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Irony of Vietnam The System Worked

ISBN-10: 0815730713
ISBN-13: 9780815730712
Edition: N/A
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Description: Few analysts of U.S. involvement in Vietnam would agree with the provocative conclusion of this book. The thesis of most postmortems is that the United States lost the war because of the failure of its foreign policy decisionmaking system. According  More...

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Book details

List price: $24.95
Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
Publication date: 3/1/1979
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 387
Size: 6.25" wide x 9.00" long x 1.25" tall
Weight: 1.188
Language: English

Few analysts of U.S. involvement in Vietnam would agree with the provocative conclusion of this book. The thesis of most postmortems is that the United States lost the war because of the failure of its foreign policy decisionmaking system. According to Gelb and Betts, however, the foreign policy failed, but the decisionmaking system worked. They attribute this paradox to the efficiency of the system in sustaining an increasingly heavy commitment based on the shared conviction of six administrations that the United States must prevent the loss of Vietnam to communism. However questionable the conviction, and thus the commitment, may have been, the authors stress that the latter "was made and kept for twenty-five years. That is what the system —the shared values, the political and bureaucratic pressures —was designed to do, and it did it."The comprehensive analysis that supports this contention reflects the widest use thus fare of available sources, including recently declassified portions of negotiations documents and files in presidential libraries. The frequently quoted statement of the principals themselves contradict the commonly held view that U.S. leaders were unaware of the consequences of their decisions and deluded by false expectations of easy victory. With few exceptions, the record reveals that these leaders were both realistic and pessimistic about the chances for success in Vietnam. Whey they persisted nonetheless is explained in this thorough account of their decisionmaking from 1946 to 1968, and how their mistakes might be avoided by policymakers in the future is considered in the final chapter.

Richard K. Betts is director of the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of numerous books on military strategy and foreign policy. He has served on the National Commission on Terrorism, staffs of the Senate Intelligence Committee and National Security Council, and advisory panels for the Director of Central Intelligence.

Foreword
Abbreviations
Introduction
Decisions: Getting into Vietnam
Patterns, Dilemmas, and Explanations
Recurrent Patterns and Dilemmas from Roosevelt to Eisenhower
Picking Up the Torch: the Kennedy Administration
Intervention in Force: the Johnson Administration, I
Coming Home to Roost: the Johnson Administration, II
Goals: the Imperative Not to Lose
National Security Goals and Stakes
Domestic Political Stakes
the Bureaucracy and the Inner Circle
Means: the Minimum Necessary and the Maximum Feasible
Constraints
Pressures and the President
Perceptions: Realism, Hope, and Compromise
Optimism, Pessimism, and Credibility
the Strategy of Perseverance
Conclusions
the Lessons of Vietnam
Documentary Appendix
Bibliographical Note
Index

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