Vietnam A History 1

Disorder and Decision 3

The resolution was ready by the beginning of June—and so were the administration’s top civilian and military officials. Relying on high- altitude reconnaissance airplanes and other sources of intelligence, Pen¬tagon planners had pinpointed ninety-four bombing targets in North Vietnam; they had also made provisions for suppressing flak, rescuing downed pilots and coping with other tactical problems. Aircraft car¬riers, poised to ... Read More »

Disorder and Decision 2

Lyndon Johnson had voiced a variation of that view nearly a decade earlier, soon after becoming Senate majority leader. Senator McCarthy had just died, having unscrupulously exploited the fall of China and the deadlocked conflict in Korea to spark an explosion of anti- Communist paranoia aimed at promoting his own influence. Johnson, fearful that another demagogue might seize the same ... Read More »

Disorder and Decision

Nothing mattered more to Lyndon Johnson during the summer of 1964 than the approaching presidential elec¬tion. Having been accidentally propelled into the White House, he wanted to win a mandate that would make him president in his own right—and he wanted to win big. A re¬sounding victory at the polls would exorcise the ghost of Kennedy, which continued to exacerbate ... Read More »

The Commitments Deepen 12

Lodge had never been a team player. Almost as arcane and secretive as the Vietnamese, he had relied on two or three intimate aides to assist him. Taylor, in contrast, reorganized the American establish¬ment from the moment he arrived in Saigon. He tightened the ap¬paratus around the “mission council,” whose members were the political, military, intelligence, aid and information officers. ... Read More »

The Commitments Deepen 11

Johnson was then divesting himself of Kennedy administration fig¬ures like Hilsman and Harriman, who had favored a more political approach to Vietnam. The locus of planning shifted to one of McNamara’s top subordinates, William P. Bundy, the assistant sec¬retary of defense who was to supplant Hilsman as assistant secretary of state for the Far East. A lean patrician, Bundy, like ... Read More »

The Commitments Deepen 10

To the extent that Congress was paying attention to Vietnam in those days, its mood seemed to be ambivalent. Members of the House armed services committee, grilling McNamara in late January, ex¬pressed concern at the possibility of greater U.S. involvement, yet they were also impatient at the visible lack of progress. McNamara tried to reassure them by promising that American ... Read More »

The Commitments Deepen 9

Militant Buddhist groups, to whom Nhung’s elimination also por¬tended a return to power of Catholics and others faithful to Diem, exacerbated the turbulence. The heads of eleven of South Vietnam’s fourteen different Buddhist sects had agreed to cease their bickering and form an alliance designed to exert political influence. Tri Quang, the monk who had first mobilized the Buddhist campaign ... Read More »

The Commitments Deepen 8

Khiem was correct. By daybreak, Khanh had taken over the gov¬ernment without firing a shot, asserting in a morning radio broadcast that he had conducted his “purge” because thejunta had failed to make any progress against the Communists. The Saigon population went about its business, apparently oblivious to the event. Ambassador Lodge had been aware of Khanh’s plans in advance, ... Read More »

The Commitments Deepen 7

Lyndon Johnson certainly had cause for concern as he observed the scene in Vietnam from the Oval Office. He had opposed the plot to overthrow Diem, fearing that it would damage the war effort, and his apprehensions seemed to be coming true. As reports of the chronic ferment in Saigon reached his ears, he barked at his White House aides ... Read More »

The Commitments Deepen 6

The trail, which threaded through southern Laos and northeastern Cambodia into the highlands of South Vietnam, was not a single track, but a complex web of jungle paths. When I frequently scanned the region from helicopters during the 1960s, nothing was discernible, even at low altitudes, beneath the green canopy that seemed to stretch on endlessly. Aboriginal tribes who had ... Read More »