Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam

H. R. McMaster, Author HarperCollins $27.5 (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-018795-8
Challenging the passive-voice argument that the U.S. was trapped by ideology or circumstance in its war in Vietnam, McMaster, a serving officer and Gulf War combat veteran, casts a harsh but penetrating light on a crucial aspect of that conflict. He presents the war as a consequence of specific decisions made by specific men. Lyndon Johnson's fixation on short-term domestic political goals, he says, limited his capacity to deal with a complex, remote international problem. Johnson compounded this shortcoming by insisting on consensus among his advisors--particularly within the military he distrusted. Robert McNamara, according to McMaster, believed he could satisfy the president's demands with a strategy of ""graduated pressure"" that offered minimal risk, cost and visibility. Meanwhile, despite fundamental reservations with McNamara's strategy, the Joint Chiefs of Staff failed to articulate objections and to develop alternatives, thus abdicating their professional and civic responsibilities. Instead, loyal to their particular services, committed to the principle of civilian control and seeking to make the best of a bad situation, the Joint Chiefs, McMaster says, acquiesced in a pattern of subterfuge and deception that shaped the war and its outcome before it even began. McMaster's seminal analysis demonstrates in particular that an officer's moral courage is as important as his willingness to face physical risk. The generals and admirals who kept silent as America descended into the Vietnam quagmire had many times been in harm's way. Yet when subjected to a final test, they were unable and unwilling to make the choice demanded of service-academy cadets: the harder right over the easier wrong, whatever the personal cost. (May)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Show other formats
FORMATS
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-694-51851-7
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-0-06-092908-4
Ebook - 480 pages - 978-0-06-203118-1
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.