both Zinn and the American Promise text begin by describing the combatants, the American Promise text seems to tacitly cast their communist leanings as irrational and in-direct opposition to freedom. Conversely, Zinn elevates their position to equal footing with the United States. Zinn describes North Vietnam as, “a nationalist revolutionary movement in a tiny, peasant country” (Zinn). One can easily argue that Zinn is even romanticizing the North Vietnamese movement, casting them in the mythic role as David in a battle with the United States’ Goliath.
Zinn’s historicism goes on to explore the perspective of the North Vietnamese in more sympathetic details than the American Promise text. Where the American Promise text identifies the promise Kennedy made in fighting against Communist aggression, Zinn’s history notes the Atlantic Charter which promised the people the right to choose their own government. It shows that despite such a document, pleas by the North Vietnamese to President Harry Truman went unrecognized. The American Promise also focuses predominantly on the Vietnam War once it was started, and not the factors that ultimately caused the United States’ participation. While of this is surely attributed to the fact that it focuses on American History, key facts are left out, which Zinn includes. One of the most notable of these is that after the French left Vietnam there was scheduled to be an election that would unify the country. It was the United States that stepped in and prevented these elections from occurring, and placed a Vietnamese man who had previously resided in New Jersey in office. Quoting the Pentagon papers, Zinn states, “South Viet Nam was essentially the creation of the United States” (Zinn).
When considering the Gulf of Tonkin incident the two textbooks have slightly different perspectives. While the American Promise acknowledges that there might be more to the attacks than was initially reported by the United States