Vietnam's Second Front: Domestic Politics, the Republican Party, and the War

Vietnam's Second Front: Domestic Politics, the Republican Party, and the War

Vietnam's Second Front: Domestic Politics, the Republican Party, and the War

Vietnam's Second Front: Domestic Politics, the Republican Party, and the War


The Vietnam War has been analyzed, dissected, and debated from multiple perspectives for decades, but domestic considerations -- such as partisan politics and election-year maneuvering -- are often overlooked as determining factors in the evolution and outcome of America's longest war.In Vietnam's Second Front: Domestic Politics, the Republican Party, and the War, Andrew L. Johns assesses the influence of the Republican Party -- its congressional leadership, politicians, grassroots organizations, and the Nixon administration -- on the escalation, prosecution, and resolution of the Vietnam War. This groundbreaking work also sheds new light on the relationship between Congress and the imperial presidency as they struggled for control over U.S. foreign policy.Beginning his analysis in 1961 and continuing through the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, Johns argues that the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations failed to achieve victory on both fronts of the Vietnam War -- military and political -- because of their preoccupation with domestic politics. Johns details the machinations and political dexterity required of all three presidents and of members of Congress to maneuver between the countervailing forces of escalation and negotiation, offering a provocative account of the ramifications of their decisions. With clear, incisive prose and extensive archival research, Johns's analysis covers the broad range of the Republican Party's impact on the Vietnam War, offers a compelling reassessment of responsibility for the conflict, and challenges assumptions about the roles of Congress and the president in U.S. foreign relations.


We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real
political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of
the same by other means … for the political view is the object, War is the
means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.

—Carl von Clausewitz, On War

The division between “domestic” and “foreign” policies no longer has

—Chester Bowles, writing in the New York Times in January 1960

In his sweeping history of the Peloponnesian Wars, the Greek historian Thucydides lamented the tendency for those in charge of the Greek city-states to allow domestic political considerations to affect questions of national security. in particular, he regretted how the Athenian leadership “adopted methods of demagogy which resulted in their losing control over the actual conduct of affairs. Such a policy … naturally led to a number of mistakes.” Eventually, the Sicilian expedition ended badly owing to the various elites “quarrelling among themselves,” which “began to bring confusion into the policy of the state…. and in the end it was only because they had destroyed themselves by their own internal strife that finally they were forced to surrender.” Had Thucydides lived two thousand years later, he could have written virtually the same words about the American experience in Vietnam. the nexus of domestic politics and foreign policy defined the U.S. commitment to South Vietnam, shaped American policies, and fundamentally influenced decisionmaking and choices in both the executive and the legislative branches.

Casual observers of the history of U.S. foreign relations might be surprised by this assertion. After all, there has been a long-standing and deeply ingrained . . .

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