Into the Quagmire: Lyndon Johnson and the Escalation of the Vietnam War

Brian VanDeMark, Author Oxford University Press, USA $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-19-506506-0

This is an evenhanded, well-documented account of America's deepening involvement in Vietnam during the critical months from November '64 to July '65, when the line between limited and large-scale war was crossed. Freelance writer VanDeMark analyzes the tangle of conflicting pressures confronting President Johnson and his advisers. LBJ comes across here as a haunted, equivocating figure caught in an excruciating dilemma. VanDeMark painstakingly reconstructs from documents, interviews and memoirs a series of dramatic dialogues in the Oval Office, revealing, for example, how adviser George Ball came to stand virtually alone in his passionate opposition to escalation of the war (Clark Clifford eventually became an ally). The author concludes that LBJ lacked the inner strength to overrule the hawkish counsel of Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy and others, and that his July '65 decision to double the number of ground combat troops in Vietnam was a tragic lapse of statesmanship. (Nov.)