We are resisting aggression, and as long as aggressors attack, we shall stay there and resist them--whether we make friends or lose friends.
-- Lyndon B. Johnson on April 27, 1965
In late December, 1964, Lyndon Johnson momentarily put aside the unending nightmare of Vietnam and, in a confidential talk one brisk, sunny day on the LBJ Ranch, revealed his inner, optimistic thoughts about foreign policy. Relations with the Soviet Union, the President confided, were less antagonistic than at any time since the end of World War II, and he meant to improve them further. He looked hopefully toward détente with the Russians, taking advantage of the warming trend between the West and the Communist states of Eastern Europe.
In Asia, Johnson went on, the United States was on friendly terms with both India and Pakistan. He was enthusiastic about state visits of Pakistan's President Mohammed Ayub Khan, scheduled for April, and of India's Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, to follow in June. Furthermore, the President continued, the international prestige of the United States had held up exceedingly well during his thirteen months in office. He fished a poll out of his pocket showing that in Canada his administration had a 93 percent popularity rating.
Then, with the exasperated voice of a man discussing an ugly, incurable disease, the President turned to the war in Vietnam. For twenty years, he said, French Indochina and its successor states had been an insoluble problem for the West, and, for the last ten of those twenty years, the United States had been inexorably pulled into its deadly embrace. We're in a mess in Vietnam, the President said, and there's no easy solution, none at all, for the dirty little war ten thousand miles away.
Lyndon Johnson inherited Vietnam from irrevocable decisions made by his predecessors. Dwight Eisenhower started the United States commitment with a letter of October 1, 1954, to Ngo Dinh