Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam

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Abstract

Lyndon Johnson's decision to take the United States into large-scale war in Vietnam in 1964-1965 must loom large in any evaluation of his presidency. This article argues that the decision was not forced on Johnson by pressures beyond his control, and that his choice for war is difficult to explain, in view of the international and domestic political context, the dynamics on the ground in Vietnam, and the thinking among U.S. officials themselves. The article maintains that Johnson could expect—on the basis of information available to him at the time—to pay a heavy political price if he Americanized the war, and examines why he nevertheless did so.

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