Examines America's decision to stand in Vietnam with fresh perspective provided by new archival materials and the intellectual synthesis of institutional, political, and diplomatic history.
Schwab examines America's decision to stand in Vietnam with a fresh perspective provided by new archival materials and the intellectual synthesis of institutional, political, and diplomatic history. Vietnam policy is shown at many different levels, from the presidency down to the level of CIA operatives in the field and public opinion specialists on the White House staff. The views of State Department officers, foreign public opinion, editorials in major U.S. newspapers, and the powerful leaders of both Congressional houses reveal an informed and highly conflicted public leadership well before American combat troops were committed in large numbers in the summer of 1965.
The study begins with John F. Kennedy's inaugural address in January of 1961 and proceeds to show the decision-making rocess regarding Vietnam and Indochina through the several critical events that led to Johnson's famous press conference speech of 1965. The author contends that responsibility for the war and its tragic consequences should not be placed upon individuals, but rather at the levels of the state, society, and the international system. This view of agency existing at a higher level than the presidency challenges the dominant view of most diplomatic historians and other writers who have focused on the blunders and misperceptions of policy makers.
Preface Abbreviations Defending the Free World: 1961 The Coup Toward the Gulf of Tonkin Pleiku Toward the Press Conference Speech Selected Bibliography Index
Orrin Schwab's thoroughly researched and well-crafted study merits a close reading by students in need of tight, well-focused, and smart analysis of how and why the Vietnam War became unavoidably Americanized.—American Historical Review
Endorsements By refusing to embrace a unitary interpretation of the war but by carefully analyzing each stage of U.S. involvement by following how each of these forces shaped (or did not shape) decisions, this book helps us understand, more than any other conventional narrative of the Vietnam War, why the conflict steadily expanded during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies.—Akira Iriye, Harvard University
^IDefending the Free World^R is an unusual and spirited book that analyzes how the strategies of a managerial liberalism in the Kennedy administration got us into Vietnam, and how the institutional doctrines of the Pentagon made it impossible for Johnson and Nixon to get us out, short of a catastrophic defeat....Dr. Schwab's analysis of this liberal technocracy is a major contribution to the literature on the Vietnam War.—Bruce Cumings^LNorman and Edna Freehling Professor^LThe University of Chicago