In my spare time during slow afternoons, or at four o’clock in the morning, I reread chapters of a very interesting book published a few year ago that I believe did not sell well in-spite of a great deal of extensive dedicated research and excellent writing. It has a great descriptive cover, President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara conferring at the beginning of the Vietnam war in 1964-1965. The volume is Dereliction of Duty, by H. R. Masters.
It is a highly detailed summary of just how the U. S, became involved in one of the most tragic misbegotten wars in modern history. The book’s period of disclosure ends unfortunately in July 1965, but covers important material that may blow the mind for those who were not born at the time or more likely have forgotten the events leading up to the disastrous quagmire costing the lives of 58,000 Americans and as many a 4,000,ooo Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians. The volume identifies and elaborates on the lies, deceptions, incompetents, stupidity, and political and military infighting that drew the U. S. into a war the could and should have been easily avoided.
The book details these few important years and the strategic and tactical moves by the Johnson Administration. Reading of confused and ever-changing positions one wonders whether to laugh or cry. The president and his brain-trust friends, Robert McNamara, Generals Maxwell Taylor, William Westmoreland, the brothers William and Mc George Bundy, Dean Rusk, Henry Cabot Lodge, and a mix of two dozen others led themselves into knowledge of preliminary defeat that became self prophesying. In the mid-sixties these men determined the conflict was unwinnable, but kept the beliefs to themselves, and from the American public. The only outstanding dissenter in the group was Under Secretary of State, George W. Ball, the devil’s advocate, who from the earliest moments advised the Johnson Administration to ‘leave it to the Vietnamese, and slowly withdraw.’ Ball was of the opinon there was no such valid dogma as the ‘Domino Theory’ and no danger thereof. Intervention would be worthless, he said, if not disastrous and best we logistically support Vietnam from a distance.
Estimates for a successful prosecution of the war were then 750,000 troops and five to ten years of fighting although presidential advisors did not provide LBJ with these true essential facts necessary for good judgement. They were too loyal to the president and did not want to appear to Congressional leaders to give the country away to Ho Chi Minh. They often held back their true opinions.
I can visualize should the war evolve into desperate stages in the following years with casualties mounting, becoming too costly in blood and treasure our leaders would consider dropping the bomb on the third poorest country, and most war-torn, on earth composed of mostly destitute farmers and crippled veterans. ‘Those that do not know history are doomed to repeat it’ as we did in Iraq II.
All the Best.