LYNDON JOHNSON'S WAR: The Road to Stalemate in Vie by Laarry Berman

LYNDON JOHNSON'S WAR: The Road to Stalemate in Vie

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KIRKUS REVIEW

More cogent Vietnam War history as Berman (Poli. Sci/U. of Cal. at Davis) follows up his Planning a Tragedy: The Americanization of the War in Vietnam (1982). As before, here Berman concludes that LBJ plodded stubbornly ahead in his execution of the war in Vietnam, buffered by self-serving reports from Westmoreland's command and heedless of more moderate voices in his administration, such as those of George Ball and Robert McNamara. Berman states that Johnson's political decisions were "poorly conceived, frequently contradictory, and ultimately self-defeating." Fixated on statistics, Johnson and his advisors fully expected North Vietnam to seek peace negotiations after a "crossover point" was reached--that is, the point at which enemy losses exceeded their ability to recruit additional forces. Using recently declassified primary source material--like Westmoreland's command notes and Ambassador Bunker's weekly cables--Berman tries to re-create the decision-making as it was seen and experienced by the central figures of the time. Continually, throughout this narrative, we find Defense Secretary McNamara becoming more and more frustrated by the futility of the fight. (As early as December 1965, when LBJ asked him, "Then, no matter what we do in the military field there is no sure victory?" McNamara responded: "We have been too optimistic"). Still, Johnson persisted in the war's expansion, eventually losing confidence in McNamara, whom he considered a "dove." Meanwhile, Johnson's "no-win policy" (the official US goal was to build democratic political stability in the South rather than to defeat the North) was "slipping the war into a stalemate." Johnson's tragedy was that "Hanoi could accept the conditions of a stalemate longer than the United States. Stalemate was tantamount to victory for Hanoi." Both a brief supplement to Neil Sheehan's recent monumental A Bright Shining Lie and a stand-alone, well-documented description of misguided policy based on misconceptions and distorted troths.

Pub Date: March 27th, 1989
ISBN: 393-02636-1
Publisher: Norton
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