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Unformatted text preview: Politics of Escalation Under LBJ, 1964-1967 3/6/09 I. Overview II. Election of 1964 and Gulf of Tonkin Resolution III. Air War Decisions IV. Ground War Decisions V. Selling It to the Public Equal inputs of external soldiers, uneven amount of money, supplies, etc. in favor of Saigon NLF on verge of victory LBJ – took steps to transform VN vs. VN war into a US vs. VN war Questions about LBJ policy • Steps by which he escalated on air / ground? Why gradual rather than immediate full-scale war? o Quagmire – did he really think American troops would win why was his intervention so faulty? o System Worked – did he know US troops were inadequate? If so, why get involved? o How did he sell his plans to the American public? Did he lie? How did they view it? ← ← Subject to contradictory pressures 1. Told to escalate believed in domino theory (LBJ, Rostow, McNamara, Taylor, etc.) • Summer 1964 – Repubs chose Goldwater (far right wing) he was accusing Democrats of selling out • LBJ wanted to validate himself politically couldn’t be soft in VN! escalate and stand firm ← 2. Didn’t want to overreact to Comm; people didn’t want another Korean War! Had to appeal to American fears • LBJ had to “square the circle!” • LBJ needed to take the middle ground ← ← August 1964 – Gulf of Tonkin • US had been organizing S. VN probes against N. VN coast • August 2 – “Maddox” ship challenged by N. VN patrol boats; US fired 1 st shots but blamed N. VN of being offensive • August 4 – sent “Turner Joy”; claimed they were again attacked! Probably didn’t happen!! • LBJ used this incident to initiate bombing raids against N. VN • Congress passed Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (August 6) – should take all military steps to defend freedom in SE Asia o Until this point there were proponents of a congressional resolution to take full scale action in VN but Johnson would not give in until Gulf of Tonkin ← ← 4 Implications of the Resolution ← 1. Domestic political terms- elections: LBJ seen as resolute leader and grew popularity; called off bombing for fear of a wider war – showed strength AND responsibility ← 2. Opened door to full scale direct attacks on N. VN – halted, but resumed after election (would retaliate on a tit-for-tat basis) ← 3. served as a function equivalent of Declaration of War against N. VN ← 4. easy victory in Congress allowed LBJ to take Congress lightly in future often bypassed Congress and went straight to American public; eventually backfired...
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