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Into the Quagmire: Lyndon Johnson and the Escalation of the Vietnam War [Kindle Edition]

Brian VanDeMark
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In November of 1964, as Lyndon Johnson celebrated his landslide victory over Barry Goldwater, the government of South Vietnam lay in a shambles. Ambassador Maxwell Taylor described it as a country beset by "chronic factionalism, civilian-military suspicion and distrust, absence of national spirit and motivation, lack of cohesion in the social structure, lack of experience in the conduct of government." Virtually no one in the Johnson Administration believed that Saigon could defeat the communist insurgency--and yet by July of 1965, a mere nine months later, they would lock the United States on a path toward massive military intervention which would ultimately destroy Johnson's presidency and polarize the American people.
Into the Quagmire presents a closely rendered, almost day-by-day account of America's deepening involvement in Vietnam during those crucial nine months. Mining a wealth of recently opened material at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and elsewhere, Brian VanDeMark vividly depicts the painful unfolding of a national tragedy. We meet an LBJ forever fearful of a conservative backlash, which he felt would doom his Great Society, an unsure and troubled leader grappling with the unwanted burden of Vietnam; George Ball, a maverick on Vietnam, whose carefully reasoned (and, in retrospect, strikingly prescient) stand against escalation was discounted by Rusk, McNamara, and Bundy; and Clark Clifford, whose last-minute effort at a pivotal meeting at Camp David failed to dissuade Johnson from doubling the number of ground troops in Vietnam. What comes across strongly throughout the book is the deep pessimism of all the major participants as things grew worse--neither LBJ, nor Bundy, nor McNamara, nor Rusk felt confident that things would improve in South Vietnam, that there was any reasonable chance for victory, or that the South had the will or the ability to prevail against the North. And yet deeper into the quagmire they went.
Whether describing a tense confrontation between George Ball and Dean Acheson ("You goddamned old bastards," Ball said to Acheson, "you remind me of nothing so much as a bunch of buzzards sitting on a fence and letting the young men die") or corrupt politicians in Saigon, VanDeMark provides readers with the full flavor of national policy in the making. More important, he sheds greater light on why America became entangled in the morass of Vietnam.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This is an evenhanded, well-documented account of America's deepening involvement in Vietnam during the critical months from November '64 to July '65, when the line between limited and large-scale war was crossed. Freelance writer VanDeMark analyzes the tangle of conflicting pressures confronting President Johnson and his advisers. LBJ comes across here as a haunted, equivocating figure caught in an excruciating dilemma. VanDeMark painstakingly reconstructs from documents, interviews and memoirs a series of dramatic dialogues in the Oval Office, revealing, for example, how adviser George Ball came to stand virtually alone in his passionate opposition to escalation of the war (Clark Clifford eventually became an ally). The author concludes that LBJ lacked the inner strength to overrule the hawkish counsel of Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy and others, and that his July '65 decision to double the number of ground combat troops in Vietnam was a tragic lapse of statesmanship.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A fascinating examination of presidential decision-making at the outset of the Vietnam War....A fine and convincing revisionist analysis."--Kirkus Reviews

"Contribute[s] significantly to understanding how Johnson failed in Vietnam....VanDeMark does an excellent job of correlating Johnson's preoccupation with his Great Society with his escalation decisions."--American Historical Review

"A detailed and compelling story....Provides significant and thoughtful lessons for today."--Proceedings (U.S. Naval Institute)

"Brian Van De Mark provides a carefully documented and well-written account of the pressures encountered by President Johnson when he made the fateful escalation decisions from the end of 1964 to the summer of 1965. Van De Mark effectively demonstrates how and why Johnson was influenced during these early stages of the conflict."--Perspectives on Political Science

Product Details

  • File Size: 841 KB
  • Print Length: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (January 17, 1991)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0057UQPQQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #624,169 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Into the Quagmire April 23, 2001
Very often the American public has tended to view Lyndon Johnosn as the evil villian who escalated America's involvement in the warr in Vietnam. However, few people, including historians, know how the escalation came about. In this book Brian VanDeMark does not try to justify the decisions that were made between 1964 and 1968, but tries and explain how those decisions came about. VanDeMark also shows how Johnson slowly and reluctantly led the United States deeper into what has often been called the "quagmire" of Vietnam. VanDeMark balmes the American Policy maker's ignorance of the culture and politics of Southeast Asia for the slow deepening of the conflict. VanDeMark gives teh reader a very good view of how this happened by carrying the reader through almost every major decision made by the Johnson administration throughout this time period. Writen in a very readable style the near day-to-day account helps to emphasize the snowball effect of the events. The author uses a good range of source material for this book. THere is a strong reliance on government manuscripts and primary sources of the administration. He also includes oral histories and interviews. It is by using these sources and many quotations that VanDeMark is able to carry the reader through the day-to-day accounts of what happened. This book is very important for anyone interested in the VIetnam war or American foreign policy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The route that the United States took during its long and tortured filled path to the final defeat all started with MACV in the early 60s and was encouraged by both Eisenhower and Kennedy. By the time the South Vietnamese government staged the Diem coup and went on to later lead a faction filled dysfunctional government, the North Vietnamese were in entire 100% support of the VC infrastructure which was completely dominating the villages and hinterland outside the major South Vietnamese cities. This was especially true in the area in South Vietnam which was called the iron triangle.
Brian Van DeMark's thorough and insightful study of how President Johnson using his advisors actually made the fateful decisions which led the United States down the road to perdition. The author shows to the reader that this was not a casual decision which the President made on the QT. On the contrary, Van DeMark shows to one and all that Johnson explored all the actions and scenarios to commit troops from both the nay and yeah sides.
The author shows the feelings and thoughts of McNamara, Rusk, McGeorge Bundy, George Ball and Clark Clifford. Johnson took counsel from them all. He did not do this in one day or one week or in one month. This process took a tortured route that took over six months. Johnson although from the great cowboy state of Texas, was not quick with the trigger. In fact he was quite slow.
We all know he took the route of committing more troops and hence the title of the book "Into the Quagmire, And the Escalation of the Vietnam War." Van DeMark shows us this process and it was truly heartbreaking and tough in coming to these decisions. Almost three million people served in and around Vietnam. Billions of dollars were spent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent June 25, 2012
By roger
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
See C.J. Stewart's review below. He said all of it very well. This book isn't to incite controversy. It states fact, the factual information researched that was available to the President in the 18 months leading up to the US finally committing fully to a war in Vietnam. Could it have been prevented by the President following some of the offered advise/opinions of some of his advisors? Did it happen because the President followed the advise/opinion of other of his advisors? Did the President think it through? Had it not happened, what direction would SE Asia have taken then? There is no correct answer. It happened and the clock can't be turned back. Who was right, who was wrong, was there a right or wrong? So very interesting to be there as all of this is unfolds during those critical eighteen months. President Johnson, you'll see a human side of him presented. Do you like him better or worse for his decisions.....and for the reasons behind those decisions...were they personal, political, or patriotic? Doesn't matter anymore. Almost fifty years ago. But so interesting to see how easily we could have taken another direction with Vietnam. Oh well......
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Viet Nam early years August 1, 2013
By jec*#74
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book and learned a lot about the war that impacted most of my youth. I now have a greater understanding of why and what was done in those early years and how we escalated the number of young service men and women in this war. I also believe we won this war in the end.
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