The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Mansfield and Diem
Nosing around GB once more, to explore the left-footer Senator's connection with the oriental 'Winston Churchill' (LBJ's infamous comparison from his 1961 whistlestop tour of SVN).
From Leslie Gelb's The Irony of Vietnam (p207), one gets this:
While the period of confusion that followed Geneva was reflected in the public debate, the thrust of where different groups wanted the United States to go remained clear. On May 15, 1955, the Times told its readers that the United States had no alternative to supporting Diem in Vietnam. Only the Chicago Tribune espoused an anti-administration position, charging on May 3, 1955, that US aid was being wasted in Vietnam.
My QED in this mooch is (roughly) to gain more understanding of the perverse relationship between Ngo Dinh Diem and the US pols who groomed - and were groomed by - him during the course of the 1950s.
One has Cold War mentality; one has the Catholic connection; one has the lack of competition for the top job from Diem's cohort in SVN. There's more to it than that, obviously.
I note that Colonel Robert McCormick died on April 1 1955 [!], a few weeks before the critical piece noted by Gelb.
And Humphrey is one of the Diem boosters. And Fulbright brushing aside the corruption stories (from our friend Albert M Colegrove, I suspect - Gelb's CR reference does not give the date of his comment).
Not to mention the sterling performance by the New York Times - whatever USG might have said about Halberstam and his in-country colleagues, there was no need to tell the Times ed board to Get on the team!
Plus ça change...
As far as the odd ideological switcheroo - liberals supporting US intervention in Indochina, conservatives opposing  - there is the dissertation (PDF - I thought I'd mentioned it, but can't trace) Beyond the Solid South: Southern Members of Congress and the Vietnam War by Mark David Carson - the first part of which I've read, finding lots of good stuff therein.
One piece of the puzzle is undoubtedly the management of salience: the hardest thing to gauge, even with the benefit of the NYT full archive , is the relative weight of the various items on the public agenda at any particular time .
The eternal quest of USG from 1955 on was to minimise the salience of intervention in Indochina, whilst maximising the effectiveness of such intervention. (Hallin is the place to go on this, as much discussed here.) Clearly the Times had a reason to push Laos: pushing Eisenhower to toughen up? the hawk faction in USG making their move? Dunno: my knowledge of the Laos thing is way below Wikipedia.
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