Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture

Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture

Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture

Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture

Synopsis

This book is a thorough analysis of John F. Kennedy's role in the U.S. invasion of Vietnam and a probing reflection of the elite political culture that allowed and encouraged the Cold War.

Excerpt

To understand Kennedy's war and the aftermath it is necessary to attend to the thinking that lay behind the policy choices. Kennedy planners adopted doctrines already established. Too much independence ("radical nationalism") is not acceptable; the "rotten apple" effect of possible success enhances the need to eliminate the "infection" before it spreads. the Indochina wars are only a special case, which happened to get out of hand. in this general context, independent nationalism was unthinkable, and was never seriously entertained as an option.

By 1948 Washington planners recognized that the nationalist movement was led by Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh. Ho was eager to cooperate with the United States, but not on the required terms of subordination. Furthermore, top policymakers feared, Vietnamese independence might fan "anti-Western Pan-Asiatic tendencies in the region," undermining the "close association between newly-autonomous peoples and powers which have been long responsible [for] their welfare'; in Indochina, the responsible authority was France, whose tender care had left the countries devastated and starving. Chinese influence, in contrast, must be excluded "so that the peoples of Indochina will not be hampered in their natural developments by the pressure of an alien people and alien interests"; unlike the us and France.

The us right to restore the "close association" is axiomatic. It follows that any problems that arise can be attributed to illegitimate nationalist aspirations. On these assumptions, the cia warned in September 1948 that "The gravest danger to the us is that friction engenderd by [anticolonialism and economic nationalism] may drive the so-called colonial bloc into alignment with the USSR": Third . . .

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