From Publishers Weekly
Had he lived, would President Kennedy have committed U.S. troops to Vietnam? According to the evidence marshalled here, the answer is a resounding no. Newman, who teaches international politics at the University of Maryland, argues that when JFK went to Dallas he already intended to withdraw U.S. advisers from Vietnam, but held off to ensure his reelection in 1964. The book traces the president's pullout plan back to April '62, when he stated that the U.S. should seize every opportunity to reduce its commitment to Vietnam. A month later Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara asked U.S. generals in Saigon how soon the South Vietnamese would be ready to take over the war effort. This well-documented study shows that JFK was for a time deceived by Gen. Maxwell Taylor, head of the joint chiefs, and others in a blizzard of briefings that claimed unadulterated progress and success. Newman maintains that although the president paid public lip service to a continued commitment to appease the right, his goal was to abandon a venture that he early recognized as a lost cause. No other study has revealed so clearly how the tragedy in Dallas affected the course of the war in Vietnam, since two days after the assassination Lyndon Johnson signed a National Security Action Memo that opened the way for the fateful escalation of the war. Photos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Bold and authoritative revisionist analysis of Kennedy's Vietnam policy, by a US Army major who teaches history at the Univ. of Maryland. What was JFK's real agenda regarding Vietnam? Newman claims that the young President planned to withdraw American forces from that war-torn country--and his case is strong. The author pictures an isolated Kennedy battling both cold war jingoism and a military- industrial lobby avid for a war that would make tens of billions of dollars. Conventional wisdom generally sees JFK's early attacks on Eisenhower's covert liaison with France regarding Vietnam as simple political expediency, and Kennedy as another adherent to the domino theory. JFK's speeches buttress that position, but Newman, working with newly declassified material, argues that these speeches were simply requisite political twistings and turnings--and that Kennedy planned to get the US out of Vietnam despite a hawkish palace clique (led by Lyndon Johnson) that fed him disinformation on this most crucial foreign-policy issue. Document by document, incident by incident, the author reveals Kennedy as stranded within his own Administration, alienated by his desire to avoid this ultimate wrong-time, wrong-place war. Newman's research culminates in two crucial National Security Action Memos. In one, authored several weeks before Kennedy's death, the President formally endorsed withdrawal from Vietnam of a thousand advisors by the end of 1963 (to be followed by complete withdrawal by the end of 1965). In the second, written six days after the assassination, LBJ reversed the withdrawal policy and planned in some detail the escalation to follow. Crucial to any reevaluation of JFK as President and statesman, this electrifying report portrays a wily, stubborn, conflicted leader who grasped realities that eluded virtually everyone else in the US establishment. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.