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Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived

3.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0742557000
ISBN-10: 0742557006
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Editorial Reviews

Review

John F. Kennedy's unrealized Vietnam strategy gets a comprehensive workout in this volume. . . . The book offers other new insights (PBS broadcaster and former LBJ advisor Bill Moyers, a possible Kennedy-McNamara 'back-channel'). (Publishers Weekly)

Informative and at times exhilarating; recommended for academic collections. (Library Journal)

The authors . . . make a fair case that . . . 'virtual history' is a much more serious exercise than counterfactual history. . . . The liveliness of the exchanges and the enthusiasm of the participants do illuminate this critical period in U.S. history. (Foreign Affairs)

I urge everyone interested in Kennedy, Johnson, and Vietnam, and everyone concerned about the kind of leadership we need to keep our nation out of war, to read this book. It is far and away the best book on these subjects I have ever read―lucid, rich, and balanced, with all sides getting a fair, but critical, hearing. (Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson (1960–1968))

The authors deftly analyze all sides in the debate. They also draw lessons from the Kennedy presidency that can now be useful as the nation moves to rescue U.S. foreign policy from the morass into which it has fallen during the presidency of George W. Bush. JFK has never looked more persuasive or more relevant than he does here. (Wayne S. Smith, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana (1979–1982))

As an exercise in virtual history, this book is impeccable. The authors have brought together the relevant policy makers, scholars, and newly released documents to examine the major question of the Vietnam War. Their conclusion―that Kennedy would not have Americanized the war―is reasonable and significant, as is their methodology. This is must reading for any student of American foreign relations. (Robert K. Brigham, Vassar College; author of Guerrilla Diplomacy)

A fascinating and important book that uses innovative research to explain how America got into the Vietnam quagmire. It is deeply relevant to today's debates about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the danger of war with Iran with timely lessons on presidential leadership. (Bruce Riedel, Director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution)

In this carefully documented but very readable account, Blight, Lang, and Welch provide a ringside seat on an important debate that is more than a historical curiosity. They show how a change of leaders can make a profound difference in the unfolding of historical events―then and now. Anyone interested in America's role in the world should read this absorbing book. (Joseph S. Nye Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor, Harvard University)

On the two most treacherous issues Kennedy left unresolved, the jury will always be out. Mindful of the southern segregationists in his own party, he moved timidly in advancing civil rights for African-Americans. We'll never know whether his powerful Oval Office addresses, promoted by the National Guard-enforced admission of black students into the University of Alabama in June 1963, was the harbinger of a greater commitment to civil rights activism or not. Nor, of course, will we ever know whether Kennedy would have followed Johnson's disastrous course in Vietnam. The closest we have to an answer can be found in Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived. (The New York Review Of Books)

Review

The authors deftly analyze all sides in the debate. They also draw lessons from the Kennedy presidency that can now be useful as the nation moves to rescue U.S. foreign policy from the morass into which it has fallen during the presidency of George W. Bush. JFK has never looked more persuasive or more relevant than he does here. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (February 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742557006
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742557000
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,727,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Blight and Lang have done it again! Blazing a new trail and having the intestinal fortitude to construct a cogent argument for "what might have been," in a discipline where no one has the guts to do a counter-factual because they're too bound up in trying to explain their version of what they "think" happened. Blight and Lang will let you decide, but provide a compelling framework to lead the reader the the very, very plausible conclusion that The Vietnam War probably would not have been fought it the President had not been assassinated. The circumstantial evidence is definitely there, but this twosome are the first to show that JFK, against the odds, avoided war on six occasions during his all-too-short Presidency "and did not live to prevent the seventh." A must read for serious students of the subject--and you really need to see the film as well. First rate in all respects!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great read about two of the saddest events of my lifetime: assassination of Kennedy and descent into the abyss of the Vietnam war. 58,000+ American soldiers and 2 million North and South Vietnamese killed. I recommend this read to anyone interested in a more complete picture of the Vietnam fiasco and what might have been.
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Format: Hardcover
(To be clear, this is a review of the film adaptation of the book.)

There is an excellent 30-year old BBC series that aired numerous times in the U.S., entitled, "Connections." In it, British journalist James Burke explores how, throughout history, often accidental minutiae ends up having profound impact on humankind.

Such is the premise of "Virtual JFK: Vietnam if Kennedy Had Lived," which asked the question of if the "police action" in Vietnam would have happened if President John F. Kennedy hadn't been assassinated.

The filmmaker, Koji Masutani, distills Kennedy's major Cold War policy dealings of his roughly 1,000-day presidency into six major avoidances of war. From this, he postulates that Kennedy consistently avoided war and would have again in Vietnam if he'd lived.

The film spends a lot of time in Kennedy press conferences, the time when we see our presidents most publicly vulnerable and witness shades of their character as they're peppered with often-unfriendly questions in a sink-or-swim format. With the 20/20 clarity of history, we see how in this kinder, gentler age of journalism, the reporters grill him, but still stay respectful. We also see him charm the reporters with charisma and intelligence, which we now know was a necessary part of Kennedy's maintaining an inappropriate personal life in the face of their knowledge.

Since Masutani is so obviously an unabashed Kennedy fan, the question arises of how much footage was discarded during his research that didn't jibe with his conclusion. Kennedy also consistently spoke out of both sides of this mouth regarding troop escalation in Vietnam, his most salient words repeated by his successor, President Johnson, to maintain support for the war.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While I am no fool, and know Kennedy spoke BOTH ways about our military commitment to Vietnam...but the FACTS about his handling of the 3 or 4 WORLD WAR III crises does give a person fodder for thought. I DO wonder now if he would have (de)escalated the Vietnam situation. I think some of the best parts of this show were the press conferences and the phone calls. We get to see President Kennedy - much like the current POTUS...stumbling thru questions he is reticent to answer. And, as a 56 year old, I had to place the events into MY history of when they happened - some of which I did not have accurately. What is clear is JFK DID NOT take the advice of the warmongers who were hell bent on unleashing the dogs of war at each provocation, and who knows what might have happened if he HAD!!?? Maybe the USSR would have backed down when faced with a USA unafraid to wield the sword? Maybe if we had invaded Cuba, and if the Soviets had taken Berlin,...we might not have had to gone to WWIII automatically. While not touched on in this show, PERSONALLY, the facts of HOW CLOSE we came to NUCLEAR WAR during the Cuban Missile Crisis completely blows my mind! I had no idea how many times we were saved from annihilation by the actions of ONE man,...on BOTH sides! Most unnerving is the story of the Soviet Political Officer aboard the last of the four submarines, who denied the sub commander permission to LAUNCH the LOADED and READY NUCLEAR TORPEDOES waiting in their tubes. Now THAT would have set off ARMAGEDDON! I know this is all CONJECTURE....only the "WHAT IFs!!??" of our history, so we have no way to know what Mr. Kennedy's presidential legacy would be.Read more ›
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