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Vietnam: Mr. Johnson's War. Or Mr. Eisenhower's?

Edward Cuddy
The Review of Politics
Vol. 65, No. 4 (Autumn, 2003), pp. 351-374
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1408716
Page Count: 24
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Vietnam: Mr. Johnson's War. Or Mr. Eisenhower's?
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Abstract

Conventional wisdom pins responsibility for the Vietnam War primarily on Lyndon B. Johnson. This essay presents a revisionist argument, attempting to shift primary responsibility for the war on President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The case rests heavily on John F. Kennedy's challenge to historians: "How the hell" can they evaluate presidential performances unless they know the "real pressures" and the "real alternatives" confronting the occupiers of the Oval Office. In assessing those pressures, this essay concludes that Eisenhower had the unique luxury of a clean break from President Truman's commitments, thanks to the Vietnamese victory at Dien Bien Phu, and a clear-cut alternative provided by the Geneva Accords. Unfortunately, Eisenhower chose to ignore the Accords, committed America to South Vietnam, and played a major role, during and after his presidency, in creating the heavy pressures that shaped Johnson's Vietnam decisions.

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