✎✎✎ John F. Kennedys Involvement In Vietnam

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John F. Kennedys Involvement In Vietnam

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JFK's murder and the persistence of conspiracy theories

Joe Kennedy, a hugely successful businessman and an early supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt , was appointed chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission in and in was named U. Jack joined the U. Navy in and two years later was sent to the South Pacific, where he was given command of a Patrol-Torpedo PT boat. Kennedy helped some of his marooned crew back to safety, and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism. His older brother, Joe Jr. A grieving Joe Sr.

Abandoning plans to be a journalist, Jack left the Navy by the end of Less than a year later, he was back in Boston preparing for a run for Congress in He entered the 80th Congress in January , at the age of 29, and immediately attracted attention as well as some criticism from older members of the Washington establishment for his youthful appearance and relaxed, informal style. Kennedy won reelection to the House of Representatives in and , and in ran successfully for the Senate, defeating the popular Republican incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.

Two years later, he was forced to undergo a painful operation on his back. While recovering from the surgery, Jack wrote another best-selling book, Profiles in Courage , which won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in He defeated a primary challenge from the more liberal Hubert Humphrey and chose the Senate majority leader, Lyndon Johnson of Texas , as his running mate.

In the general election, Kennedy faced a difficult battle against his Republican opponent, Richard Nixon, a two-term vice president under the popular Dwight D. Offering a young, energetic alternative to Nixon and the status quo, Kennedy benefited from his performance and telegenic appearance in the first-ever televised debates, watched by millions of viewers. With his beautiful young wife and their two small children Caroline, born in , and John Jr. In his inaugural address, given on January 20, , the new president called on his fellow Americans to work together in the pursuit of progress and the elimination of poverty, but also in the battle to win the ongoing Cold War against communism around the world.

An early crisis in the foreign affairs arena occurred in April , when Kennedy approved the plan to send 1, CIA-trained Cuban exiles in an amphibious landing at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. Intended to spur a rebellion that would overthrow the communist leader Fidel Castro , the mission ended in failure, with nearly all of the exiles captured or killed. Two months later, East German troops began erecting a wall to divide the city.

Kennedy sent an army convoy to reassure West Berliners of U. Kennedy clashed again with Khrushchev in October during the Cuban missile crisis. After learning that the Soviet Union was constructing a number of nuclear and long-range missile sites in Cuba that could pose a threat to the continental United States, Kennedy announced a naval blockade of Cuba. During his first year in office, Kennedy oversaw the launch of the Peace Corps, which would send young volunteers to underdeveloped countries all over the world. He died the next day. Kennedy had 10 children and he and his wife, Ethel, were expecting their 11th child at the time he was assassinated. Sirhan may not pose a threat in the conventional sense, as he is an unlikely repeat offender and Bobby Kennedy was a very specific target for the assassin.

But in his role as an assassin, Sirhan poses a more complex threat. Indeed, Sirhan admits that he still harbors strong views on the Middle East. He was a delusional young man at the time he had killed Bobby Kennedy, imagining himself an important player in history. In reality, Sirhan was suffering from an unbearable obscurity and was desperate to make a name for himself, as was the case with Lee Harvey Oswald, who killed President Kennedy in As he was being apprehended after shooting Bobby Kennedy, Sirhan proclaimed that he had done it for his country. That being said, we must examine how Sirhan committed an act against the United States, his adopted country. Bobby Kennedy was the most revered progressive politician of his day. He was making a strong move toward the Democratic presidential nomination, especially after President Lyndon B.

Johnson had decided three months earlier not to seek another term as president. What if Bobby Kennedy had lived? Would he have attained the Democratic nomination? And did it not represent an opportunity for the Republicans to question his effectiveness as a Cold War leader? To the extent that Johnson did discuss the issue in the campaign, he demonstrated his moderation in comparison to Republican candidate Barry Goldwater by saying that he would not send American soldiers to fight and die in Vietnam.

This partly explains his response to the two alleged attacks by the North Vietnamese on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin in August though the evidence now suggests, as historian John Prados has made clear, that the second attack never took place. It was the closest to an actual US declaration of war issued during the Vietnam conflict. Justice Department official Nicholas Katzenbach was not the only one to believe that LBJ had secured congressional approval of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution to undercut GOP claims in the presidential campaign that he was weak in combatting communism. Kennedy may have done essentially the same thing in to commit more explicitly to the war in Vietnam for politically motivated reasons.

He did that in congressional campaigns, such as his Senate race against Henry Cabot Lodge, and the presidential campaign in which he described the Eisenhower-Nixon failure to prevent Fidel Castro from coming to power as abysmal and promised to be tougher than Nixon in handling the Cuban leader. Despite his caution when dealing with international crises and his refusal to send combat troops to South Vietnam, Kennedy did escalate American involvement there.

Around US military personnel were in South Vietnam when he was inaugurated; on his death there were roughly 16, Those numbers were still a long way from the more than half million combatants that Johnson would send to Vietnam. Nor does the escalation authorized by Kennedy mean that he would have made the fateful decision to move from the deployment of military personnel to troops. Still, the pattern of escalation in the Kennedy years can be extrapolated to a post-Dallas Kennedy presidency to make the case that he would have escalated yet further to the deployment of ground troops in South Vietnam.

It is easy to think that when it came to contrary voices in his administration he was more receptive than Johnson proved to be. Famously, Johnson had a King Lear-like revulsion for dissent within his circle of advisers. He equated it with disloyalty. When Vice President Hubert Humphrey objected in early to further escalation, Johnson cut him out of key administration discussions on Vietnam thereafter. Kennedy could give the impression of being more tolerant. The ExComm meetings during the Cuban missile crisis generated a lively debate between those officials who advocated the use of force and those who favored a naval blockade. But there are numerous instances of how dissent could provoke his ire.

The key dissenter in the missile crisis was Adlai Stevenson with his heartfelt plea for negotiations and mutual concessions. The result, as Kennedy had intended, was humiliation for Stevenson. There was little that vexed JFK more than being preached to by liberals, as Stevenson did once in a conversation on disarmament. This was rooted in the historic tension between Kennedy and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which became acute after his failure to take a stand against Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy.

In some of those dissenters in an unrestricted administration debate on Vietnam in a Kennedy second term would have been liberals. We know that Stevenson, shortly before his death from a heart attack on a street in London in July , opposed US escalation in Vietnam under Johnson. Would Kennedy have dismissed liberal sanctimony, as he did with Bowles with the Bay of Pigs and Stevenson in the early days of the missile crisis?

On the other hand, by pushing the peace agenda and civil rights in Kennedy was singing more from the liberal hymn sheet at the end of his presidency than he had at the start. So he might have been more willing to side with the likes of Stevenson and George Ball in the summer of than he had been a few years earlier. Another consideration pointing to a Kennedy war in Vietnam is how the situation there changed decisively in Prior to that, US presidents had essentially three alternatives: to go to war to defeat the communists, to admit defeat and withdraw, or to pursue a middle course which consisted of more aid and advisers for the government of South Vietnam. No president wanted to go to war, especially after the stalemate of Korea, or to lose another country to the communists.

So Eisenhower and Kennedy, as well as Johnson in the early part of his presidency, followed that middle path. The problem for LBJ by the summer of was that the South Vietnamese government was about to fall to the communists. Those triple alternatives had become a binary dilemma: fight or lose. To argue that in this situation Kennedy would have plumped for the latter course is to claim that he would have been willing to tolerate what some would have perceived as an ignominious Cold War defeat. When French President Charles de Gaulle called publicly in August for negotiations to resolve the Vietnam issue, the Kennedy administration was unsympathetic. Given the fragility of the Saigon government and the momentum behind the communists, Kennedy and his advisers worried that the South Vietnamese would enter any discussions in a weak bargaining position.

In the end diplomacy would have been required in order to avoid a US war in Vietnam while constructing a face-saving settlement. Various factors can be identified, therefore, to support the argument that Kennedy would have either avoided or prosecuted a war in Vietnam. It is the judgement made on the precise influence exerted by these factors which determines a final assessment of this issue. His default approach to politics and policy was caution, in sharp contrast with his lack of it in his private life. Putting his presidency on the line by fighting a land war in Southeast Asia would not ultimately be a decision he could have made with equanimity.

That argument has implications for our understanding of the consequences of the assassination of John Kennedy for US foreign relations, especially in Vietnam. He is the author of nine books, including Against the President shortlisted for the Neustadt Prize , Missiles in Cuba , and most recently The Presidential Image co-edited. Kennedy in the White House , pp. Kennedy Rocklin, CA: Prima reprint, , p. Alexis Johnson, p. Kennedy Library, Boston, Massachusetts. See, for instance, James N. Giglio, The Presidency of John F. White, ed.

On April 17,1, Cuban exiles launched John F. Kennedys Involvement In Vietnam became a botched invasion at the Bay of Pigs on John F. Kennedys Involvement In Vietnam south coast amy winehouse genre Cuba. John F. Kennedys Involvement In Vietnamhe wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in John F. Kennedys Involvement In Vietnamwhile recuperating from back surgery. He later served as a U. And that is telling.