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« A Milbankrupted column | Main | Is this Meester Caarpenter? »

November 22, 2013



Even if he did make the initial troop commitment similar to what LBJ did, I think, perhaps, freed from concerns about getting reelected and no big fan of VP and presumed heir apparent LBJ, JFK would have had more freedom to pull us out of there before we got lost in the quicksand.

I think post-JFK history bears it out that presidents are more willing to take big foreign policy risks in 2nd terms. In later years, the 2nd term presidents, who may be lurching into lame duck status on the domestic front, have taken stabs at getting peace deals done in the Middle East. Carter actually did it in his first, but then Iran decided it had had enough of the Shah, and Carter's reputation in foreign policy went with him, unfairly in my view. Reagan reversed himself on the red-baiting and negotiated with Gorbachev, Clinton took a stab at an Israel/Palestine deal. Bush II was a moron, so he doesn't count. Obama is moving toward detente with Iran AND trying to push Israel back to the table on Palestine (the latter seems destined to fail due to Bibi's intransigence).

At that point in history, not long after McCarthy had his fun, and when our schools did nuclear holocaust preparedness drills, it would have been awfully risky politically to back out of a confrontation with communists, anywhere, without being able to declare some sort of victory. A 2nd term JFK might have done it if he thought it was the right thing to do. But we'll never know.


JFK would have been in his 2d term, as mentioned, which is probably more important than his learning curve. He could have tried to "manage" Vietnam more carefully than LBJ. But he couldn't have "lost" it, for the same reasons LBJ couldn't afford to lose it--whatever his learning curve, the people and politics remained what they were. And, if he couldn't afford to lose it, what strategies were available to JFK other than that LBJ used?

Peter G

Yesterday I saw a brief clip from an interview in which he was asked point blank if he subscribed to the domino theory with regard to South East Asia. Without so much as a pause he replied that he did. I do not know what that portended for the future. Neither I nor anyone else can say. But I do not think it implied a diplomatic solution and if it did mean less military involvement I do not think it would have been before a sharp lesson had been learned.

Peter G

BTW Turgidson, I don't know if you've seen the story that AIPAC is backing Obama's strategy for dealing with Iran. Aside from losing American support for his position poor Bibi has some serious domestic opposition as well.

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