'Johnson alone bears the responsibility for the escalation of war in Vietnam in the years 1965-68.' Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

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Amrit Singh Thabal        16MB        History

Johnson alone bears the responsibility for the escalation of war in Vietnam in the years 1965-68.

Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Only a few years of becoming president, Lyndon B Johnson had to do something about Vietnam, to get a victory; and fairly quickly. This escalation was set in the cold war, where the USSR and the USA were up against each other, and mutual destruction was only one bad move away. This escalation is where LBJ upped the ante in Vietnam and increase troop numbers vastly. From the start of 1965 23,000 US advisors were in Vietnam and by the end of the year 184,000 US soldiers were in Vietnam. This still increases over the years and by 1968, there are nearly 525,000 US troops in Vietnam. Not only troops, but spending and logistical support increased, therefore escalating the war. For this escalation, stalemate theorists blame a weak president (LBJ) for not backing out of Vietnam and for not being strong enough to stand up against the people and the military. But post-revisionists say that it’s a lot more complicated than one person and his weaknesses, it goes back 30 years.

The war could have been escalated solely by Johnson. This may have been down to his personality; that he was the wrong man, in the wrong point of time in Vietnam. LBJ was very patriot and thought that the USA was the best and if they got into Vietnam, that it would solve all of its problems. So the USA’s superiority would’ve been able to stop communism from spreading and pump a lot of money into Vietnam. So he thought it would be easy; that the US would only have to show itself in Vietnam for communism to turn around. This was easy to believe when people like General Curtis LeMay (air force) say “Tell the Vietnamese they’ve got to draw in their horns or we’re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age.” (May 1964) So LBJ believed that his military could sort out Vietnam quickly, but didn’t expect the guerrilla warfare from the Vietnamese. But the USA had a lot to live up to and LBJ had to prove it, especially to people like Ronald Reagan who in 1964 says “We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it has been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.” And in 1965 “We should declare war on North Vietnam. . . .We could pave the whole country and put parking strips on it, and still be home by Christmas.” So LBJ has to show that the USA doesn’t stand for communism and that they are efficient. So many people expected a short war, over in months.

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LBJ also had an over the top nature; he would use a sledge hammer to crack open an egg. He would always try to get things over quickly and show his ruthlessness over everything. He would get really short advisors to make himself look big and scary, to give himself some sort of satisfaction. Whereas JFK had a more subtle approach, such as sending advisors not soldiers. LBJ sent over soldiers, not just a small group of them, but 100,000’s of them. Even though he seems good and calm by saying things like “This is not a jungle war, but ...

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