BRIAN VANDEMARK: INTO THE QUAGMIRE: LYNDON JOHNSON AND THE ESCALATION OF THE VIETNAM WAR

We are going to read the VanDeMark book very closely. It provides an extended case study of the decision to escalate America's role in Vietnam.

To make our reading and discussion more personal, I would like each of us to follow a specific person or persons throughout the entire narrative.
I will follow all of them. You should choose from one of the following headings.
1) President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ)
2) Secretary of Defense: Robert McNamara, Clark Clifford (plus earlier role as advisor)
3) Secretary of State: Dean Rusk
4) Military Leaders: Maxwell Taylor, William Westmoreland, and Earle Wheeler
5) Presidential Advisors: McGeorge Bundy, William Bundy, John McNaughton
6) Devil's Advocate: George Ball
7) Those who gave advice to LBJ: Senators Richard Russell and Mike Mansfield, ex-President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Preface
Time frame of book: November 1964 to July 1965
Two major decisions: bombing of North Vietnam and sending U.S. troops
Context in which decision makers acted
Immense complexities and tensions

Introduction
Interplay: longstanding ideological attitudes, diplomatic assumptions, political pressures, contemporary events in America and Vietnam
America as the defender of "monolithic" communist expansion
Stability in the south "prior to" escalation versus stability "through" escalation
Rational men struggled to control irrational forces
Was Saigon viable as a political entity?

Chapter 1: The Crossroads in Vietnam
4-8 cumulative legacy of three administrations: containment; events in China, NSC-68; Korean War; domino principle; wars of national liberation; flexible response
8-9 LBJ's background and world view
11 Dean Rusk
12 Robert McNamara
13 McGeorge Bundy
14-15 Coup against Diem unleashed centrifugal forces
16 PLAN 34A
16-17 William Westmoreland
17 Maxwell Taylor; Tonkin Gulf actions
18 Tonkin Gulf Resolution
20-21 Events in South Vietnam: Catholics v. Buddhists; Army v. civilians

Chapter 2: The Day of Reckoning is Coming
23 NSC Working Group
Three recent events influenced administration
24 Ouster of Nikita Khrushchev
24-25 U.S. fear of PRC: now a member of nuclear club
25-26 Bienhoa
26 Working Group: William Bundy
27 Working Group: Vice Admiral Lloyd Mustin; John McNaughton
28 Three Options; Good Doctor
29 Conservatives: heavier bombing
Liberals: end the bombing
Heavy Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress
30 LBJ's hurry to get his Great Society legislation passed
31 Goldilocks Principle
Devil's Advocate: George Ball
32 Rusk's hard line: withdrawal unthinkable
LBJ solicits advice of old friends: Senator Richard Russell
34 Ambassador Maxwell Taylor arrives for meetings: his views
37 U.S. moves closer to decision to bomb North to strengthen South

Chapter 3: Stable Government or No Stable Government
39 LBJ obsession against leaks
39-41 LBJ solicits advice of old friends: Senator Mike Mansfield
How candid should LBJ be with American people about "war"
42-46 Events in South Vietnam continue to affect decision making
46 LBJ discusses war: Walter Lippmann
47 LBJ fear of conservative backlash
Joseph Alsop
49 Bill Hosokawa's letter: pay close attention to his insights
50 Brinks Hotel bombing
LBJ critics call for tough action: bombing or troops????
51 Ambassador Taylor: interesting role as a former soldier, now diplomat
52 Paragraph beginning with "Here was the nub of America's dilemma"
53 George Ball's advice: follow this man closely throughout the book
Escalation can be a two-way street
54 State of Union address focused on LBJ's real interest: Great Society
55 Bipartisanship in foreign policy: what if Republicans had gone along
59 Stability in South through escalation: bombing would resuscitate South
60 Bombing would inoculate against conservative threat

Chapter 4: A Bear By The Tail
61 Utility of U.S. officials observation trips to South Vietnam
62-63 Pleiku: our book's rationale v. what we know from McNamara's book
64 How to play your hand in meetings with the boss: Ball, Mansfield
65 Bundy's report; Johnson's reaction
66 If South did not want to prevent communist domination, why did we care?
67 Possibility of significant air losses: why bomb?
69 LBJ conned the American people: "continuity"
71-72 How did Ball change his approach?
LBJ's reaction [contrast with his reaction on page 90]
73-75 Vice President Humphrey puts in his two cents; threat from liberals
75 McGeorge Bundy wants to make LBJ decide [Bundy's way]
76 Notice how Bundy and McNamara work in concert
Public opinions polls back air strikes
Influence of Bill Moyers
77-78 LBJ solicits advice: Former President Eisenhower (Ike)
What is your reaction to the advice Ike gives here [and later]
79 New troubles in South Vietnam postpone decision to bomb North
80-81 Pham Ngoc Thao: my meeting with him when I was a college student
83-84 Influence on LBJ of memo from Dean Rusk
84-90 Influence of memo from George Ball
Important experience in Ball's past
90 Compare reaction of LBJ this time to that on page 72

Chapter 5: Where Are We Going?
92-93 Westmoreland requests ground troops to protect air bases
Military will now gain power in discussions and decisions
95 LBJ's advisors refine their positions in light of new data
96-97 Selma events compounded Johnson's political calculations
98 Bundy and Westmoreland argue for more troops
99 LBJ once again ask Senator Mansfield for advice
101 Bundy's memo: many different pressures on LBJ
102 How could we have gotten our messages to Hanoi [McNamara's book]
104 LBJ again talks to Mansfield
105 CIA gloomy assessment
106 Taylor continues to challenge troop requests
107 LBJ not exactly truthful to the press
108 Could Vietcong win even if Hanoi supplies cut off
109 Change Marine's goal to active combat: mission creep
110 LBJ tries to deflect criticism: Fulbright
113 NSAM-328: inching ahead; secrecy

Chapter 6: If I Were Ho Chi Minh, I Would Never Negotiate
115 What is "rational"
Misperceptions of the enemy
UN Secretary-General U Thant complicates the situation
117 Deciphering North's conflicting signals [and vice versa: McNamara book]
118-119 Other critics come on stream
120 Beginnings of anti-war movement: teach-ins
122 What threat from PRC—in middle of "Cultural Revolution"
123 LBJ never understood Ho Chi Minh
125-127 Altered complexion of decisions: military now more prominent
Attempts to get Ambassador Taylor "on the team"
128-130 Ball writes another memo
131 LBJ decides to send 50,000 more troops

Chapter 7: What in the World is Happening
132-134 Impact of Dominican Republic invasion on LBJ's political position
135 Pressures on LBJ from left and right
136 LBJ fears conservative criticism if he halts bombing
137 How to communicate with the North Vietnamese
138 McNamara's book calls this third point shift a "lost opportunity"
139 LBJ again talks to Ike
142 North sees American position as unfair to them: asymmetrical
143-144 LBJ gets advice from Clark Clifford
151-152 Taylor gets on the team; LBJ crashes a meeting

Chapter 8: Can You Stop It?
153 Westmoreland again asks for more troops
155 Obscure means to confirm mission change
157 LBJ asks Mansfield for advice
159-160 Go through the give-and-take carefully
162 Conflicting pressures on LBJ
163 LBJ asks Ike for advice again
164-166 Another memo from George Ball
167 McNamara's position leans toward more troops; competing memos
168 Bundy questions ultimate objectives; but no withdrawal contemplated
Ball calls for withdrawal
171 Rusk writes LBJ: hold to a hard line; stay the course in Vietnam
172 LBJ talks with Ike again; Ike continues to give hawkish advice
173-176 LBJ convenes the "elder statesmen"; they are hawkish [now]
180-181 How to finance the war [quietly]: guns versus butter

Chapter 9: Better'n Owl
184-192 This is a fascinating chronicle of a high-level meeting
192 LBJ tries to co-opt the Joint Chiefs [who are they?]
197 LBJ is very insightful here on how history will look his decisions
202 Ball's interaction with Clark Clifford
202-206 LBJ talks with Clark Clifford; pits Clifford against McNamara
206 LBJ made the decision to increase ground troop levels
How to announce it publicly
207 No declaration of war; no reserve call up; no major departure
208-210 LBJ tries to co-opt Congressional leaders
Senator Mansfield speaks up
212-214 Read these pages carefully

Conclusion:
215-221 Read these pages carefully