Chapter 30: The Turbulent Sixties, 1960-1969 (#3) Johnson Escalates the Vietnam War



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Chapter 30: The Turbulent Sixties, 1960-1969 (#3)

Johnson Escalates the Vietnam War

  • LBJ – stressed continuity in foreign policy

    • inherited the policy of containment and shared the same Cold War assumptions and convictions

      • tended to rely heavily on Kennedy’s advisors

  • moved firmly to contain communism in the Western Hemisphere

    • Brazil – military junta overthrew a leftists regime, Johnson offered covert aid and open encouragement

    • Panama – equally forceful in compelling Panama to restrain rioting aimed at the continued American presence in the Canal Zone

    • Dominican Republic – sent 20,000 American troops that ended with the election of a conservative government

  • struggled to uphold the Cold War policies he had inherited from Kennedy

    • found himself under attack from Congress, the media, and universities

  • The Vietnam Dilemma

    • Vietnam – led ultimately to LBJ’s political downfall

      • believed he had little choice but to continue Kennedy’s policy in Vietnam

    • 1964 – seven different governments ruled South Vietnam

    • continued Kennedy’s policy of economic and technical assistance

      • insisted it was still up to the Vietnamese themselves to win the war – he expanded American support for covert operations, including amphibious raids on the North

    • Gulf of Tonkin affair

      • North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the Maddox (an American destroyer) engaged in electronic intelligence gathering in the Gulf of Tonkin

      • belief the American ship had been involved in a South Vietnamese raid nearby

        • Maddox – escaped unscathed

      • America sent the C. Turner Joy and the two destroyers responding to sonar and radar contacts, opened fire on North Vietnamese gunboats in the area

        • ordered retaliatory airstrikes on North Vietnamese naval bases

          • investigation later revealed that the North Vietnamese gunboats had not launched a second attack on the American chips (so our entire premise to escalate involvement will be based on a lie)

    • president asked Congress to pass a resolution authorizing him to take “all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States to prevent further aggression”

      • did not in fact need this authority

      • wanted the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to demonstrate to North Vietnam the American determination to defend South Vietnam at any cost

        • congressional resolution was phrased broadly enough to enable him to use whatever level of force he wanted – including unlimited military intervention

  • Escalation

    • series of steps designed primarily to prevent a North Vietnamese victory

      • advisers urged the bombing of the North

        • would block North Vietnamese infiltration routes, make Hanoi pay a heavy price for its role, and lift the sagging morale of the South Vietnamese

    • long-planned aerial bombardment of selected North Vietnamese targets

      • air strikes – proved ineffective

    • Johnson authorized the use of American combat troops

    • Johnson – decided he had no choice but to persevere

      • settled on a steady military escalation designed to compel Hanoi to accept a diplomatic solution

      • permitted a gradual increase in the bombing of North Vietnam and allowed American ground commanders to conduct offensive operations in the South

        • opted for large-scale but limited military intervention

      • committing a half million American troops to battle in Southeast Asia – all the while pretending it was a minor engagement and refusing to ask the American people for the support and sacrifice required for victory

    • Johnson’s sins in Vietnam:

      • the failure to confront the people with the stark choices the nation faced in Vietnam

      • the insistence on secrecy and deceit

      • the refusal to acknowledge that he had committed the United States to a dangerous military involvement

  • Stalemate

    • bombing of the North proved ineffective

      • North Vietnamese – used the jungle canopy effectively to hide their shipments and their massive efforts to repair damaged roads and bridges

    • South – the Vietcong still controlled much of the countryside

    • search-and-destroy tactics – used by General William Westmoreland – proved ill-suited to the situation

      • Westmoreland – used superior American firepower wantonly, devastating the countryside, causing many civilian casualties, and driving the peasantry into the arms of the guerrillas

        • tactics led to the slaughter of innocent civilians (most notably at My Lai)

      • strategy was to wage war of attrition (inflicting continuous losses) that would finally reach a “crossover point” when communist losses each month would be greater than the number of new troops they could recruit

    • LBJ – had only achieved a bloody stalemate that gradually turned the American people against a war they had once eagerly embraced



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