In This Review

Uncertain Warriors: Lyndon Johnson and His Vietnam Advisers
Uncertain Warriors: Lyndon Johnson and His Vietnam Advisers
By David M. Barrett
University Press of Kansas, 1993, 279 pp

It is commonly thought that Lyndon Johnson had a very narrow set of advisers on Vietnam, all hawks, that he excluded opposition views and was greatly surprised in the aftermath of the 1968 Tet offensive when his new Secretary of Defense, Clark Clifford, told him the Joint Chiefs of Staff were misleading him. Clifford's defection supposedly caused Johnson to reverse course and begin the process of retreat. In this important study, Barrett draws on newly released archival material to demolish the common wisdom. He shows that Johnson listened to all points of view, and that he was deeply disturbed by the opposition to escalation from Senators Richard Russell and William Fulbright, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, formal advisers including George Ball, informal advisers including Dean Acheson (after 1967) and many others. Barrett's point is that Johnson heard all sides before making decisions. His conclusion is that rational advisory and decision making processes can produce tragically awed policies. Among other virtues, the work recalls the agony of Vietnam and the terrible personal dilemma Johnson went through as he rejected the advice of men he trusted and admired.