KIRKUS REVIEW

JFK and Vietnam—Deception, Intrigue and the Struggle for Power

1/1/1992

 Bold and authoritative revisionist analysis of Kennedy's Vietnam policy, by a US Army major who teaches history at the Univ. of Maryland. What was JFK's real agenda regarding Vietnam? Newman claims that the young President planned to withdraw American forces from that war-torn country--and his case is strong. The author pictures an isolated Kennedy battling both cold war jingoism and a military- industrial lobby avid for a war that would make tens of billions of dollars. Conventional wisdom generally sees JFK's early attacks on Eisenhower's covert liaison with France regarding Vietnam as simple political expediency, and Kennedy as another adherent to the domino theory. JFK's speeches buttress that position, but Newman, working with newly declassified material, argues that these speeches were simply requisite political twistings and turnings--and that Kennedy planned to get the US out of Vietnam despite a hawkish palace clique (led by Lyndon Johnson) that fed him disinformation on this most crucial foreign-policy issue. Document by document, incident by incident, the author reveals Kennedy as stranded within his own Administration, alienated by his desire to avoid this ultimate wrong-time, wrong-place war. Newman's research culminates in two crucial National Security Action Memos. In one, authored several weeks before Kennedy's death, the President formally endorsed withdrawal from Vietnam of a thousand advisors by the end of 1963 (to be followed by complete withdrawal by the end of 1965). In the second, written six days after the assassination, LBJ reversed the withdrawal policy and planned in some detail the escalation to follow. Crucial to any reevaluation of JFK as President and statesman, this electrifying report portrays a wily, stubborn, conflicted leader who grasped realities that eluded virtually everyone else in the US establishment.

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-m-newman/jfk-and-vietnam/