29 December 2010

Shrapnel Games celebrates the publication of Pat Proctor's "Media War"

To celebrate the publication of Pat's new book, Media War: The Media-Enabled Insurgency in Iraq, detailing the struggle between the US military and the enemy to shape US public opinion about Operation Iraqi Freedom, Shrapnel Games is offering the ProSIM Commander's Bundle. This special, limited-time offer packs together four full length ProSIM titles at one amazing price! For only $49.95 you'll get to download Air Assault Task Force, The Falklands War: 1982, Raging Tiger: The Second Korean War, and The Star and the Crescent. That's only $12.49 a game, a 72% savings.

Hurry! This offer only lasts one week, until Tuesday, 4 January 2011.

To get the ProSIM Commander's Bundle, click here.

To get Pat's book, Media War: The Media-Enabled Insurgency in Iraq, click here.

20 December 2010

ProSIM announces the publication of "Media War" as a Kindle-exclusive title

In Operation Iraqi Freedom, insurgent and terrorist groups have developed the capability to use small, relatively insignificant tactical attacks, amplified through the megaphone of the media, to erode the will of the American public to prosecute the war. This capability has neutralized the overwhelming advantage the US military has in firepower in Iraq by bypassing it completely.

This is ProSIM's first Kindle-exclusive title and Pat's first full-length book. This book is the culmination of over two and a half years of study of the US military, the insurgency, and the media in Iraq, including lessons learned from Pat's six months working in Iraq on the front lines of the media war.

To get Media War: The Media-Enabled Insurgency in Iraq, click here.

You can get the Kindle software free for your PC by clicking here.

12 December 2010

Vietnam: A Chronology

Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History, New York: Penguin, 1997, 768 pages.

Perhaps no single person has had as lasting an impact on the collective American perception of the Vietnam War as Stanley Karnow. As a correspondent on the ground in Vietnam for such publications as Time, Life, the Washington Post, and the Saturday Evening Post, he shaped the perception of the war as it was being fought. After the war, as chief correspondent for the early eighties WGBH television series “Vietnam: A Television History” (later repackaged as a PBS American Experience series) he compiled the collection of images that has become America’s visual understanding of the war. His written companion to this television series was Vietnam: A History. With well over a million copies in print, it is the most pervasive, if not the most comprehensive, history of the war. The first third of the book recounts the French experience in Vietnam, beginning with first colonization and ending with the Paris Accords that finally brought France’s exit from the country. The rest of the book is dedicated to America’s involvement in the conflict, culminating in the evacuation of the US embassy and the North’s conquest of South Vietnam.

On one level, Karnow has done a much better job than many other journalists-turned-historians in detaching himself emotionally from the conflict. He has avoided many of the heavy-handed caricatures of the American leaders who prosecuted the war found in other Vietnam histories. But on another level, the book is firmly grounded in his personal perception of the war as a journalist. He often cited his own conversations with players in Vietnam at the time to illustrate his points. Furthermore, from places where the narrative dwells, one can clearly identify among his sources, even when unnamed, men such as Lt.Col. John Paul Vann, with whom he had extensive interaction during the war. Still, Karnow did do a good job of reexamining several common misconceptions that had emerged by the early 1980s about the conflict. For instance, he admitted that the Phoenix program--a CIA program to infiltrate and eradicate the Vietcong “shadow government” in rural South Vietnam--was much more effective than he acknowledged at the time (p. 617).

Like other journalists chronicling the war, Karnow included little analysis of the Vetnamese perspective on the conflict. Vietnamese perspectives come only in retrospective quotations from North Vietnamese leaders, clouded by years of historical revision by the communist government that now rules Vietnam. Karnow’s Vietnam also suffers for its breadth. Faced with the daunting task of covering nearly two centuries of history in just under 800 pages, Karnow could not linger on any single topic. Events where he did linger were chosen arbitrarily based on interesting anecdotes he could impart, rather than on their significance. Most fundamentally, however, Karnow had no argument to make. He simply retold the story of Vietnam. As a result, Karnow’s Vietnam: A History ends up being less a history than a chronology.

22 October 2010

Wiley announces the publication of ASVAB AFQT Cram Plan!

I wrote the introduction to ASVAB AFQT Cram Plan, which is now out, published by the Wiley imprint,CliffsNotes...

So, you’ve decided to serve your country. Before you can raise your hand and swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution, there is one big hurdle in your path, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). You must especially do well on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT), the four key subtests of the ASVAB that the services use to measure you against your fellow recruits.

First, you'll determine exactly how much time you have left to prepare for the exam. Then, you'll turn to the two-month, one-month, or one-week cram plan for week-by-week and day-by-day schedules of the best way to focus your study according to your unique timeline.

To see an excerpt, click here.

You can buy it now at these retailers:

Barnes & Noble

30 August 2010

Vietnam: A Narrative History

A.J. Langguth, Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000, 766 pages.

As a journalist in Vietnam from 1964 to 1970, A.J. Langguth was one of the architects of the way the Vietnam War was perceived in America. The news he produced for the New York Times, first as a reporter and then as the Saigon bureau chief, was a fundamental building block of what eventually became the common American understanding of the war. In Our Vietnam, A.J. Langguth goes one step further, attempting to capture the entirety of that common understanding in one text. The book, which begins with the closing days of the Eisenhower administration and ends with the unceremonious closure of the American embassy in Saigon, is only about America’s experience in Vietnam. The book dedicates less than ten pages to the thousand year history of Vietnamese resistance before or the painful years of communist totalitarianism after the American War in Vietnam.

Langguth’s Vietnam War was a tragedy caused by “America’s leaders, [who] for thirty years, had failed the people of the North, the people of the South, and the people of the United States” (p. 668). Truman and Eisenhower saw Vietnam as a way to keep France, a Cold War ally, strong. Their successors--Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon--saw South Vietnam as a bulwark against the expansion of communism into Southeast Asia. Moreover, Langguth writes, “One reason for [these] three American presidents to wage war in Vietnam had been to ensure a second term, a term that none of the three was destined to complete” (p. 637). At the Pentagon, the “Never Again Club” (p. 124) demanded ever more forceful measures to fight the war, while successive presidents tried to placate the public and prevent the entry of the Chinese into the conflict by limiting the war’s scale. All of them, Langguth argues in Our Vietnam, missed the true nature of the war, a nationalist struggle to unify Vietnam and sweep away a puppet regime. Langguth concludes, “North Vietnam’s leaders had deserved to win. South Vietnam’s leaders had deserved to lose” (p. 668).

Our Vietnam is light on history and heavy on opinion. As an eye-witness to the American escalation and withdrawal from Vietnam, Langguth can certainly be forgiven having an opinion. But A.J. Langguth frequently substitutes direct observation or commonly held belief for historical proof. In that respect, Our Vietnam is more a collection of commonly held beliefs about the Vietnam War than a history. Furthermore, with the exception of a few anecdotes from North Vietnamese leaders and gut-wrenching stories of the suffering of the Vietnamese on both sides, there is little analysis of the Vietnamese perspective on the conflict. Our Vietnam is a great introduction to the war for those with no background in the conflict, but refuses to question any of the popular assumptions that have become the national narrative about America’s Vietnam War.

21 August 2010

Screenshots and After Action Reviews from "March to Baghdad"

JC, over at the Real and Simulated Wars Blog posted a couple of great rundowns on March to Baghdad. You can see the two blog posts here:

"Free New Wargame: 'March to Baghdad: Decision at Tallil Air Base'"

"Now What, Lt. Colonel? (fun with ProSim's 'March to Baghdad')"

My wargaming company, ProSIM Company, built this exclusive mini-game in cooperation with Armchair General Magazine to accompany an article I wrote for the November 2009 issue. To see a excerpt from that article, click here.

The game was designed by Curt Pangracs, who also was project lead for Raging Tiger and The Star and the Crescent, and was part of the design team for Air Assault Task Force.

16 August 2010

The General Offensive/General Uprising

Ronnie E. Ford, Tet 1968: Understanding the Surprise. New York: Frank Cass, 1995, 194 pages.

The Tet Offensive is perhaps the most examined period of the Vietnam War. That is not surprising since it is nearly universally acknowledged as a turning point in the war, the “high-water mark” of the American effort in Vietnam. Yet the history of this climatic campaign has been written by the West, through Western eyes. In most treatments of the offensive, North Vietnamese and Vietcong motives are as obscure as they were to the American military at the time. Enter Tet 1968 by Ronnie E. Ford. This book is both a fascinating examination of the motives and decisions behind the Tet Offensive from Hanoi’s perspective and a reflection on the indicators the West had and why they were missed. Ford has gathered an impressive array of sources, from North Vietnamese strategy documents to interviews with key American and South Vietnamese intelligence figures, who were looking at the same evidence on the eve of the Tet Offensive.

Ronnie Ford portrays the Tet Offensive (or General Offensive/General Uprising as it was called by the communists) as a uniquely Vietnamese answer to the strategic stalemate that had developed in South Vietnam in 1967. In Hanoi’s estimation, the Americans had reached the apex of their capability and were still unable to dislodge the Southern insurgency. The time had arrived to shift from simply fighting to “fighting while negotiating” in order to achieve a settlement favorable to the North. To negotiate from a position of strength, Hanoi needed to generate a “General Uprising”--a mythic goal deeply rooted in the Vietnamese identity of perpetual resistance to foreign interference--in which the entire nation would rise up against the foreign invaders. Ultimately, Ford concludes, “MACV was fully aware that there had been a change in Communist strategy, and that Hanoi was planning something big,” but because of the West’s inability to understand this uniquely Vietnamese concept, the “actual intent and limited objectives were misinterpreted” (p. 194).

Tet 1968 is a fresh, intriguing take on the Tet Offensive. It departs so drastically from the well-worn path of other books, such as the focus on the dramatic media coverage and on Washington’s disastrous attempts at damage control, that one almost forgets that Ford is talking about the same campaign that has been so scrutinized over the past forty years. And herein lies the only complaint with the book. Perhaps the most central debate of the Tet Offensive is over its target: did the North Vietnamese intend to shock the leaders in Washington or, as actually happened, the American people? Ford’s Tet 1968 ventures so far afield from the commonly examined sources and questions that he never actually addresses this question. One might guess he would conclude that the actual target of the Tet Offensive was the South Vietnamese people, but Ford never provides the reader with an answer. This missed opportunity aside, Tet 1968 is an essential read for any Vietnam historian.

25 June 2010


Michael H. Hunt, Lyndon Johnson’s War: America’s Cold War Crusade in Vietnam 1945-1968, New York: Hill and Wang, 1996, 128 pages.

While the history of the “Americanization” of the Vietnam War is well-tread territory, there have been few books that have applied the same laser-focus to the topic seen in Lyndon Johnson’s War. In this book, Michael H. Hunt explores the period between the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident and the decision to send an air mobile division in July 1965, which made formal (if not declared) the ground war that the United States had already been waging in Vietnam for months. In contrast to his detailed treatment of the escalation, Hunt dedicates only a few dozen pages to the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy years before or the years that followed. Hunt’s Lyndon Johnson’s War is, at its heart, an examination of the psychology that led Johnson and a team of brilliant advisors to act “largely ignorant of Vietnam itself and with only lukewarm public approval” (p. 107) in plunging America into war in Vietnam.

Hunt’s critique does not focus on containment or Cold War ideology itself, but rather their application to Vietnam, a nationalist, anti-colonial war painted in Cold War colors. Hunt argues that Johnson and his advisors, as had their predecessors, saw Vietnam in “well-worn Cold War terms” (p. 79). Ultimately, Hunt argues, Johnson’s reasons for entering the conflict “amounted to Cold War clichés” (p. 93). But, while Johnson’s policies were the logical extension of his predecessors’, Hunt does not excuse Johnson of culpability in the final outcome of the war. His concise retelling of the period highlights the ways in which Johnson chose to stave off disaster in Vietnam, rather than truly commit to winning. Because “he did not want Vietnam to interfere with his domestic program” (p. 99), he gave Vietnam just enough attention to keep it from falling during his term.

Surprisingly, Lyndon Johnson’s War does not suffer for its brevity. While one could easily choose other events during the period or other of the administration’s choices to reinforce these points, Hunt has very successfully distilled this period to those essential elements that highlight the perceptions of the parties most directly responsible for the escalation. His summation and critique of the standard charges made against the Johnson administration (in the fourth chapter of the book) is as solid an analysis as can be found in any lengthier work. Neither villain nor tragic hero, Hunt’s Johnson was a man weathering the forces of domestic and international politics, trying and failing to chart a middle course for the nation between war with China and appeasement to Communism, ignorant of the nature of the enemy he actually faced. Political forces drove him toward self-preservation and legacy-building while international forces drove him to resist extremists on both sides of the aisle. In the end, however, Hunt’s Lyndon Johnson was consumed by these forces he tried to hold at bay.

10 June 2010


H.R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, New York: HarperCollins, 1997, 352 pages.

Even if he had never written Dereliction of Duty, H.R. McMaster would still go down in history as one of the most colorful American military figures of his generation. His exploits as a tank company commander at the Battle of the 73 Easting in the Gulf War, as commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar in the Iraq war (immortalized in Thomas Ricks’ Fiasco), and as a driving force behind the 2007 surge strategy that may well have salvaged the Iraq war (immortalized in Bob Woodward’s The War Within) have already cemented his place in American military lore. His authorship of Dereliction of Duty only adds to his legend. In writing this book, McMaster applied the same super-natural ability to be in the right place at the right time that has marked his military career; just as he began Dereliction of Duty, many of President Johnson’s records and oval office recordings were released to the public . The result is an intriguing, if opinionated, portrait of the decision-makers that lead the United States into war in Vietnam.

Dereliction of Duty covers the critical period between 1964 and 1965 when the Vietnam War transformed from a Vietnamese war into an American war. In his analysis, H.R. McMaster finds plenty of blame to spread around. At the top , “Johnson’s preoccupation with his domestic legislative program led him to obscure from the public and the Congress the extent of the difficulties in Vietnam” (p. 210). Robert McNamara repeatedly “misled the senators and representatives by misrepresenting America’s role” in Vietnam (p. 134). But McMaster reserves his most damning indictments for Gen. Wheeler and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), because “the president’s plan of deception depended on tacit approval or silence from the JCS” (p. 330). In short, the JCS’ failure to speak out when their recommendations were misrepresented amounted to a dereliction of duty.

From the title to the final page, Dereliction of Duty exudes H.R. McMaster’s personality. To the audacious cavalryman, inaction and indecision are even more grievous sins than wrong action or wrong decision. While McMaster gives a very thorough treatment to the public statements of the actors during this key period, he neglects even a cursory discussion of memoirs or private documents that might have yielded a much richer appreciation of the uncertainty and pressures with which they were faced. In his effort to clearly assign blame and argue the guilt of the accused, McMaster loses an opportunity to provide an understanding of the forces that ultimately thrust America into the Vietnam War.

That having been said, Dereliction of Duty makes a compelling case. One can argue with its omissions, but not its scholarship . It is an exemplary work and deserves a place in any Vietnam War collection.

06 June 2010


Neil L. Jamieson, Understanding Vietnam. Berkley, CA: University of California, 1994, 428 pages.

Four decades of oppression by a brutal communist regime have not erased Vietnam’s rich literary history. From the oldest written record of Vietnamese creation myths to the underground poetry smuggled out of the country through embassies and emigrants , literature has marked the troubled history of Vietnam. In Understanding Vietnam, Neil L. Jamieson combines his extensive knowledge of this rich literary history with personal insights gained during over four years of work as a civilian advisor in Vietnam during and after the war to provide a rare look at Vietnam from Vietnamese perspectives. The book begins with the dawn of Vietnam’s quoc ngu--anglicized written Vietnamese--literary history (at the beginning of the French colonial period) and concludes at the beginning of the 1990s. But beyond being a history, Understanding Vietnam also provides a unique window into how the Vietnamese saw and still see the world.

Jamieson contends that the Vietnamese have framed every conflict in their history in the context of this world view . The tides of insurgency and liberalism marked the waxing and waning of yin (the feminine, informal, and chaotic) and yang (the masculine, formal, and ordered) in nature’s attempt to balance the Tao. The governments of North and South--and the individual’s obligation to each--were seen in the context of filial obligation (hieu), class-based right behavior (nghia), and the centrality of the village. The arrival of the French and Western values called all of these values into question. Jamieson describes both the French Indochinese War and the subsequent American war in Vietnam as, ultimately, foreign intervention in the internal conflict between competing Vietnamese “super-villages” (competing ideological camps ) to reset the “thermostat” of the Vietnamese value system.

If one could find any fault with Understanding Vietanm, it would be in its heavy-reliance, to the near-exclusion of all other media , on quoc ngu literature. The pre-quoc ngu history he describes was told by people who lived in the shadow of French colonists. Surely this influenced what history was told or lost, which works were translated or not from the older, pictographic, Sinic Vietnamese. Likewise, Jamieson touches briefly on Vietnam War-era television, but completely excludes film or radio sources. These mass-media sources might paint a much different picture of the Vietnamese public’s perceptions, North and South, especially during the war.

These are minor complaints about an otherwise exemplary book. Understanding Vietnam eschews the common intellectual short-hand about causes for the Vietnam War--Cold War clichés and dogmatic comments on counter-insurgency or international relations. In fact, this book eschews assigning cause at all. Instead, as he concludes, Jamieson masterfully ties the ancient concept of the Tao, yin and yang, to modern systems theory to reveal that, rather than an effect of some discreet cause, the Vietnam War was an emergent phenomenon that existed in an “evolving context,” the context of the Vietnamese world view.