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View Diary: Collapse of The Military--Vietnam's Lesson of What's To Come (75 comments)

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  •  The Nixon Difference (none)
    The difference between Ike in '54 and LBJ in '65 is the Ike didn't have to worry about Nixon attacking him over "who lost Vietnam?"  This fear of what would happen if he didn't fight in Vietnam was the defining issue for Johnson.

    This is not just an idle conjecture on my part. In A Grand Delusion: America's Descent Into Vietnam, Robert Mann, a long-time Senate staffer, wrote the first (and, to my knowledge, the only) political history of the Vietnam War that took the Senate into account. In my review for the Denver Post, I wrote:

    Mann's treatment of the early Cold War era makes it clear just how strong Senate influence was in establishing the basic parameters that later led to presidential secrecy and duplicity....

    A majority of Senate Republicans, still isolationist at least as far as Europe was concerned, voted against NATO and the Marshall Plan, but enthusiastically rallied around Joe McCarthy's anti-communist crusade against the Truman Administration, especially after the Korean War began....

    The Truman-Eisenhower prelude takes up almost a third of the book, but it is time extremely well spent. Lyndon Johnson's Senate leadership was defined by the struggle to reverse Democratic losses stemming from alleged softness toward communism, particularly in Asia. John Mansfield's Senate leadership was shaped in reaction to Johnson's style, as well as in deference to his role as President and party leader. By following the story through this formative period we gain unique insight into later behavior, such as the obsessive blindness that repeatedly prevented John F. Kennedy and Johnson from heeding the growing chorus of warning voices from Vietnam itself, from inside their administrations and from Capitol Hill.

    This background also serves to explain the caution and reluctance that dogged almost all the Senate doves....


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