander at tender age of 24 he stepped forward to become Premier, when (in his view) a series of ineffective civilian governments had collapsed.
The book largely recounts his rise and term as premier Vietnam leading up to the fall of Saigon in 1975. For this reviewer, Ky was the most vivid figure of that era. A young daring Vietnamese soldier with the pencil thin mustache, armed with ample confidence, he excuded a combinationof cockiness and false bravado that come to represent in my mind the South Vietnamese reginme. In his book he does not deny these images. Yet he offers another dimension, the focus here is on governing in the midst of ungovernable choas. The war is the backdrop but Ky attempts to paint a more wholistic picture based on his view that military action without social progess could never succeed.
In the end Ky suggests that his personal effectiveness as a leader was hivng an effect on the overall preformance eof South Vietnam as country. However the forces of corrruption and lingering effect of colonialism, combined with the Viet Cong influence, conspired to relegate him to a more ceremeonial role and allowed a greedy and ineffective President Thui to assert more control over day to day affairs. Without a capable and honest administration South Vietnam was ultimately doomed.
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