The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Kennedy - if not Vietnam, then Laos
One of the prominent memes about the first JFK (as he'll be known unless Kerry strikes out) is that, despite flirting with deepening the Eisenhower commitment to Ngo Dinh Diem (clipped on Kennedy's orders) and his successors (who meld into one indistinct globule, rather like Democratic presidential primary candidates), he would somehow not have committed US combat troops.
Saving the mobster's boy from post mortem opprobrium seems to be something of a cottage industry; since his martyrdom (if not Shake n' Bake canonisation) by Lee Harvey Oswald (with or (probably) without friends), one gets the impression (I've yet to read a historiography) that the zeal of his supporters has outweighed that of his detractors (Lyndon Johnson - pencilled in by some  as the guy who ordered the hit - makes a far more satisfying villain).
Anyhoo, in looking at William O'Neill's Coming Apart: An Informal History Of America In The 1960's , I read, on p66/72 , in a passage on JFK's policy on Laos (emphasis mine),
President Kennedy's first thought on taking office was to retrieve the CIA's blunders [in Laos] by force. Secretary McNamara was obliged to inform him there were no troops available for an invasion of Laos. Some in the Pentagon favored using nuclear weapons instead. But the Bay of Pigs had undermined presidential confidence in their advice. (A few months later Kennedy told an aide that "if it hadn't been for Cuba we would be fighting in Laos today.")
For the unsophisticated amongst us who didn't realise there was an upside for the US in the outcome of the Bay of Pigs adventure! Scarcely a surprise, though, that Mr Pay Any Price should have been willing to embrace a wider war in Indo-China. (Always assuming the anecdote is true, of course: the Times was as addicted to anonymous sourcing thirty years ago as today.)
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