Vietnam: The Early Decisions

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Haunting questions remain about our involvement in Vietnam. Perhaps the most persistent of these is whether President Kennedy would have ended American involvement in Vietnam if he had lived. For many Americans, Oliver Stone's film JFK left no doubt that before his assassination Kennedy had determined to quit Vietnam. Yet the historical record offers a more complex answer. In this fresh look at the archival evidence, noted scholars take up the challenge to provide us with their conclusions about the early decisions that put the United States on the path to the greatest American tragedy since the Civil War. The tensions and turmoil that accompanied those decisions reveal the American presidency at the center of a storm of conflicting advice. The book is divided into four sections. Parts one and two delve into the political and military contexts of the early decisions. Part three raises the intriguing questions of Kennedy's and Johnson's roles in the conflict, particularly the thorny issue of whether Kennedy did, in fact, intend to withdraw from Vietnam and whether Johnson reversed that policy. Part four reveals an uncanny parallel between early Soviet policy toward Hanoi and U.S. policy toward Saigon.