As referenced earlier, I thought some of the little book reports I indexed on cards a few years ago might make for an interesting read before I recycle the paper.
This post covers The Best and the Brightest, written by David Halberstam. The index card was dated 1/16/05.
After WWII the French and British wanted to return to some semblance of empire. The Americans needed to remain on friendly terms with Europe in order to defeat Communism so they backed off their own programs, which happened to favor self-identification (nationalism). So anticolonialism lost out in the U.S. and the French were permitted to return to IndoChina…against the wishes of the Vietnamese.
After China fell to the communists, McCarthyism became a string political force. It helped pundits position French struggles in Vietnam to the American effort in Korea. Rather than being a struggle for nationalism, which it was, Vietnam came to be reviewed through the lens of the Cold War’s fight to stop communism.
A young Kennedy administration was on loose footing after the Bay of Pigs and a Presidential meeting with a dominating Krushchev in Vienna. So on the issue of Vietnam, at least, the Party felt a need to be tough. A weak Secretary of State couldn’t change the nature of the debate.
Later, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution effectively gave President Johnson the power to escalate to a full war in Vietnam. Reasons to escalate in 1964:
70% – avoid defeat and humiliation (kept private)
20% – keep territory from China (kept private)
10% – help South Vietnam (publicized)