Limited Arms, Limited War
Historians have debated endlessly how events would have gone-- and in particular how the Vietnam war would have gone--if the assassin's bullet had missed, and Kennedy, rather than Lyndon Johnson, had remained president until 1964 or even 1968. On the one hand, there was a surprising degree of continuity between the thinking at the beginning of the Kennedy administration and the policies of the later Johnson years. On the other hand, it is hard not to feel that following Kennedy's departure events were destined to go awry.
The Kennedy administration without John Kennedy somewhat resembled the Eisenhower administration after the death of Dulles: In each case, with the disappearance of a key figure, something of the administration's original ballast and equipoise was lost. Deprived of Dulles's tough- minded advice in the last two years of his second term, Eisenhower surrendered unreservedly to his "peace" impulses, with generally mischievous results. In a similar fashion, deprived of Kennedy's tempering political influence, the Kennedy advisors surrendered wholesale to their ivory-tower vision and their ingenious but flawed theories of deterrence and limited war.
In losing Kennedy the Democrats lost a great deal. First there were the ineffable grace and charm of the man--qualities that actually translated into serious political assets. Even allowing for public-relations manipulations ("We are going to sell Jack like soap flakes," Joseph Kennedy had said when his son first ran for Congress), Kennedy won extraordinary adulation from columnists and reporters and unstinting loyalty from