An enthralling and sardonic study of the events and personalities surrounding the ouster and assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem. Winters, who teaches ethics and international affairs at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service, writes persuasively of the folly and high-minded intolerance that lay behind "the Kennedy campaign to superimpose on Saigon the image of Washington." This undertaking at once augured the subsequent Americanization of the war and eliminated the one South Vietnamese leader with solid nationalist credentials (a point not lost on the North Vietnamese, dumbfounded and delighted by the American-sponsored coup). Among those pressing for Diem's removal, ironically, were Undersecretary of State George Ball and New York Times correspondent David Halberstam, both of whom later became trenchant critics of the war but who receive here pointed criticism for their role in 1963. The one false note struck by Winters is his belief that Kennedy intended to withdraw from Vietnam after the 1964 elections. It might more plausibly be argued that the coup against Diem truly represented the point of no return, and that Kennedy's private comments pointing to withdrawal (made before the coup) represented a slender hope rather than a matured conviction.
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