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View Diary: J. Edgar Hoover's authorized assaults on Martin Luther King Jr. should never be forgotten (209 comments)

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  •  LBJ by far was more to blame (7+ / 0-)

    for his totally unnecessary, literally uncalled for decision to massively escalate what had been, during Ike and Kennedy, only a low-level non-combat involvement.

    Re Kennedy's cabinet:  There is a taped exchange, featured in the Morris documentary Fog of War, about Feb 1964, where Johnson on the phone with SecDef McNamara, absolutely lays down the law to him about how unwise LBJ thought Kennedy's decision was to "cut and run" (or words to that effect) from VN (i.e., JFK's Oct '63 decision to begin a gradual pullout of US military advisors).

    No question in that phone conversation who is dictating to whom, no question that Johnson is showing McNamara that with a new, tougher guy in the Oval now, things over in VN will change, and that the SecDef damn well better realize the error of his ways and get on board with the new team.

    As for the lib Dems of the time, in1964 far too many (except Sens Morse and Gruening) naively assumed Lyin' Lyndon would not abuse the power he was given with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. But after a decent interval and reelect, that is indeed what he did.

    His chosen point man in the senate on the bill, Sen Fulbright (whom LBJ privately referred to as Sen Halfbright -- perhaps chosen for this very reason) would only a year later come to believe Johnson had lied to him about the resolution.  To his credit, as soon as he could the bitter Fulbright began holding public hearings (1966) on the war, televised by all 3 networks, which helped the public become more skeptical of our involvement over there.

    •  Behind that were political considerations... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HiKa, Thomas Twinnings

      ...not any concern for Vietnam or American strategic interests in the Cold War.  As strategists have pointed out, the commitment to Vietnam actually weakened our defense of western Europe and drained resources from the military assets tasked to defend the core areas of the Western Alliance.   As I said below in another post, LBJ was two thirds a timid devil, who knew the Vietnam War was a mistake, but who couldn't bring himself to pay the political price to end the war.  And his pride was involved.  I think of him as a kid who's been dared by his classmates to stick his finger in a light socket. The kid knows it's a bad idea, knows there's going to be a lot of pain and maybe he'll die, but he doesn't have the courage to ignore the dares.  Shit, look how he went out.  A brave man would have ended the war on his way out the door, the screams from the Right be damned.  Not LBJ.

      Join Essa in a revolt against the gods. Continue the fight, Causality.

      by rbird on Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 02:02:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  LBJ is a hero of mine, (0+ / 0-)

      for all he did and tried to do for the average person, but like all hero's, he had his flaws, the VN build-up being the worst.
      I still honor him for the good he did.

      Severely Socialist 47283

      by ichibon on Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 03:41:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why LBJ chose to expand the Vietnam War (0+ / 0-)

      is an immensely complex question, and historians will be debating it forever.  Human motivation is complicated even in relatively simply decisions, and most decisions have multiple "reasons." LBJ was a supremely political creature, and the "who lost China" debate of the 50's was certainly on his mind. Vague but powerful ideas of "national prestige" and showing how tough he/we were to the Russians and Chinese were also at work.

      But I would suggest that Vietnam, Korea, and most of the Cold War battles were based on two defining events which dominated the minds of that generation of leaders. I'm talking about Munich and Pearl Harbor. From Munich they learned that appeasing an aggressor was always wrong, and would lead to greater wars. Never mind that the situation in Southeast Asia was totally different from that in Europe in 1938. They had their lesson, and they were going to apply it.

      And from Pearl Harbor they learned vulnerability--"they" could attack us at any moment, out of a clear blue sky, and so we had to have a military always ready to fight. The idea that all Communist countries were a monolith, and would attack us as soon as our guard was down, was another vast oversimplification. But just as everything since 9/11/01 has been shaped by the attacks on the Twin Towers, everyone in LBJ's generation lived in the shadow of Pearl Harbor.

      Santayana may have been right when he said that those who forget the past are condemned to relive it. But it's just as dangerous to remember the past and misapply its lessons.

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