Responsible for the American Involvement in Vietnam
Kennedy was more responsible for American involvement in Vietnam than Johnson’.
Is this a reasonable view? The debates surrounding responsibility for the Vietnam War are extremely controversial. Intervention can be dated back as far as President Truman in 1950 when he began to provide economic and military aid to the French in order to prevent Communist transpolar. American intervention escalated through the various policies of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and finally to Lyndon Johnson, when Vietnam became an American War.American combat troops did not enter Vietnam until 1964, when the Gulf of Tontine Resolution as passed and rapid military escalation followed. This is why many Historians argue that Johnson was more responsible for American involvement in Vietnam; arguing that Kennedy was opposed from the beginning to the infiltration of American troops. However, the argument arises that Kennedy put Johnson into a position where he had no other choice but to escalate, where withdrawal would have deplorable consequences.John F.
Kennedy was a strong believer of Eisenhower Domino Theory. It followed the notion that if Vietnam fell to Communism, the rest of South-East Asia would also succumb and as Eisenhower conveyed- “the possible consequences of loss are just incalculable to the free world. ” 1 Kennedy reiterated this belief incessantly throughout his Presidency to which gives reason to Historians such as Paterson, Clifford and Hogan to believe that Kennedy had the incentive to pursue the war.They argue that because Kennedy perceived Communists as one international conspiracy; implementing the Domino Theory, and so respectively increased the Vietnamese presence. 2 They describe Kennedy’s Presidential term as “pivotal to American involvement. 3 Therefore, Kennedy’s belief in his ability to conquer Communism (and after witnessing Trauma’s loss in China) fueled his determination to persist in Vietnam. Lawrence Bassett and Stephen Peel state how Kennedy believed Eisenhower had been too passive with South Vietnam and persevered “to shift ‘from the defense to the offense.
4 Bassett and Peel use various examples of Kennedy’s military escalations to support their idea that Kennedy was determined to stop Vietnam falling to Communism. If we refer to NASA 11 1 we see evidence of Kennedy’s plans for increases in litany advisers, helicopters and equipment. 6 They continue to argue that Eisenhower policy in Vietnam provided Kennedy with other options than to support the Diem regime;7 further escalating, making him responsible for American involvement in Vietnam.John Newman argues averted that the situation in Vietnam was already unruly prior to his Presidential election, and so cannot be held responsible for American intervention, arguing that he never would have sent troops in-8 However, the fact Kennedy continued to increase the number of advisers in South Vietnam, supply heavy artillery and he aid he provided increased to hundreds of millions of American dollars, proves Kennedy invested a lot in Vietnam.Although his involvement was limited, it still escalated throughout his Presidential reign and by his death in 1964, he had committed 16,000 military personnel to Vietnam. 9 With South Vietnam now heavily relying on America, we must ask ourselves how easy it would have been for Johnson to withdraw. Bassett and Peel argue that Kennedy’s bilateral aid lead to further escalation of the Vietnam War, leading Johnson with no other choice but to introduce American troops.
They argue that Kennedy “raised the costs of withdrawal for his successor. 10 David Halters agrees, arguing that Kennedy set a precedent for Johnson in Vietnam. 1 1 Bassett and Peel go as far to say that “If Kennedy had negotiated a deal on South Vietnam, he might have encouraged dtenet with the Soviet union and hastened a Sino-Vietnamese split. “1 2 However this view is extremely subjective; to pursue this idea would mean overlooking other factors to which drove up the hostility between the United States and the Soviet Union. If we look at Lyndon Johnny’s book The VantagePoint, we see his own perception of his position regarding Vietnam. Johnson speaks of having had no option but to intervene, where to withdraw would have permanently damaged the United States reputation globally, along with his. 13 David Levy supports Johnson, arguing that even if Johnson had wanted to withdraw, Kennedy had put him into a position where withdrawal would mean a great loss for the United States.
“Even if Johnson wished not be encumbered by Vietnam… Could the nation, having come this far, simply turn back and leave? 14 The reasonable answer is probably not, but did Johnson deed to deepen American military intervention to the scale that he did, to which Kennedy had tried so hard to avoid, or was this is own prerogative. However, Kennedy refused to create attempts of peace negotiations. Senator Mansfield claims to have told Kennedy the dangers of persevering, where the united States would eventually and inevitably be forced to take a combat role if he persisted. 15 Kennedy refused and by referring to the Washing White Papers of 1961 , we see how the report showed for either a military escalation or American withdrawal.
6 This was Ken needs opportunity to withdraw from Vietnam, yet he chose the middle ground and maintained a limited partnership with the Diem. 17 However, Freddie Legally argues rightly that, “there is an important difference be;men a combat commitment and an advisory commitment” 18- separating the policies of Kennedy from those Of his successor. Or perhaps, if Kennedy had considered military intervention earlier than when Johnson was forced to make the decision, the Vetting and National Liberation Front could have been suppressed more easily, as by the time Johnson came to power they largely outnumbered the South Vietnamese army.If we accept the arguments of Bassett, peel, and Halters then to say that Kennedy was more responsible for American involvement would be a reasonable view, arguing that Kennedy put the United States into a position where withdrawal was extremely difficult. However, we must consider Illegal’s point. John Newman agrees, arguing that Johnson is essentially to blame for America’s involvement in the Vietnam War; arguing that Kennedy would never had sent American troops into Vietnam the way that Johnson did. 9 He states- “Kennedy had to disguise a withdrawal; Johnson had to disguise intervention.
20 Newman believes that Kennedy was against intervention from the start, and the “conservative backlash”21 that he would receive if he withdrew, is what postponed an early withdrawal. He describes Johnny’s Vietnam policy as a reversal of Keenness’s. If we refer to NASA 263- signed October 1 963, we see evidence for Kennedy’s plan to withdraw 1000 advisers from Vietnam by the end of the year. 3 We can then contrast this with NASA 273- signed November 1 963, which is the document Johnson signed after Kennedy’s assassination, escalating the number of troops and deepening American intervention in Vietnam. 4 These Woo documents provide us with potential evidence to argue that Kennedy was not more responsible for American involvement than Johnson, as Kennedy had plans to withdraw, and it was on Johnny’s own incentive to deepen American involvement. Although there would have been some loss, Johnson could have easily withdrawn after Kennedy’s death as opposed to signing NASA 273.Freddie Legally agrees, arguing that the stakes were high for both Kennedy and Johnson went it came to withdrawal in Vietnam, yet the consequences would not have been as devastating as Johnny’s decision to introduce American troops.
5 He argues that Johnson escalated immensely from Kennedy, to the point where the only option left was military intervention. As Legally states, “l do think that price has to be compared to the price he could expect to pay if he took what by early 1 965 is the only reasonable alternative, and that is major escalation. 26 Legally argues as far to conclude that had Kennedy lived, he would have taken the necessary steps to withdraw the United States from Vietnam. 27 Legally draws attention to Kennedy’s military experience, arguing that Kennedy understood the risks of military intervention- and Johnson didn’t, thus understanding that the losses of withdrawal were less than that of persistence. 28 Bernard Broodier argues further that Kennedy’s nature and his sufficient understanding of the military situation in Vietnam would have “prevented him expanding Americas commitment in Vietnam in the way his successor Johnson did. 29 Historians such as Newman, Broodier and Legally believe that had Kennedy survived, he would have withdrawn, and go as far to say that the Vietnam War wouldn’t have happened-30 They therefore see the idea of Kennedy being held more responsible for American involvement as unreasonable. The Gulf of Tontine incident is defined by many people as the date the Vietnam War started, as David Levy states, “By the Autumn of 1 965, therefore, few could doubt that Vietnam was now an American War, and not an Asian one in which Americans were assisting.
31 Two incidents are said to have occurred, where during the first, Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the ISIS Maddox,32 to which resulted in a major sea battle. The occurrence of the second incident is hugely speculated, with the United States claiming they had been attacked again, which consequently led to the Tontine Gulf Resolution. This granted Johnson “to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United which lead him to make the decision to introduce American troops in Vietnam.If speculated, we must consider why Johnson would want to pursue this deception in order to Americanism the War. Johnson claimed, “We wanted to be absolutely certain that our ships had actually been attacked before we retaliated. “34 However, Senator Fulbright, amongst others, expressed his concern to whether the second incident even happened, arguing that there were other ways than military intervention to dealing with the Gulf of Tontine incident. 5 Fulbright in his book Arrogance of Power resolutely criticisms American intervention arguing that America had a choice between “opposition to Communism and support for nationalism.
36 To which Johnson and his advisers chose the former, and as Fulbright expresses, “we have allowed our fear of Communism to make us once again the enemy of a nationalist revolution, and in that role we have wrought havoc. “37 Fulbright criticisms Johnny’s refusal to consider negotiations, comparing him to a gambler who will always continue to raise the stakes in hope of regaining his losses. 38 Thus arguing that Johnson could eave easily withdrawn, suffering little loss, yet was addicted to the belligerent idea of defeating Communism.Halters takes a different angle to Johnson being the primary cause to American involvement, arguing that his personality and character meant that he would never have withdrawn from Vietnam. He describes Johnson as believing “in the omnipotence of American power, the concept of the frontier and using force to make sure you were clearly understood. “39 Broodier agrees, describing Johnson as “bellicose”. 40 Both Broodier and Halters believe that Johnny’s belligerence and stubbornness were significant reasons to why Johnson refused to pull out of Vietnam, along with his lack of military’ experiences and ignorance in foreign affairs.
Broodier States, “Foreign affairs were indeed foreign to him, and so for that matter were military affairs. “41 His hostility towards Communism had inevitably augmented, bringing with it an aggressive passion to defeat the Communist aggressors. However, his resources meant he lacked the ability to do this. Frances Fitzgerald supports further that Kennedy understood and possessed comprehensive military knowledge and so would have been able to seen the catastrophic uniqueness that Johnson didn’t. 42 Therefore, Johnson ignorance, belligerence, and determination to surpass Communism, lead American to the Vietnam War, not Kennedy. )Prestidigitation released ‘Why Vietnam? ‘ in 1965 to explain to the American nation why intervention in Vietnam was necessary and also featuring a bombardment of propaganda. It talks about Johnson having no other choice but intervention due to North Vietnamese aggression, and Dean Rusk goes on to list several peace negotiations offered by the U.
S. Yet declined by the Communist aggressors, which we know to be false.!!!!! If we refer to George shin’s book The United States in Vietnam, he lists various peace settlements offered to Johnson, to which he blindly refused.He explains how after Unguent Khan came to power, the IN_F called for peace negotiations,43 and how Moscow, Hanoi and Paris requested a reconvened Geneva Conference in 1 964, and Johnson refused again. 44 These are just two examples of the many that Kahn lists. Johnson refused all, arguing that, “Naturalization of South Vietnam would only be another name for a Communist Takeover. “45 As Kahn argues, “it seems certain that President Johnson had by this time decided in favor of bombing the North and was waiting only for an appropriate pretext before ordering initial raids.
46 This again links in with Fulbright’s idea of Johnny’s opposition to Communism. In February 1965, ‘Aggression from the North’ report was released, adding to the list of propaganda materials Johnson released to the public to try and justify his unjustifiable intervention in Vietnam. The report ignores the fact Communist rebellion was coming from the South and the North, claiming it was being attacked by the North and therefore had to retaliate. 7 The deception portrayed in this Video, is reason enough to believe that Johnson was trying to cover up the real reasons he was intervening in the Vietnam War.If Johnson hadn’t been so determined to resist small scale American humiliation and withdrawn, the War in Vietnam would never have escalated the way it did. To believe Johnny’s self-pitying memoirs in his book The Vantage Point would mean adopting a gullible approach to the argument that Kennedy was more responsible for American involvement in Vietnam. The fact Johnson claims he had no other option but to escalate has been proven incorrect by the endless list of peace negotiations offered to him, to which he subsequently refused; seeking instead a War against Communism.
His motives for doing this spur another debate, however I believe it to be clear that Johnson had every intention of escalating the War in Vietnam, thus placing the blame of involvement on him. To say Kennedy was more responsible for American involvement is precipitous, however we cannot forget that Kennedy invested a lot into Vietnam through his aid policies, as South Vietnam would have collapsed long before Johnson came to power had they not been able to rely so heavily on he United States. We could easily argue that they were equally to blame, where Kennedy set the precedent and Johnson followed by deepening American intervention further.However I find this a very naive approach, and by looking at the different policies of the two Presidents, think it is clear who is more responsible. Kennedy from the very beginning refused to allow American troops into Vietnam, and rejected many suggestions and policies to do so. Kennedy made plans to withdraw advisers, Johnson used the excuse of the second Tontine gulf incident; which may or may not have happened, to Americanism the Vietnam War. Johnson released various documents and videos portraying himself as a savior to South Vietnam against this barbaric ideology of Communism.
We know this to be very different as The Nation Liberation Front in Vietnam Was composed of Communists and Non- Communists whom just wanted the American’s out, and were willing to accept some form of coalition government. Johnson refused to accept this. After President Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson had the chance to withdraw from Vietnam. He refused to do this. As a result, Johnson allowed millions of Vietnamese to be killed and led thousands of Americans to their death. To say Kennedy was responsible for involvement in the Vietnam War is an unreasonable view.