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Octafish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-22-08 04:03 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. JFK and Vietnam

From today's LA Times:

JFK and Vietnam

Kennedy's assassination 45 years ago today made it an American war.

By Gordon M. Goldstein
Los Angeles Times
November 22, 2008


Over the course of the year, Kennedy's advisors presented him with half a dozen or more proposals to Americanize the war. In one, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and the Joint Chiefs of Staff argued that it would be difficult to prevent "the fall of South Vietnam by any measures short of the introduction of U.S. forces on a substantial scale."

Kennedy's advisors told him that to defend the Saigon regime might take more than 200,000 combat troops. McGeorge Bundy, national security advisor, believed that committing American troops was vital. "Laos was never really ours after 1954," Bundy explained to the skeptical president, invoking another Southeast Asian nation where Kennedy had resisted intervention. "Vietnam is and wants to be."

Kennedy was not receptive. Long before becoming president, he had spoken out in Congress against the disastrous French experience in Vietnam, citing it as a reason the U.S. should never fight a ground war there. In the summer of 1961, he said he had accepted the conclusion of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who counseled against a land war in Asia, insisting that even a million American infantry soldiers would not be sufficient to prevail. He would offer military aid and training to Saigon, but he would not authorize the dispatch of ground forces.

Over the three years of his presidency, Kennedy sometimes invoked hawkish rhetoric about Vietnam. He also increased the military advisors and training personnel there to roughly 16,000. But McNamara and Bundy both came to believe that Kennedy would not have Americanized the war -- even if the price was communism in South Vietnam.

Kennedy realized that the inability of the United States to shut down the Ho Chi Minh Trail -- the lines of infiltration and resupply from North Vietnam -- would make it impossible to defeat the insurgency. "Those trails are a built-in excuse for failure," Kennedy told an aide in the spring of 1962, "and a built-in argument for escalation." Kennedy was so dubious he declared to White House aide Michael Forrestal that the odds against defeating the Viet Cong were 100 to 1.

In early 1963, Kennedy told Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, who opposed increased U.S. involvement in Vietnam, that he would begin withdrawing advisors from South Vietnam at the beginning of his second term in 1965. Kennedy disclosed the same plan to Roswell Gilpatric, his deputy secretary of Defense. But the tragedy in Dallas in November 1963 changed everything.

What happened after Kennedy's death is a familiar story. Lyndon B. Johnson ran for president in 1964, and in August of that year he used an ambiguous incident in the Gulf of Tonkin to extract an open-ended congressional authorization for military action against North Vietnam. On March 8, 1965, Johnson sent the first 3,500 Marines to Vietnam. Within months he had approved deploying 175,000 combat troops.


Thanks for giving a damn, AzDar! We may yet get there, my Friend, despite all the warmongering of the past 45 years.
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