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View Diary: Nick Turse: Chuck Hagel and Murder in Vietnam (28 comments)

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  •  Everything about the Vietnam war was political (4+ / 0-)
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    BOHICA, melfunction, raincrow, SilentBrook

    "LBJ isn't deeply concerned about who governs Laos, or who governs South Vietnam -- he's deeply concerned with what the average American voter is going to think about how he did in the ball game of the Cold War. The great Cold War championship gets played in the largest stadium in the United States and he, Lyndon Johnson, is the quarterback, and if he loses, how does he do in the next election? So don't lose. Now that's too simple, but it's where he is. He's living with his own political survival every time he looks at these questions.”

    http://books.google.ca/...

    Sure the MIC enjoyed the dividends that were brought by more military spending.  But ultimately, the Democrats were scared of being branded as being too pro-Soviet.

    •  LBJ was forced into it by Republicans (2+ / 0-)
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      BOHICA, SilentBrook

      He knew if Vietnam fell on his watch, Republicans would freak out and begin a new wave of McCarthyism/hysteria - and probably win.  So he was doing his best to appease by pursuing assistance to Vietnam.

      Once in, the military-industrial complex pushed and made it clear escalation was his only way to avoid an electoral disaster.  

      The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. --George Orwell

      by jgkojak on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 08:16:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Something happened to the psyche of the US (1+ / 0-)
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        SilentBrook

        after Pearl Harbor.  The United States had a small, modest military before that and was largely averse to getting involved in foreign wars (WW1 and the Spanish-American war notwithstanding).

        The entire country was mobilized for WW2 and never really let itself go after that.

        To dismantle the MIC right now would likely have averse economic consequences because many people rely on the military as a source of employment.  So I understand that aspect of the MIC, and the influence it exerts.

        The MIC was a factor in Vietnam, but I was trying to answer the poster's question why it seemed that LBJ got involved in a quagmire with all those stupid decisions.  Hindsight is 20/20, and while the surge worked in Iraq, it didn't work quite as well as in Vietnam.

      •  LBJ ran as a peace candidate (4+ / 0-)
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        BOHICA, PhilJD, raincrow, SilentBrook

        against war hawk, Barry Goldwater, and then sold us out to the war industry by escalating the war in Vietnam dramatically in 1965. Hence the famous chant: "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"

        Anyone still thinking that wanting to own a gun is normal? Wanting to own a gun is an immediate indicator that you should be the last person to have one.

        by pollbuster on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 08:55:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  It was also to cover his flank on "The Great (0+ / 0-)

        Society" ag Southern conservative Dems -- not exactly a quid pro for their support of, or failure to oppose, his social programs.  Just another reason I despise Blue Dogs.  

    •  Interesting analysis (2+ / 0-)
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      melfunction, SilentBrook

      Presidential recordings of Lydon B. Johnson

      David Coleman
      Associate Professor and Chair of the Presidential Recordings Program, Miller Center of Public
      Affairs
      Marc Selverstone
      Assistant Director for Presidential Studies and Associate Professor with the Presidential
      Recordings Program, Miller Center of Public Affairs

      Westmoreland’s request prompted Johnson to convene one of the more significant of these study groups that emerged during the war, and one that Johnson would return to at key points later in the
      conflict. Comprised of figures from the business, scientific, academic, and diplomatic communities, as well as both Democrats and Republicans, these “wise men” came to Washington in July to meet with senior civilian and military officials, as well as with Johnson himself. They recommended that LBJ give Westmoreland what he needed, advice that General Eisenhower had also communicated to the White House back in June. Prior to finalizing any decision to commit
      those forces, however, Johnson sent Secretary of Defense McNamara to Saigon for discussions with Westmoreland and his aides. McNamara’s arrival and report back to Johnson on 21 July began the final week of preparations that would lead to Johnson’s announcement of the expanded American commitment. A series of meetings with civilian and military officials, including one in which LBJ heard a lone, dissenting view from Undersecretary of State George Ball, solidified
      Johnson’s thinking about the necessity of escalating the conflict. Ball’s arguments about the many challenges the United States faced in Vietnam were far outweighed by the many pressures Johnson believed were weighing on him to make that commitment.
      Those pressures were rooted in fears about domestic as well as international consequences.
      Political considerations that stretched back to the “loss of China” episode of the late 1940s and
      Copyright 2010 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia 11 early 1950s led Johnson, as a Democratic, to fear a replay of that right-wing backlash should the Communists prevail in South Vietnam. Concern over the fate of his ambitious domestic program
      likewise led Johnson deeper into Vietnam, fearing that a more open debate about the likely costs of the military commitment and the prospects for victory would have stalled legislative action on the Great Society. Worries about the credibility of the U.S. commitment to America’s friends around the world also led Johnson to support Saigon, even when some of those friends had questioned the wisdom of that commitment. Concern about his personal credibility was also at work in Johnson’s calculus. As he would say to U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge within two days of becoming president, “I will not lose in Vietnam.” That personal stake in the outcome of the war remained a theme throughout his presidency, perhaps best embodied by his remark to Senator Eugene McCarthy in February 1966: “I know we oughtn’t to be there, but I can’t get out,” Johnson maintained. “I just can’t be the architect of surrender.”

      Hobbs: "How come we play war and not peace?" Calvin: "Too few role models."

      by BOHICA on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 08:19:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not at all (1+ / 0-)
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      WattleBreakfast

      Especially considering so many Dem leaders in DC were adamantly opposed to escalating US involvement.  They weren't afraid of running for office in opposition to involvement in Vietnam, especially before the Tonkin Gulf incident.  LBJ was ultimately forced to declare he wouldn't run for re-election because of the war's increasing unpopularity.

      The early and mid 60's were the post- McCarthy/Commie/Red Scare years.  People were no longer looking behind every rock for  communist.  They wanted to move forward with peace and prosperity towards more diplomatic solutions in foreign relations.

      Public sentiment was never behind the Vietnam War in the way it was artificially ginned up for the Gulf war. Bush I learned from the Vietnam War lessons and engaged big PR firms to manipulate the news media and drum up public support before his invasions.  9-11 provided the public support Bush II needed to overcome the Vietnam political curse to gain public support for his wars.

      The political unpopularity of the Vietnam War was a blessing that prevented many later presidents from jumping into questionable ground invasions.

      Democratic Leaders must be very clear they stand with the working class of our country. Democrats must hold the line in demanding that deficit reduction is done fairly -- not on the backs of the elderly, the sick, children and the poor.

      by Betty Pinson on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 08:26:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're imagining things (4+ / 0-)
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        BOHICA, raincrow, SilentBrook, Kickemout

        Gulf of Tonkin incident was August 1964. Before the (non) incident there were fewer than 20,000 US troops in Vietnam. It was a non-issue. Very few DC pols knew anything about Vietnam at all and those actively interested could be counted on one hand.

        People are still looking under rocks for Commies. In the 60s it remained a national preoccupation. The antiwar movement was a small circle of friends until at least 1966.

        •  Were you around then? I was just a punk kid, but (0+ / 0-)

          I was VERY aware of Vietnam, even before the Tonkin Gulf (Non-)Incident.  Of course, maybe I was aware of it just BECAUSE I was a punk kid -- I.e., draft bait if not having started my FR year in college.  Remember, this was the era of the U-2 & Gary Powers, Bay of Pigs (my brother was a Navy air- traffic controller there), Cuban Missle Crisis, Diem assassinations, JFK assassination, "Dr. Strangelove," etc., etc., etc.  You would've had to have been brain-dead not to have been aware of what was going on in Vietnam.  

          •  I was around then, too (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WattleBreakfast

            The Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 was the military's attempt to "lobby"  LBJ and Congress by creating a scenario  that would justify moving beyond an advisory role.

            LBJ/McNamara had opportunities then to pull out without political repercussions.  LBJ successfully won re-election against Goldwater, a much more hawkish politician.  It wasn't that long after the Cuban Missile Crisis and people were more afraid of nuclear annihilation than they were of commies invading our shores.  For that reason, public opinion then was more toward avoiding escalation of any military conflict.  

            LBJ/McNamara could have pulled out of Vietnam without political blowback any time between 1964 and 1968.  McNamara chose not to simply because he wanted to triangulate and finesse the mess by micromanaging it and engaging in PR and damage control.  

            In the end, even McNamara didn't know why he did it and admitted it was a mistake.  Corporate "groupthink", short term planning and hubris.  Typical problems with "savvy businessmen" trying to run governments.

            Democratic Leaders must be very clear they stand with the working class of our country. Democrats must hold the line in demanding that deficit reduction is done fairly -- not on the backs of the elderly, the sick, children and the poor.

            by Betty Pinson on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 10:18:37 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  And yes, I was around back then (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              WattleBreakfast

              The arc of Vietnam occurred during my adolescence and young adulthood.  Since we didn't have a big variety of media sources, we had to watch and read the news about it every day as well as discussing it in class during the early part of the war.

              Though I'll never forgive LBJ when, on a Saturday morning I was eagerly waiting to see The Young Rascals on American Bandstand, the show was interrupted for LBJ's announcement that he would not run for re-election.  ;-)

              Democratic Leaders must be very clear they stand with the working class of our country. Democrats must hold the line in demanding that deficit reduction is done fairly -- not on the backs of the elderly, the sick, children and the poor.

              by Betty Pinson on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 10:23:13 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Yes I was around (0+ / 0-)

            My reply to Ms Pinson might've been more plain that it was in reference to alleged Dem leaders  "adamantly opposed" to escalation. And supposedly campaigning on it. I went to antiwar events in 1965 where I was an audience of one. Politicians were not looking for my vote.

            The public supported the war as a matter of course because it was America's war. What happened after millions were drafted was different. That there was ever general public support for peace per se is preposterous.

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