"Few Americans born after the Tet Offensive know even the barest facts about the Vietnam War. I aim this generalization not at the oft-underrated Joe Sixpack but at graduates of our finest universities. I remember getting coffee with an old friend, then fresh out of Yale, right after she had backpacked through Vietnam. Whenever she mentioned the war she referred to the former South Vietnam as “the democratic side.” It was immediately clear that she, like virtually everyone else of her and my generation, had never heard of the Geneva Accords of 1954 to guarantee free elections in South Vietnam, elections scuttled after the CIA predicted that Ho Chi Minh would win. My friend had had no sense that the U.S. invaded (a word rarely used, but what else can you call sending 500,000 troops to a foreign nation?) South Vietnam to prop up an authoritarian government with little popular legitimacy. We launched a ruthless pacification campaign; it failed—but not before Washington spread the war into Laos and Cambodia and ultimately killed some two million civilians. This was the war, and there was no “democratic side.”"