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American tragedy : Kennedy, Johnson, and the origins of the Vietnam War / David Kaiser.

By: Kaiser, David E, 1947-.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000Description: 566 p., [32] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm.ISBN: 0674002253 (alk. paper); 9780674002258 (alk. paper); 0674006720; 9780674006720.Subject(s): Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- United States | United States -- Politics and government -- 1961-1963 | United States -- Politics and government -- 1963-1969 | Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963 | Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973Additional physical formats: Online version:: American tragedy.DDC classification: 959.704/3373 Other classification: 15.85 | 15.75 | NQ 8340
Contents:
The Eisenhower administration and Indochina: 1954-1960 -- No war in Laos: January-June 1961 -- A new effort in Vietnam: January-August 1961 -- War or peace? September-November 1961 -- Limiting the commitment: November 1961-November 1962 -- The war in Vietnam: 1962 -- A gathering storm: January-July 1963 -- The Buddhist crisis and the cable of August 24: 1963 -- The coup: August-November 1963 -- A decision for war: November 1963-April 1964 -- To the Tonkin Gulf: April-August 1964 -- Planning for war: September-December 1964 -- Over the edge: December 1964-March 1965 -- War in secret: March-June 1965 --War in public: June-July 1965 -- Bad history, wrong war.
Summary: Fought as fiercely by politicians and the public as by troops in Southeast Asia, the Vietnam War, its origins, its conduct, its consequences, is still being contested. In what will become the classic account, based on newly opened archival sources, David Kaiser rewrites what we know about this conflict. Reviving and expanding a venerable tradition of political, diplomatic, and military history, he shows not only why we entered the war but also why our efforts were doomed to fail. American Tragedy is the first book to draw on complete official documentation to tell the full story of how we became involved in Vietnam, and the story it tells decisively challenges widely held assumptions about the roles of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. Using an enormous range of source materials from these administrations, Kaiser shows how the policies that led to the war were developed during Eisenhower's tenure and nearly implemented in the closing days of his administration in response to a crisis in Laos; how Kennedy immediately reversed course on Laos and refused for three years to follow recommendations for military action in Southeast Asia; and how Eisenhower's policies reemerged in the military intervention mounted by the Johnson administration. As he places these findings in the context of the Cold War and broader American objectives, Kaiser offers the best analysis to date of the actual beginnings of the war in Vietnam, the impact of the American advisory mission from 1962 through 1965, and the initial strategy of General Westmoreland. A deft re-creation of the deliberations, actions, and deceptions that brought two decades of post-World War II confidence to an ignominious end, American Tragedy offers unparalleled insight into the Vietnam War at home and abroad, and into American foreign policy in the 1960s. Based on newly opened archival sources, American Tragedy draws on complete official documentation to tell the full story of how the US became involved in Vietnam, and decisively challenges widely held assumptions about the roles of Eisenhower, Kennedy, & Johnson.
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Item type Current location Call number Status Date due Barcode
Book University of Texas At Tyler
Stacks - 3rd Floor
DS558 .K35 2000 (Browse shelf) Available 0000001480417

Includes bibliographical references (p. [503]-556) and index.

The Eisenhower administration and Indochina: 1954-1960 -- No war in Laos: January-June 1961 -- A new effort in Vietnam: January-August 1961 -- War or peace? September-November 1961 -- Limiting the commitment: November 1961-November 1962 -- The war in Vietnam: 1962 -- A gathering storm: January-July 1963 -- The Buddhist crisis and the cable of August 24: 1963 -- The coup: August-November 1963 -- A decision for war: November 1963-April 1964 -- To the Tonkin Gulf: April-August 1964 -- Planning for war: September-December 1964 -- Over the edge: December 1964-March 1965 -- War in secret: March-June 1965 --War in public: June-July 1965 -- Bad history, wrong war.

Fought as fiercely by politicians and the public as by troops in Southeast Asia, the Vietnam War, its origins, its conduct, its consequences, is still being contested. In what will become the classic account, based on newly opened archival sources, David Kaiser rewrites what we know about this conflict. Reviving and expanding a venerable tradition of political, diplomatic, and military history, he shows not only why we entered the war but also why our efforts were doomed to fail. American Tragedy is the first book to draw on complete official documentation to tell the full story of how we became involved in Vietnam, and the story it tells decisively challenges widely held assumptions about the roles of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. Using an enormous range of source materials from these administrations, Kaiser shows how the policies that led to the war were developed during Eisenhower's tenure and nearly implemented in the closing days of his administration in response to a crisis in Laos; how Kennedy immediately reversed course on Laos and refused for three years to follow recommendations for military action in Southeast Asia; and how Eisenhower's policies reemerged in the military intervention mounted by the Johnson administration. As he places these findings in the context of the Cold War and broader American objectives, Kaiser offers the best analysis to date of the actual beginnings of the war in Vietnam, the impact of the American advisory mission from 1962 through 1965, and the initial strategy of General Westmoreland. A deft re-creation of the deliberations, actions, and deceptions that brought two decades of post-World War II confidence to an ignominious end, American Tragedy offers unparalleled insight into the Vietnam War at home and abroad, and into American foreign policy in the 1960s. Based on newly opened archival sources, American Tragedy draws on complete official documentation to tell the full story of how the US became involved in Vietnam, and decisively challenges widely held assumptions about the roles of Eisenhower, Kennedy, & Johnson.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Kaiser (strategy and policy, Naval War Coll.; Politics and War) offers the second excellent investigation of the roots of the Vietnam War in as many years, following Fredrik Logevall's Choosing War (LJ 7/99). Having spent nine years researching recently declassified documents, the author describes in exacting detail the evolution of Vietnam policies from 1961 to 1965, the year that Johnson committed the United States to a war it couldn't win. Kaiser differs from Longevall by portraying Kennedy as skilled at keeping under control the prowar instincts of top cabinet members. The first-rate research is complemented by an intriguing model of intergenerational policy-making, whereby Kaiser attributes much of the failure to the heavy-handed actions of the "GI generation," the successful leaders of World War II. Highly recommended for specialized academic and larger public collections.--Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

CHOICE Review

Kaiser implies that the US would have avoided the "tragedy" of the Vietnam War if President Kennedy had lived. Citing newly declassified documents, he argues that military plans to resist the expansion of communism in Southeast Asia were developed from 1954 to 1956 by the Eisenhower administration. Kennedy questioned, however, whether US allies, Congress, or the public would support a massive military intervention. He predicted that North Vietnam and China would readily counter US military moves. A cautious, restrained president, Kennedy worked for the neutralization of Laos and repeatedly rejected the plans of aides Robert McNamara, Dean Rusk, Walt Rostow, and Maxwell Taylor for military escalation in Vietnam. Kaiser also absolves Kennedy for the overthrow of President Ngo Dinh Diem (1954-1963), suggesting that Diem bore responsibility for his own fate. President Johnson lacked Kennedy's willingness to question the premises of the policies of the 1950s and plunged the US into a debacle. Scholars will remain skeptical of his thesis, noting that the actual effect of Kennedy's policies was to entangle the US in Southeast Asia. They will further wonder whether a president can be excused for decisions his subordinates made. All levels. S. G. Rabe; University of Texas at Dallas

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