Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of American Power
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 A convincing reassessment of Lyndon Johnson's foreign policy. Although Brands (History/Texas A&M; The Devil We Knew, 1993, etc.) admits that it is difficult to consider LBJ's record in foreign affairs without immediately thinking of the debacle in Vietnam that wrecked his presidency, that is nonetheless what he attempts to do. Coming to the Oval Office at the height of the American Century, Johnson inherited a tradition of American globalism that began with the Spanish-American War, gained momentum in WW I, and peaked after WW II, from which the United States emerged as the greatest economic and military force in the world, able to project its power around the planet. The author argues that Johnson continued in this vein and that many of his accomplishments deserve to be understood and applauded. Obsessed with Communism and the nagging question of ``Who lost Cuba,'' Johnson intervened in Vietnam and successfully invaded the Dominican Republic, ostensibly to protect American lives but in reality to prevent a supposed Communist takeover. When the Six-Day War broke out in the Middle East, Johnson could not, as Eisenhower did in the Suez crisis of 1956, force Israel to give up territory gained. He did, however, use America's coercive influence to limit the scope and duration of the war. He suffered the snub of de Gaulle ordering US troops out of France and withdrawing from NATO, but soldiers remained in Europe and he kept the alliance together. He helped halt wars between Greece and Turkey and between India and Pakistan. In many ways, Brands offers Johnson as a transitional figure between the days of American hegemony and the current era when a multipolar world often seems to confound and stymie US foreign policy. Judicious and well researched, the volume presents a good opening in the reappraisal of Johnson and his administration.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-19-507888-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1994

Kirkus Interview
H.W. Brands
October 11, 2016

As noted historian H.W. Brands reveals in his new book The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War, at the height of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman committed a gaffe that sent shock waves around the world. When asked by a reporter about the possible use of atomic weapons in response to China's entry into the war, Truman replied testily, "The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of the weapons, as he always has." This suggested that General Douglas MacArthur, the willful, fearless, and highly decorated commander of the American and U.N. forces, had his finger on the nuclear trigger. A correction quickly followed, but the damage was done; two visions for America's path forward were clearly in opposition, and one man would have to make way. Truman was one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. General MacArthur, by contrast, was incredibly popular, as untouchable as any officer has ever been in America. The contest of wills between these two titanic characters unfolds against the turbulent backdrop of a faraway war and terrors conjured at home by Joseph McCarthy. “An exciting, well-written comparison study of two American leaders at loggerheads during the Korean War crisis,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >


NonfictionHEIRS OF THE FOUNDERS by H.W. Brands
by H.W. Brands
by H.W. Brands