The Kennedy Withdrawal

Camelot and the American Commitment to Vietnam

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.

Buy this Book on

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

1
To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add kindle@netgalley.com as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
2
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 15 Nov 2022 | Archive Date 15 Nov 2022

Talking about this book? Use #TheKennedyWithdrawal #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


Description

A major revision of our understanding of JFK’s commitment to Vietnam, revealing that his administration’s plan to withdraw was a political device, the effect of which was to manage public opinion while preserving US military assistance.

In October 1963, the White House publicly proposed the removal of US troops from Vietnam, earning President Kennedy an enduring reputation as a skeptic on the war. In fact, Kennedy was ambivalent about withdrawal and was largely detached from its planning. Drawing on secret presidential tapes, Marc J. Selverstone reveals that the withdrawal statement gave Kennedy political cover, allowing him to sustain support for US military assistance. Its details were the handiwork of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, whose ownership of the plan distanced it from the president.

Selverstone’s use of the presidential tapes, alongside declassified documents, memoirs, and oral histories, lifts the veil on this legend of Camelot. Withdrawal planning was never just about Vietnam as it evolved over the course of fifteen months. For McNamara, it injected greater discipline into the US assistance program. For others, it was a form of leverage over South Vietnam. For the military, it was largely an unwelcome exercise. And for JFK, it allowed him to preserve the US commitment while ostensibly limiting it.

The Kennedy Withdrawal offers an inside look at presidential decisionmaking in this liminal period of the Vietnam War and makes clear that portrayals of Kennedy as a dove are overdrawn. His proposed withdrawal was in fact a cagey strategy for keeping the United States involved in the fight—a strategy the country adopted decades later in Afghanistan.

Marc J. Selverstone is Associate Professor in Presidential Studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, where he heads the Presidential Recordings Program. He has written for the Washington Post and the Atlantic and is author of Constructing the Monolith: The United States, Great Britain, and International Communism, 1945–1950.

A major revision of our understanding of JFK’s commitment to Vietnam, revealing that his administration’s plan to withdraw was a political device, the effect of which was to manage public opinion...


Advance Praise

“A splendid work. I doubt there is any scholar anywhere who knows the archival material better than Selverstone does, and he is surely unsurpassed in his familiarity with the Kennedy tapes. His prose is consistently smooth, clear, and engaging. This book will be the go-to account on Kennedy and the Vietnam War for a long time to come.”—Fredrik Logevall, author of JFK and the Pulitzer Prize–winning Embers of War

“Had JFK lived, would he have withdrawn from Vietnam or sent in American regular troops, as Johnson did? This question has been a matter of intense debate since the war ended in 1975. Selverstone provides a fascinating look at what the president and his advisors said about the war in private, and what that can tell us about Kennedy’s views on withdrawal.”—Frances FitzGerald, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam

“With the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, the courage of a mountaineer, and the storytelling instincts of a mystery writer, Selverstone tackles head-on one of the most tantalizing what-ifs in modern history. The Kennedy Withdrawal weighs all the evidence, from every angle, to render a verdict that is at once surprising, convincing, and authoritative. This will surely be the definitive account of JFK’s intentions in Vietnam.”—Andrew Preston, author of American Foreign Relations: A Very Short Introduction

“This pathbreaking book redefines the terms of the long-running debate over John Kennedy’s Vietnam withdrawal plan. Weaving analysis and narrative together in compelling fashion, Selverstone cuts through the Camelot mythology to reveal the bureaucratic and political origins of the plan, as well as the reasons for its subsequent abandonment. A major contribution from a preeminent historian of JFK’s foreign policies.”—Edward Miller, author of Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam

“A splendid work. I doubt there is any scholar anywhere who knows the archival material better than Selverstone does, and he is surely unsurpassed in his familiarity with the Kennedy tapes. His prose...


Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9780674048812
PRICE $35.00 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (PDF)
Send to Kindle (PDF)
Download (PDF)