Domestic politics really drives foreign policy – it was true in 1960s.

Domestic politics really drives foreign policy – it was true in 1960s.

Situation similar to Vietnam:

Bill Clinton – he was elected in 1992. He was governor from Arkansas, young. He didn’t look like he was “tough” for the Russians and this is the reason he won the elections after Cold War – otherwise he wouldn’t have a chance of winning.

But Bill Clinton had other problem than Russians – Saddam Hussein. He was afraid of looking like he couldn’t take a firm stance toward S. Hussein. It was his problem. He wanted to look strong, so if he was going to do anything, it was even harder. He wanted to prove he can be strong. He needed to look taught. (Clinton didn’t go to Vietnam – he had a problem of that. If you were in college in 1960s, you weren’t drafted to the army)

Now democrats are trying to fight against Bush because of Iraq. GB: You don’t like the war now?! You voted for that! D: Yea, but you lied to us!

Same thing happen to Lyndon Johnson. What was his problem? He wasn’t elected. After Kennedy’s assassination, he felt really obligated to carry on Kennedy’s program. He was afraid of few things:
- Robert Kennedy (brother of J. Kennedy). Johnson was afraid that Robert would run against him in next elections. Two guys hated each other, and Robert was young, handsome, smart…
- he was afraid of not looking strong towards Russians

Vietnam: the country is divided in two in 1955. Problem – the communist North wanted to unite two parts under one communist flag. Ho Chi Minh – wanted to infiltrated the South. He couldn’t do it with regular troops – it was against the law, it would cause regular war, so he started to sent guerilla fighters. They first went to neutral Laos and from there to South Vietnam. They started to cause problems.

In America: who cares? The reasons why Lyndon Johnson would care is that in newspapers started to appear headlines: Are we loosing Vietnam? Vietnam became test of American containment. It became issue of American credibility.

Kennedy had some strategies towards Vietnam. He didn’t want to do what Eisenhower did – He didn’t want to say: We gonna nuke you! Because if you keep telling that and you didn’t, people stop listening to you. The problem for Johnson was – it looked like he was going to loose Vietnam.

August 1964 – incident in Gulf of Tonkin – it looked like couple American destroyers were under fire …. Story: U.S. was attacked by couple communists boats. Johnson in the Senate: I reserve the right to go to war. Pleas vote for it! In 1964 there was understanding in America: what the president says is right. He’s saying the truth. In Senate only two senators voted against. (98/2).

Johnson won the elections, by 1965 he was president, he could have his own policy, he had Kennedy’s foreign team. Advisers: Mr President, you better do something about Vietnam.

Poor Johnson didn’t know what to do. He was domestic president (concentrated on domestic reforms). He was trying to make deal with Ho Chi Minh. He really didn’t understand foreign policy. Some people were saying: You know what happened in Korea. Johnson: I know, but I can’t loose Vietnam.

One advisor: It’s gonna be easy to loose this war. You better watch out!

Couple reasons of loosing this war:

- If you fight on foreign territory? Where you gonna go? Eventually you will have to leave.
- Americans like tro win. They don’t like massy wars. They didn’t like Korea – there were no winners. They like the wars like WW2 – good guys and bad guys. Vietnam wasn’t like that. Guerilla fighters didn’t wear uniforms, they didn’t have regular armies. It was hard to say who is who.
- opponent that has nothing to loose is very dangerous enemy!

Johnson – going to send marines on the shore and show guerilla fighters how to fight the war;

But where are they? (guerilla fighters?) They didn’t know. They were hiding in the jungle.

Americans kept dropping bombs (bombs after bomb) It didn’t do really good from military point of view. It killed a lot of people, but guerilla fighters were still there. They lived underground or in neutral Laos.

*stereotype of WW2 – bunch of guys ( one from Boston, one form Texas – one intellectual, one farmer – they hated each other for first 20 min, but eventually they are all friends and they win)

Vietnam was different. Drat wasn’t really fair. Why? If you were in college, if you had kids… you weren’t drafted. Do who went to Vietnam? Poor people. Kids from Texas, Blacks, kids of minors. (look who they recruits now. America needs to understand the war is fighting. It doesn’t now and it didn’t in Vietnam)

By 1967 it cost 1 billion $ a month!

Johnson fought that he was doing the right thing. But he started to have political problems. War became unpopular at home. (hippies revolution) A lot of people: get out of there! Johnson: we can’t do that because we have American credibility. We are staying in!

He wanted some help. People started to turn against the war. Johnson started to look for the way to finish the war. What you gonna do?

Democratic party started to fall apart.

Johnson – was a “dovish” (doves against the war, hawks – for the war)

All of Johnson advisers the guys that advised Truman: Go ahead! You are on right track.

January 1968 – 50/50 Americans on the war. Vietnamese holidays called TET. Because it was national holiday it was unspoken agreement that there will be no fighting for 2 – 3 days. North Vietnamese snicked then into towns. Americans forces were shocked. They launched surprise attack that changed everything. After TET offensive Johnson had 2 options:
- Hawks: we got a fire power we haven’t use it yet! do you mean nooks?
- Johnson: we can’t do that!!!
- middle way: give me 200 000 more troops and we can finish the war.

Johnson’s new Secretary of State – Clark Clifford – he was a hawk – he was for the war

In March Johnson calls back his advisors (wise man) – Acheson,… – What should I do? You not gonna win this war. You lost public opinion.

Johnson – he is gonna to run in the elections in 1968 – it’s march and he’s got a problem. Jugin McCarthy is going to run against him for nomination – in New Hampshire – Johnson he bearly won. He bearly beat the guy that nobody heard of before!

Bad news for Johnson – Robert Kennedy is going to run against him for nomination – that Johnson had a program in tv and at the end said: I’m not gonna run for nomination

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