Skip to comments.Dereliction of Duty by H.R. McMaster
Posted on 01/07/2018 4:11:48 PM PST by GoldenState_Rose
Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam by H.R. McMaster
An intriguing analysis that challenges the view that Cold War anticommunism was primarily responsible for American military intervention in Vietnam. In his first book, McMaster, a US Army major and Persian Gulf war veteran, and a historian who has taught at West Point, zeroes in on the actions of Lyndon Johnson and his top advisers from the time LBJ became president in November 1963 to the July 1965 decision to escalate the war drastically.
The author makes a convincing case that domestic political considerations were behind the development of the failed strategy of graduated military pressure. The actions of Johnson, his top civilian advisers, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) were, moreover, characterized by ``arrogance, weakness [and] lying in the pursuit of self interest.'' President Johnson heads McMaster's culpability list, which also includes Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, JCS head and US ambassador to South Vietnam Gen. Maxwell Taylor, Taylor's JCS successor, Gen. Earle Wheeler, and top advisers William and McGeorge Bundy.
McMaster's touchstone is the unchallenged fact that Johnson wanted to fight the war on poverty, not the war in Vietnam. McMaster interprets virtually all of LBJ's actions as chief executive in that light. From November 1963 to November 1964 Johnson's overarching goal was to win the presidential election. After that, his main concern was enacting his Great Society programs. The fact that Johnson made Vietnam policy based on domestic-policy implications, McMaster believes, was a recipe for disaster in Vietnam. David Halberstam promulgated similar arguments in The Best and the Brightest (1972). McMaster, using newly released transcripts and other primary source material, pays more attention to the JCS's role.
Unsparing in his analysis of the chiefs, McMaster takes them severely to task for their ``failure'' to provide LBJ with ``their best advice.'' A relentless, stinging indictment of the usual Johnson administration Vietnam War suspects.
“The fact that Johnson made Vietnam policy based on domestic-policy implications, McMaster believes, was a recipe for disaster in Vietnam.”
Well, yeah, but it wasn’t the cause of the war.
Personally, I don't hold the Chiefs as culpable as the rest. McNamara, Rusk and Taylor tried to freeze out the Chiefs from the inner ring of decision makers and did not effectively convey the real concerns of the Chiefs and the size of the force they felt would be necessary to win.
can you expand on that please? Vietnam was before my time and I am trying to make sense of it in light of watching Angelina Jolie’s new movie about Cambodia.
JFK got us involved in Vietnam because The Russians thought he was a drugged out wimp and he wanted to prove different
“A very good book. When I read it I figured McMaster’s career was over. Glad I was wrong.”
It apparently did slow down his promotions.
Like you, I didn’t agree with holding the JCS culpable. They wouldn’t have been able to imagine the degree that LBJ, McNamara and Taylor were misleading and outright lying to them.
And besides, as McMaster documents LBJ had no intention of heeding their advice anyway.
One of the most valuable lessons from this book is that Presidents need to include the JCS in their deliberations.
Eisenhower bequeathed Kennedy and Johnson a security structure that had two advisory groups which included the JCS.
Kennedy dismantled that apparently because he felt intimidated by senior military. He relied instead upon his Harvard eggheads.
Johnson continued the policy of shutting out the JCS because he didn’t want to hear their opinions. So instead Johnson had his Vietnam strategy designed by a couple of lawyers.
It would be good to get together with some old geezer like me, and just let him talk. I couldn’t possibly do that much typing.
Try “Strategy for Defeat” by Admiral Sharp for one perspective.
We were already involved by the time Kennedy was killed, and we were in too deep for LBJ to cut and run. He didn’t want to spend money on VN; he wanted to spend it turning America socialist. Whether it was policy or whether he was just buffeted by events I do not know. What he did, though, was to expand our presence gradually, doing just enough not to lose, while never doing anything that could lead to victory.
He was afraid that Russia and China might come into the war if he mined Haiphong Harbor and bombed Hanoi, the rail lines that brought military aid from Russia and China, or the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Nixon did exactly those things, and it brought the commie murderers to the table and did not bring the Ruskies or the Chicoms in. This, together with his successful Vietnamization program allowed him to keep his promise of Peace with Honor. The war was won.
At the same time, the left was successfully doing to Nixon what they’ve been trying to do to President Trump. Poor Nixon had no Internet to disseminate the truth, so he resigned for good of the country. That was the cue for communist traitors in the Senate to disgracefully repudiate our treaties with South Vietnam, leaving them helpless in the face of North Vietnam, backed as always by Russia and China.
As we all knew it would, a bloodbath ensued, and every leftist’s hands run red with the blood of the innocent.
The region had been French Indochina before WWII. Japan conquered it, and after their defeat France returned.
There had been a long going anti-French, anti-Japan insurgency movement, the Viet Minh, led by Communists Ho Chi Minh and Vo Giap. The French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Vietnam split in half, a Communist north ruled by Ho Chi Minh and a pro-Western south ruled by President Diem. The United States aligned with South Vietnam at this time.
Ho Chi Minh’s Communists wanted to unify the country and began waging an insurgency campaign against South Vietnam using the Viet Cong as a proxy army. They killed village leaders and other South Vietnam officials. We began sending advisors and ordnance to help South Vietnam defend itself from the Communist insurgents. President Eisenhower gave his “falling domino” speech stating that we intended to defend South Vietnam in order to prevent all of Southeast Asia being conquered by the Soviet bloc.
President Kennedy continued our policy of sending military advisors and equipment to South Vietnam. The Viet Cong insurgency continued. In November 1963 President Diem of South Vietnam was deposed in a coup, likely engineered by Kennedy, and killed. President Kennedy was assassinated three weeks later.
South Vietnam was essentially leaderless and out of control when Lyndon Johnson took office. Johnson made the decision to send the first American ground combat troops to Vietnam, arriving in early 1965. But as McMaster documents in his book LBJ was not willing to commit the troops and money it would take to defeat Hanoi. Despite what the American public would be led to believe this would be nothing more than a “display of resolve”. All that Ho Chi Minh and Giap had to do is outwait us.
And many fine young patriotic boys and men who were forced to fight in a jungle they knew nothing about died for nothing. It makes me cry to think of it.
“Ho Chi Minhs Communists wanted to unify the country”
They wanted to rule the entire country, would be a better way to put it. They weren’t noble patriots seeking unity. They were communist filth set on a blood bath.
Eventually they got it. Sooner, if you count Hue.
Here is his speech on the subject.
As you can tell, it's sort of an open wound. Half of my Boot Camp Platoon is on the Wall, fed into the Grinder, AFTER we knew it was lost.
“died for nothing.”
The war hastened the fall of the USSR by ten years, and who knows how many lives that saved?
Further, all other things being equal, opposing evil is the right thing to do. They died opposing the evil of communism, and don’t ever let anybody tell you that it wasn’t a very great evil indeed.
Just because we won the cold war doesn’t mean we couldn’t have lost.
A history class I took years ago suggested this very thing. LBJ was all about the “Great Society”. He could have cared less about Vietnam.
Reston on Who’s to Blame for Vietnam
By Godfrey Sperling, Godfrey Sperling Jr. is the Monitor’s senior Washington columnist. November 19, 1991
NO one has provided more persuasive evidence that it was President John F. Kennedy who got the United States into the Vietnam war than James Reston in his recently published memoir, “Deadline.”
Describing his interview with Mr. Kennedy following the young president’s summit with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, Mr. Reston has this to say: “I remember that Saturday morning very well. He (Kennedy) arrived at the US embassy (in Vienna) over an hour late, shaken and angry at having been delayed by an unexpected extra meeting with the Soviet leader. He was wearing a hat - unusual for him - and he pushed it down over his forehead, sat down on a couch beside me, and sighed. I said it must have been a roug h session. Much rougher than he had expected, he said.” Kennedy then told Reston that Mr. Khrushchev had threatened him, warning that if the US did not agree to communist control over access to Berlin, the Soviet Union would proceed unilaterally to dominate the routes from Western Europe to Berlin. Kennedy said that he replied that the US would fight to maintain access to its garrison in Berlin if necessary.
Kennedy then went on to tell Reston that he felt sure that Khrushchev thought that anybody who had made such a mess of the Cuban invasion had no judgment. “Khrushchev,” writes Reston, “had treated Kennedy with contempt, even challenging his courage, and whatever else Kennedy may have lacked, he didn’t lack courage. He felt he had to act.” Soon thereafter Kennedy sent more advisers to the battlefront in Vietnam.
“This, I thought,” Reston continues, “was a critical mistake. Once Kennedy had over 15,000 ‘advisers’ engaged not only in giving advice but also in giving support on the battlefield. US power and prestige were thought by many officials in Washington and in Asian capitals to be committed.”
And here is Reston’s assessment of the “who done it” argument that still is being waged - of who it was that got the US into what became a winless war that killed many Americans and finally sapped morale on the homefront: “No doubt, as President, Johnson was more responsible for commiting the US to that struggle (he eventually had 500,000 Americans in the war), but in my view Kennedy started the slide.”
Defenders of Kennedy on this issue usually point to Robert Kennedy’s denial that his brother had any intention of going to war in Vietnam. Reston writes: “Robert Kennedy, eager to protect his brother from blame, always denied that the President intended to increase the nation’s commitment to Vietnam, and also denied that the Kennedy-Khrushchev meeting in Vienna had anything to do with it. But he didn’t hear what his brother said to me in the Vienna embassy, and I did.” This is not just another reporter telling us of how something important happened.
I figured the fact that they were Communists and were “killing village leaders and other South Vietnam officials” should have indicated what they were doing.
Read McMaster’s book and you’ll be even angrier at the cynical fashion in which American GIs were used by political hacks.
“I figured the fact that they were Communists and were killing village leaders and other South Vietnam officials should have indicated what they were doing.”
I reacted to the talk about wanting to “unify” the country. Guess I’m on something of a hair trigger too.
IMO demonic lbj had jfk whacked and founded the modern democrip gangster syndicate as its OG kingpin which has ever since produced only more gangsters and criminals. mcmaster wasted his time with this naivete proposing this monster actually cared about advancing some kind of serious agenda for anything than himself gaining power thru any means necessary (ie treason and murder). basically hitlery with a buzzcut. altho he succeeded where it failed. but i think mcmaster’s posit speaks more of himself than of its sadistic protagonist.
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