Monday, November 24, 2003

JFK and Withdrawing from Vietnam

James Galbraith is fast becoming one of my favorite writers on economic and political topics. He's a professor at the University of Texas and the son of the famous economist and social commentator (John) Kenneth Galbraith, who is now in his mid-90s.

He has recently published two articles examining the evidence that John Kennedy had decided in 1963 to withdraw American troops from Vietnam by the end of 1965, and makes a convincing case that he did.

Kennedy, Vietnam and Iraq 11/22/03

Exit Strategy Boston Review Oct-Nov 2003

The Salon article talks more about the broader context of the decision; the Boston Review article gives more of the details on the historical record. Despite the title of the Salon piece, one of the things I like about both articles is that he is cautious in drawing current lessons from that historical moment. A refreshing change from the endless superficial historical analogies we've heard in connection with the Iraq War. As he puts it in Salon:

What is the importance of all this for us today? At some level, it is less than one might suppose. Kennedy's decision to withdraw U.S. advisors from Vietnam is not, in my view, the Rosetta Stone of the past 40 years. And because it was the right decision then certainly does not mean that it would be the right decision, right now, for Iraq. It is simply a stubbornly denied fact, which needs to be fitted into the larger mosaic of unresolved history of that time. It is a test of our own willingness to face history as it was.
He also highly recommends two books on the topic: JFK and Vietnam (1992) by John Newman and Death of a Generation (2003) by Howard Jones.

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