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View Diary: PBS, JFK, and why I'm a Dem (84 comments)

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  •  LBJ's advisors were the same as Kennedy's (6+ / 0-)

    Actually, all of LBJ's key advisors on Vietnam were the same folks that Kennedy had chosen to serve in his administration, people such as McNamara, Rusk, Bundy, etc.  By 1965, South Vietnam was nearing a state of collapse due to pressure from North Vietnam and internal instability thanks to the US approved coup to overthrow Diem in 1963.  Virtually every one of these holdovers from the Kennedy administration told LBJ to demonstrate fidelity to long standing American policy to keep South Vietnam from falling to the Communists by first bombing NV and then sending in ground troops.  George Ball. who understood the calamity that befell France in Indochina ten years earlier, was the only advisor at the time to suggest the US ought to consider cutting its losses by getting out.  As far as LBJ being a macho Texan with the implication that he was eager for a fight, his own tape recordings from 1964 reveal that he was privately deeply troubled by the prospect of escalation in Vietnam and getting into a war that couldn't be won.  Unfortunately, rather than go with his instincts about the war being unwinnable, he ultimately chose to accept the advice of "the best and the brightest", tragically leading his country further into a quagmire.

    These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

    by Laborguy on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 09:34:05 AM PST

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    •  Plenty of blame to go around for Vietnam decisions (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RFK Lives, lysias, RainyDay

      going all the way back to Truman, Eisenhower, the Dulles brothers, and Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and their advisers.

      One you didn't mention was Walt Rostow, who was a premier hawk in the Kennedy administration and who LBJ turned to again and again for support on Vietnam after Kennedy's primary advisers left the Johnson administration or turned against the war.

      The difference between Johnson and Kennedy in this regard was that Kennedy had the self-confidence to reject the advice of his advisers and especially the military (though he only learned that lesson after the Bay of Pigs) while LBJ was fundamentally an insecure man who used his advisers to justify to the outside world what he was doing.

      Your comment about George Ball is well-taken, and epitomized by the disastrous encouragement of a coup against Diem by Kennedy's advisers of Cable 243

      Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

      by willyr on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 11:06:09 AM PST

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      •  See also this interview with McGeorge Bundy (4+ / 0-)

        who was national security adviser to both Kennedy and Johnson. It's an hour long, and pretty unsettling.

        The interview starts off asking Bundy about how the encouragement for an end of brutal repression of Buddhists by President Diem evolved into support for a coup, which to Kennedy's horror became an assassination of Diem and his brother just 3 weeks before his own:

        http://openvault.wgbh.org/...

        Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

        by willyr on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 11:37:12 AM PST

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      •  I agree there is plenty of blame to go around (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        willyr

        While LBJ certainly has to take his share of the blame for deciding to escalate the war in 1965, his decision to do so was the logical result of continuing to follow a long standing American policy of supporting SVN against communist NVN.  As you indicate, this policy had been first established under Truman and subsequently supported by every president right through to Kennedy.  Over two decades, every one of these presidents made decisions to involve the US deeper into the Vietnamese quagmire and raise the political ante, thus making it ever harder for their successors to extract the United States from Vietnam.  At least LBJ finally recognized the folly of continued escalation after the roof fell in on his policy after the disastrous Tet Offensive in 1968.  His decision to not seek re-election in March 1968, de-escalate the bombing, and offering to pursue peace negotiations with the North was a recognition that the war could not be won militarily in a politically meaningful way.  Of course, as we now know, Nixon deliberately scuttled LBJ's attempt to reach a conclusion to the war as part of his '68 election strategy by secretly convincing the South Vietnamese to drag their heels on the peace negotiations.  As a result, another seven years of bloodshed and carnage followed.

        These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

        by Laborguy on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 12:37:06 PM PST

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      •  Thanks for the links (0+ / 0-)

        Here is one you might interesting.  John Prados at the National Security Archive has just updated his research on the Kennedy Administration's decision in August 1963 to back a military coup against Diem.  While JFK never signed off on the assassination of Diem and was genuinely horrified at the news of his murder, Prados challenges the notion that there was ever really a seperate cabal led by Hillsman and company that pushed for the coup against the wishes of JFK and his other top officials.  Based on tape recordings and other documentary evidence from late August 1963, Prados concludes that Kennedy and his men were all pretty much on the same page that Diem had to go in order for the Vietnam War to be winnable.  Kennedy says something to the effect that while Congress might be mad if Diem is toppled, they would be even madder if JFK let Vietnam go down the drain.  In this regard, JFK's concern about negative domestic political backlash sounds chillingly a lot like LBJ a year or two later when he was faced with the disasterous and unintended consequences of Diem's overthrow.

        http://www2.gwu.edu/...

        These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

        by Laborguy on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 08:14:07 PM PST

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    •  Big profits for Brown & Root and for Bell (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RFK Lives

      Helicopter were a major effect of the Vietnam War, and undoubtedly played a role in LBJ's thinking.

      The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

      by lysias on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 02:38:45 PM PST

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      •  Evidence? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        willyr, BlackSheep1

        In the numerous scholarly works that I have read over the years documenting the origins of the Vietnam War and LBJ's decision to escalate it in 1965, some very critical of Johnson, not a single one one has ever cited increased profits for Brown & Root and Bell as a factor in his decision to bomb NVN and send in ground troops. Yes, I know about LBJ's close ties to B&R since he was in Congress, but can you cite any documentary evidence to support your assertion that this was a significant factor in his decision making on Vietnam

        These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

        by Laborguy on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 04:21:25 PM PST

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        •  Come on. You know about LBJ's ties to B&R (0+ / 0-)

          (detailed throughout the volumes of Robert Caro's biography of LBJ).  Bell Helicopter provided LBJ the helicopters he used in his campaigns (notably his "landslide" campaign for the Senate in 1948,) and Lady Bird owned a lot of Bell stock.

          All of this (including the connection with the Vietnam war) is detailed in Roger Stone's new book The Man Who Killed Kennedy, which I just finished reading.

          The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

          by lysias on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 07:47:16 AM PST

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          •  In other words, you have no evidence. (0+ / 0-)

            You have not provided a shred of credible objective facts to support your theory. What you (and Roger Stone) have provided is mere speculation, but without any objective evidence.  Your premise is that because Bell provided helicopters to LBJ in 1948, and his wife owned stock in the company, he must therefore have factored their increased profits arising from escalation when he made his decision to send ground troops into Vietnam in 1965.  Your notion that association proves causation is a classic logical fallacy.  This is the reason why wild speculation without evidence is generally worthless in any kind of meaningful historical analysis or scholarship.    

            These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

            by Laborguy on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 08:51:48 AM PST

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            •  Read Caro's volumes. Then get back to me (0+ / 0-)

              and tell me you don't believe corrupt considerations could not have played a role in LBJ's decisions.

              The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

              by lysias on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 04:16:55 PM PST

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              •  I am very familiar with Caro ... (0+ / 0-)

                and I don't recall him ever suggesting anything remotely close to the idea that LBJ expanded the Vietnam War to increase the profits of B&R or Bell.  That is merely your own inference.

                These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

                by Laborguy on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 05:17:14 PM PST

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            •  What's the kind of evidence that you think (0+ / 0-)

              might have existed if LBJ had expanded the Vietnam War for corrupt reasons and the absence of which you think argues against that view?  Do you really think LBJ would have put it down on paper or have mentioned it in telephone conversations that he knew were being recorded?

              The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

              by lysias on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 04:20:00 PM PST

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              •  Um, sorry, if you make an accusation or alledge (0+ / 0-)

                that someone has done something that you have no way of knowing yourself, then you ought to have at least something to back it up in the form of objective evidence. Saying that LBJ wouldnt have left any evidence does not support your argument in any way.  You are offering nothing more than your own inference based on causation through association, which is a logical fallacy found in many dubious theories.  A classic example of such bogus logic is the following conspiracy theory:  1.  Hillary Clinton worked in the same law firm as Vince Foster and was close to him for many years.  2.  Vince Foster would have therefore have been aware of the Clinton's financial and legal problems with Whitewater and other corruption scandals.  3.  When Bill became president, the Clintons were desperate to cover up evidence of their corruption and misdeeds in Arkansas.  4.  Therefore, Hillary and Bill must have had Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster murdered and then made it look like a suicide in order to cover up evidence of their corruption.  Your inference against LBJ is based on the same dubious logic as the right wing conspiracy theories about Vince Foster's death and no more credible.

                These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

                by Laborguy on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 05:37:55 PM PST

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                •  I happen to have worked in the Pentagon. (0+ / 0-)

                  I know about corrupt (although legal) dealings with contractors.

                  The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

                  by lysias on Fri Nov 15, 2013 at 07:25:54 AM PST

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