INTO THE QUAGMIRE: Lyndon Johnson and the Escalation of the Vietnam War by Brian VanDeMark

INTO THE QUAGMIRE: Lyndon Johnson and the Escalation of the Vietnam War

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A fascinating examination of presidential decision-making at the outset of the Vietnam War. VanDeMark's portrait of Lyndon Johnson bears little resemblance to the profane, power-hungry monster often portrayed by historians. Instead, the Johnson who emerges here is fearful and insecure, apprehensive of the effect of America's Vietnam policy on his beloved Great Society program, and hostage to arrogant, ignorant advisers. Johnson inherited from Kennedy a legacy of liberal idealism, and assumed office determined to inaugurate civil-rights legislation and widespread domestic reforms. However, conscious of the lessons of Munich, the ""loss"" of China, and the backlash of McCarthyism, he dreaded a conservative reaction against those domestic programs and resolved not to ""lose"" South Vietnam to the Communist regime in North Vietnam. Thus, he backed one military regime after another in the South. Despite increasing evidence--acknowledged even by the hawkish authors of America's Vietnam policy--that each regime lacked legitimacy, and that the Communist-led insurgency had popular support, Johnson gradually escalated the war. As VanDeMark shows, the rigidity of America's thinking about world communism was such that, despite Johnson's basic pessimism about the outcome of the war, he saw no alternative but to increase America's involvement. The few friends and advisers who counseled him to withdraw from Vietnam lacked seniority or credibility. Out of ignorance and personal insecurity, according to VanDeMark's study, Johnson plunged America into a terrible tragedy. A Fine and convincing revisionist analysis.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press