Johnson Administration

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Review Essay, Nov/Dec 2012
Fredrik Logevall

A pathbreaking history of the Vietnam War reveals that the Northern government was far more divided and discouraged than commonly believed. Yet the fact remains that the United States and its allies in the South always faced very long odds of success.

Review Essay, Sept/Oct 2012
H. W. Brands

In the latest installment of his epic biography of U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro reveals a man who obsessively sought power to assuage a misplaced sense of his own suffering -- but also to help those whose struggles were less abstract.

Review Essay, Sep/Oct 1998
Roy Jenkins

James Chace's wise biography of Dean Acheson shows how Truman's inimitable secretary of state helped create the postwar order.

Review Essay, May/Jun 1995
George C. Herring

In taking the war upon himself, Robert S. McNamara forgets that containment abroad and anticommunism at home virtually ensured the Vietnam tragedy.

Review Essay, Jan/Feb 1995
David Fromkin

Newly released records show that L.B.J., for all his political canniness and cunning, never managed U.S. foreign policy well-even excluding the Vietnam War.

Review Essay, Spring 1989
Gregory F. Treverton

"A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." The words are Ronald Reagan's. While McGeorge Bundy, like many others, finds Reagan's thinking about nuclear weapons muddy and his administration's public presentation of nuclear reality disgraceful, this particular sentence is crystal clear. It echoes the conclusion of the only person ever to authorize a nuclear strike, Harry Truman: "Starting an atomic war is totally unthinkable for rational men."

Essay, Oct 1972
Zbigniew Brzezinski

The dates May 22, 1947, and May 22, 1972, span exactly 25 years. On May 22, 1947, President Truman signed a congressional bill committing the United States to support Greece and Turkey against Soviet designs, and the United States thereby assumed overtly the direct leadership of the West in the containment of Soviet influence. Twenty-five years later to the day, another American President landed in Moscow, declaring to the Soviet leaders that "we meet at a moment when we can make peaceful coöperation a reality."

Essay, Apr 1972
Leslie H. Gelb

A Henry Kissinger has written, public support is "the acid test of a foreign policy." For a President to be successful in maintaining his nation's security he needs to believe, and others need to believe, that he has solid support at home. It was President Johnson's judgment that if the United States permitted the fall of Vietnam to communism, American politics would turn ugly and inward and the world would be a less safe place in which to live. Later, President Nixon would declare: "The right way out of Vietnam is crucial to our changing role in the world, and the peace in the world." In order to gain support for these judgments and the objectives in Vietnam which flowed from them, our Presidents have had to weave together the steel-of-war strategy with the strands of domestic politics.

Essay, Jul 1970
Townsend Hoopes

A Question recently posed by a distinguished colleague is central for anyone who earnestly seeks to understand how an entire generation of American political leaders, with the best will in the world, pushed the country onto the slippery slope that led ever downward into the engulfing morass of Indochina. The question is this: "Why did so many intelligent, experienced and humane men in government fail to grasp the immorality of our intervention in Vietnam and the cancerous division it was producing at home, long after this was instinctively evident to their wives and children?"

Essay, Oct 1969
McGeorge Bundy

The summer of 1969 has seen men on the moon and almost half the American Senate voting against a defense decision supported by two Presidents. In the summer pride of the moon landing it is not pleasant to turn the mind back to the terrible topic of nuclear danger. Yet the splendid technical achievement of Apollo contains its own reminder that similar skills applied with similar single-mindedness have now led the two greatest powers of our generation into an arms race totally unprecedented in size and danger.

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