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A Mission Unclear
By William A. Hodges

The Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam’s widely acclaimed examination of the supposed technocracy behind the American war in Vietnam, focuses heavily on the types of characters within the administration that surrounded President Johnson. Concerned about the war’s impact on his domestic initiatives within the Great Society, worried about the legacy of a Democrat’s overseeing of the loss of China, and concerned about upholding American credibility, Johnson was particularly susceptible to the theories of control espoused by many of his civilian and military advisors alike. Rejecting the notion that foreign policy missions in places like Vietnam could be uncontaminated by domestic concerns, Halberstam states that, “The truth, in sharp contrast, was that all those critical decisions [in Vietnam] were primarily driven by considerations of domestic politics, and by political fears.” (Halberstam)

This reality further obfuscated the U.S.’s mission in Vietnam. However ironically, Halberstam suggest that great trepidation and uncertainty emerged out of the framework of painstaking precision and measurability that peppered memorandums writer by Johnson’s top advisors. If the ultimate purpose of a heightened U.S. presence in Vietnam was upholding prestige and credibility in the face of potential revolutions across the region, Halberstam insists that this mission was both abstract, and completely out of the scope of American interests. Furthermore, it would contaminate the domestic political dialogue and sow deep divides between civilians and the military. Halberstam’s sound analysis of the war’s mission as utterly opaque seems very accurate, at minimum in terms of its popular messaging. Upholding credibility by itself was a dubious pretense for a war as costly as Vietnam.

It was widely established, particularly in a period of Moscow-encouraged detente, that Soviet strategy sought to avoid putting…(subscribe above to read this and receive each monthly issue of the Insurance Research Letter. Published monthly since 1996)