- Nov 9, 2000
Your cut and paste skills are second to none! Impressive.Really, it goes back further - you could point out President Wilson's refusal to respond to Ho Chi Minh's appeal to the US as a beacon of freedom to support their desire to remove colonialism. In pre-JFK days, the US was pretty friendly to allies' colonization of other countries.
The US was supportive of French colonization before and after WWII, despite Ho Chi Minh again appealing to the US to not support re-colonizing them after the war.
Under Eisenhower, the main issues were support for France so strong that the US was paying 90% of the war costs for France; and that the US still had a 'we can only trust right-wing dictators' approach, so that issues like Laos were a military crisis as the US opposed any leader other than the far right.
JFK had supported the US strategy in the 1950's and wanted South Vietnam to succeed; he tried to both support them but also was very concerned about expanding the war, and went to great lengths to opposed his almost unanimous own government pushing for expanding the war. Politically, he knew that announcing a withdrawal - when the US had a mindset that we win every war and absolutely should not surrender in the war against communism by handing the communist bloc a country that would only strengthen them and threaten several more southeat Asian countries - would be a negative in his re-election campaign.
There have been many researchers and generally it's supported that he fought against the expansion pushed on him - and most agree he was planning to withdraw forces from Vietnam rather than send combat troops. His close friend Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield was reported to say President Kennedy had told Mansfield, who urged him to leave Vietnam, that he agree and would do so after the 1964 re-election, but it had to wait for that.
JFK did escalate the number of 'advisors' to 16,000; the month before he was assassinated, he ordered 1,000 of them back home.
It's not easy to discuss a complicated issue such as how a President battles his own military on an issue like this and all the maneuvering and appearences he creates.
An important comment he made publicly was that 'we can send material assistance, but this is a war for South Vietnam to win or lose'. That is the comment of a President laying the groundwork for politically justifying withdrawal, rather than paving the way for starting a war.
LBJ had strong reservations about expanding the war - with the trigger being the bizarre, false 'second attack' in the Gulf of Tonkin, purportedly one of two 'unprovoked attacks on US ships in international waters', but which apparently were one justified attack by North Vietnam in its own waters against a US escort for terrorists being taken to North Vietname for sabotage, assasination, terrorism that was an ongoing policy.
The best information I've seen is that LBJ 'agreed to the war in Vietnam to placate his opponents to secure his Great Society domestic agenda'. He made a comment to the military who was pressuring him to expand the conflict to let him get re-elected 'and then you can have your war'. One commentary:
Johnson eventually announced his plan to seek a negotiatied peace, after losing political support for the war and deciding the US was not going to 'win'.
Enter Richard Nixon, secretly conspiring to tell South Vietnam's leader that if he rejected any peace deal with LBJ, Nixon would give him a better deal - and that's what happened.
A public unhappy with Vietnam opposed LBJ, and Nixon won, promising peace, falsely (much as Johnson had done in the previous election, without the treason).
The most major escalation of Vietnam happened under LBJ, with Republicans as or more pushing for war than Democrats; it could have been avoided under Eisenhower it seems.