cover image JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power

JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power

John M. Newman. Warner Books, $22.95 (506pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51678-5

Had he lived, would President Kennedy have committed U.S. troops to Vietnam? According to the evidence marshalled here, the answer is a resounding no. Newman, who teaches international politics at the University of Maryland, argues that when JFK went to Dallas he already intended to withdraw U.S. advisers from Vietnam, but held off to ensure his reelection in 1964. The book traces the president's pullout plan back to April '62, when he stated that the U.S. should seize every opportunity to reduce its commitment to Vietnam. A month later Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara asked U.S. generals in Saigon how soon the South Vietnamese would be ready to take over the war effort. This well-documented study shows that JFK was for a time deceived by Gen. Maxwell Taylor, head of the joint chiefs, and others in a blizzard of briefings that claimed unadulterated progress and success. Newman maintains that although the president paid public lip service to a continued commitment to appease the right, his goal was to abandon a venture that he early recognized as a lost cause. No other study has revealed so clearly how the tragedy in Dallas affected the course of the war in Vietnam, since two days after the assassination Lyndon Johnson signed a National Security Action Memo that opened the way for the fateful escalation of the war. Photos. (Feb.)