EXCEPT for the Communists, America's worst enemy in Viet Nam has been American official optimism. Years of miserable stalemate have been accompanied by overblown pronouncements from Saigon and Washington about how well the war was going. Credibility gapped in the Johnson Administration, when cant phrases like "turning the corner in Viet Nam" and "light at the end of the tunnel" became bitter jokes. In recent months, however, U.S. officials—backed by scattered reports from perennially skeptical journalists —have cautiously begun to spread word that the situation on the ground in Viet Nam looks better than it has at any time since the...

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