Political Interference, Strategic Incoherence, and Johnson’s Escalation in Vietnam

Earlier this year, The Strategy Bridge asked university and professional military education students to participate in our third annual student writing contest by sending us their thoughts on strategy.

Now, we are pleased to present one of this year’s third-place essays by Joseph Stabile from Georgetown University.

The American experience in Vietnam defined a generation, spurring civil unrest and the degradation of trust in important political and military institutions. Spanning the course of two decades, the United States’ engagement in the conflict reflected the heightened global tension of the Cold War. American involvement in Vietnam began as early as 1950, initially in the form of assistance to the French during the First Indochina War. By the end of the Kennedy administration, the United States had begun to send American advisers and military forces to Vietnam, aiming to prevent the spread of communism to Southeast Asia.[1]

The assassination of John F. Kennedy, however, ushered in the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, who possessed little experience in the realm of foreign policy. Facing a crisis of legitimacy before cementing his position in the Oval Office through the election of 1964, Johnson was hamstrung as commander-in-chief. Internal discord among civilian and military advisers added to the difficulty in establishing a sound strategy to achieve a desirable political outcome in Vietnam. Amidst mounting international pressure brought on by the Cold War, Johnson decided to escalate the war in Vietnam in 1965. The war continued on for another decade after escalation, ultimately concluding in an American strategic loss. This essay assesses the choice of Johnson’s Vietnam escalation, considers the origins of this decision, and discusses ways in which America’s Vietnam strategy could have been improved. This escalation, taking the form of increased airpower and expanded ground force presence, revealed a complete misinterpretation of the operating environment and inability to stop a war that should not have been started. Ultimately, Johnson’s decision to escalate the war reflected a broader failure of the American foreign policy establishment in which internal divisions prevented a comprehensive understanding of the enemy, leading to years of commitment to a fruitless and destructive war.

Tonkin, Politics, and the Lead-up to Escalation

In the realm of American strategy making, the commander-in-chief plays an indispensable role, drawing on both civilian and military advisers to ultimately craft the military strategy that is formed in pursuit of a broader foreign policy agenda. Understanding Lyndon Johnson’s ascent to the Presidency, therefore, is essential to understanding his 1965 decision to escalate the war in Vietnam. The case of Lyndon B. Johnson is distinct, given the fact that he was suddenly thrust into the responsibility of developing American strategy in 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. As vice president, Johnson was “more or less cut out of Vietnam policy and of foreign affairs in general,” according to Dartmouth historian Ed Miller.[2] As a result, Kennedy’s own escalation of the war, in the form of increased aid and support from U.S. military advisors, occurred without Johnson’s input or consideration. Consequently, less than one year after Kennedy’s assassination, an inexperienced Johnson faced a crossroads in the conflict.

The first week of August 1964, was the single most important week in the lead-up to Johnson’s escalation in Vietnam. On August 2nd, the USS Maddox came under attack from North Vietnamese torpedo fire. Two days later, American radar technology appeared to have detected another possible attack. However, retrospective analysis of the evidence suggests the likelihood of the second attack was widely exaggerated, if not fabricated, leading the perceived threat to be labeled the “Tonkin Spook.”[3] While historians speculated for decades regarding the veracity of a second attack, recently declassified documents show it did not, in fact, occur and rather suggest that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara may have intentionally distorted evidence in an effort to mislead Congress.[4] Furthermore, even though McNamara and Johnson privately admitted U.S. covert operations likely provoked the attack on the Maddox from the North Vietnamese, the administration publicly framed the situation as an unwarranted display of aggression.[5] This framing was manipulated to rationalize greater American involvement in the conflict. On August 4th, Johnson announced on national television,“Repeated acts of violence against the armed forces of the United States must be met not only with alert defense, but with positive reply.”[6] In light of the Johnson administration’s rhetoric and posturing, Congress immediately and overwhelmingly passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authorizing President Johnson to use conventional military force in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.[7]

Beyond the deception related to Tonkin, the political atmosphere that surrounded Johnson’s abbreviated first term in office factored significantly into the fractured process of strategy-making leading up to the escalation of 1965. The degree to which politics played a role in foreign policymaking is not merely a tangential incident, but rather a central component of Johnson’s legacy as a strategist. During the first year of Johnson’s presidency, the objective of creating a coherent strategy for Vietnam was delayed by electoral concerns. When it came to the decision of how much force to apply, Johnson was heavily influenced by his domestic political agenda. Rather than developing a sustainable plan to achieve victory in Vietnam, Johnson’s early decision making process was stained by other considerations. First and foremost, he viewed himself simply as “an inherited [President]” who has “got to win an election” in order to have any legitimacy.[8] Fearing that extensive force would diminish support for his Great Society, the president decided massive military force was not a viable option.[9] These concerns were exacerbated by his 1964 campaign against the outwardly hawkish Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater. During a phone call with McNamara, Johnson lamented that skeptics of his foreign policy agenda “want to be damn sure that we’re firm, that’s what all the country wants, because Goldwater’s raising so much hell about how he’s going to blow them off the moon.”[10] In the end, the 1964 election turned out to be “a powerful deterrent for Johnson to take any definitive action regarding the American commitment in Vietnam.”[11] Rather than attempting some semblance of strategic thinking, the Johnson administration stumbled further into conflict, all while receiving further authorization through the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to expand America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at a meeting in the White House, Feb. 9, 1968 (Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ Library).

Bureaucratic Discord in the Johnson Administration

In addition to the aforementioned corrupting influence of Johnson’s electoral ambitions, the profound disunity in the Johnson administration played a pronounced role in the formulation of American strategy, both in the lead up to and execution of escalation. On a basic level, military and civilian leaders generally disagreed about how to escalate the conflict. Whereas the civilian advisers backed an approach of gradual escalation in airpower, military leaders continually pushed for more bombing.[12] Yet, the discord in the policy making process extended far beyond this disagreement about the implementation of strategy. In 1964, President Johnson began to preside over Tuesday lunch forums in which principal civilian advisers Dean Rusk (Secretary of State), McGeorge Bundy (National Security Advisor), and Robert McNamara largely formed the administration’s national security policy without the presence of a single military officer.[13]

Because of this structure, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were frequently entirely isolated from the decision making process with regards to Vietnam. In addition to what might be classified as a more passive exclusion, McNamara actively worked to eliminate all means of communication between President Johnson and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[14] The Joint Chiefs recognized this isolation and sought to eliminate the degree to which political objectives interfered with strategic interests. In a 1964 memorandum to civilian leadership, the Joint Chiefs identified and renounced the “self-imposed restrictions” placed by the Johnson administration on the aerial bombardment of North Vietnam.[15] This fraught relationship continued into 1965, as civilian leadership not only rejected the possibility of alternative strategic options, but also ignored criticisms of the proposed civilian plan for escalation through graduated pressure.

The impact of this unhealthy relationship between civilian and military leadership proved profoundly consequential. McNamara’s effort to distance President Johnson from military advisers also meant that McNamara himself limited his exposure to the military’s perspective and criticism. As a result, when military officers carried out the SIGMA I-64 war game, McNamara was not exposed to the simulation’s damning conclusion: that his strategy of graduated pressure via airpower could not end Northern Vietnamese support for the Viet Cong.[16] Understanding the internal politics of the Johnson administration, therefore, serves not only as context but also as a part of the explanation for where the strategy of escalation went wrong. Reckoning with the bad-faith relations among members of the administration is a prerequisite to assessing why Johnson’s Vietnam strategy was unsuccessful. Driven at first by domestic electoral circumstances, Johnson was altogether unprepared to strategically escalate the conflict. When he finally began the preparation for escalation, bureaucratic infighting prevented a clear decision-making process that considered the warnings of military officers such as those who conducted the SIGMA I-64 war game. 

President Lyndon B. Johnson with General Earle Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General Westmoreland; and Robert S. McNamara, the defense secretary, in 1967 (AP)

The Strategy

In the late 1940s, George Kennan introduced the idea of containment that would influence American grand strategy throughout the Cold War.[17] This concept, as articulated by Kennan, held that “the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.”[18] Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, the concept of containment was understood in various ways, including the interpretation that American military force was necessary to stop the spread of communism. Kennan’s containment was bolstered by the development of the Domino Theory, in which the fall of one Asian country to communism would lead to the communist domination of the entire continent. This broader political context is crucial in understanding the strategy formulated by the Johnson administration. According to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, as articulated in 1965, the American strategy in Vietnam was to:

...convince the North Vietnamese that their Communist-inspired, directed, and supported guerilla action to overthrow the established government in the South cannot be achieved, and then to negotiate for the future peace and security of that country.[19]

With this goal in mind, following the congressional authorization received in the previous summer, Johnson began to dispatch American ground forces to Vietnam. This process began in April, and American troop presence quickly climbed to 175,000 by July.[20] The crux of American escalation, however, would come in the form of airpower. Advocates of airpower such as Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay argued that this form of warfare could be used to achieve the strategic objective at little cost to the United States.[21] The implementation of McNamara’s strategy, therefore, is aptly embodied in the airpower campaign known as Operation Rolling Thunder.

American Airpower: Fighting the Last War?

Less than a year after Johnson’s request to Congress for more troops in Vietnam, Operation Rolling Thunder began. Combined with the later Operation Linebacker, American planes dropped one million tons of bombs on North Vietnam.[22] Though implemented in line with McNamara’s outlined strategy, the Johnson administration’s attempt to coerce Hanoi through massive airpower unquestionably failed. Rolling Thunder helped to contribute to the elongation of conflict by four years, during which approximately 20,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were killed.[23] Because their military strategy of guerilla warfare was impervious to conventional air attacks, the North Vietnamese could not be coerced to cease supplying the Southern insurgency and join the United States and South Vietnam for peace talks.[24]

In 1929, Army Lieutenant Colonel J.L. Schley wrote of a “tendency in many armies to spend the peace time studying how to fight the last war.”[25] The inability of the United States to reform their expectations regarding the possibilities of American airpower doctrine between the Korean War and Vietnam was a crucial aspect of strategic failure during the Vietnam War. As a hybrid war that included elements of both asymmetric and conventional warfare, Vietnam marked a significant departure from the style of conflict in two World Wars and the Korean War, which were fought with conventional means. The memory of these conflicts weighed heavily in both the institutional culture of the American armed forces and the mind of President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1965, prior to the escalation of the war, Johnson noted to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that he was worried about getting “tied down in a Third World War or another Korean action.”[26] This memory contributed to assumptions that ultimately helped create the failure of the escalation of air power. According to Air Force Colonel Dennis M. Drew, the application of American airpower doctrine in Vietnam relied on two faulty premises: first, that war was inherently fought to destroy the enemy’s ability to wage warfare, and second, that American wars would always be fought against industrialized nations.[27] However, in the case of Vietnam, neither of these assumptions were true. In contradiction to the doctrine that originated in the 1920s with the thinking of Billy Mitchell, America’s use of airpower in Vietnam was not unlimited and did not target vital centers of population and production.[28] Consequently, the strategy of aerial bombardment did not have the coercive effect on the North Vietnamese that the Johnson administration anticipated.

F-105 Thunderchiefs radar-bombing at the instruction of a B-66 leader. (Wikimedia)

Demonstrating the degree to which the Johnson administration’s policy was not carefully or concretely established, the administration relatively quickly shifted the stated goal of Operation Rolling Thunder after noticing a failure to force the North Vietnamese to compromise. Departing from a primarily coercive approach, Rolling Thunder also became an attempted interdiction of North Vietnamese personnel and materiel into the South.[29] This goal also failed, as border infiltration likely increased over the course of the aerial bombardment campaign.[30] These two failures of Rolling Thunder, and Johnson’s strategy more broadly, reflect a failure in American strategy and a tendency to project an American vision of the conflict. Because American leadership viewed the Vietnam War exclusively as part of a larger Cold War, it failed to recognize that civil wars are infrequently ended through compromise, due to the personal and bitter nature of the conflict.[31] Ultimately, Rolling Thunder even increased North Vietnamese belligerence and decreased the likelihood of a negotiated peace settlement.[32] The Johnson administration was unprepared to adapt American airpower from its original purpose of conventional, unlimited warfare to the hybrid style of Vietnam. Consequently, Rolling Thunder—a crucial aspect of the 1965 escalation—did not succeed. 

Escalation and the Ground War

By the middle of 1965, Operation Rolling Thunder had clearly failed to meet its strategic objective. As a result, General William Westmoreland requested an increase of American troops to fight the ground war in South Vietnam, hoping to more than double America’s force commitment.[33] Johnson eventually decided in favor of Westmoreland’s appeal. This decision to commit to the further deployment of ground troops reflects strategic folly on two fronts. First, Johnson placed undue weight on the necessity of plunging further into war on behalf of America’s South Vietnamese ally. In weighing the possibility of sending more ground troops to Vietnam, Johnson felt pressure from both domestic and international audiences.[34] On the home front, he worried about the legislative ramifications of being perceived as lacking credibility. In early 1966, Johnson admitted to Senator Eugene McCarthy that he “know[s] [America] oughtn’t to be there,” but he refused the risk of being known as “the architect of surrender.”[35] Furthermore, Johnson worried in the broader context of the Cold War that refusing to escalate the ground war in Vietnam would send a poor signal to America’s allies across the world.[36] However, this defense for escalating the war does not appear to be borne out empirically. According to political scientists Daryl Press and Jennifer Lind, “There’s little evidence that supports the view that countries’ record for keeping commitments determines their credibility.”[37] Johnson, therefore, was likely misguided in his argument that America needed to escalate the war in order to protect the grand strategic objective of global containment of communism. While it is certainly not wise to consistently abandon allies, it is also important not to prolong a conflict that cannot be won. With regards to the domestic pressure, there is simply no excuse from a strategic perspective for engaging in unproductive warfare to maintain a political image. Johnson’s misguided upsurge of ground troops ultimately only led to further suffering without a realistic chance of achieving strategic victory.

Second, Lyndon Johnson’s decision to abdicate his role in the strategy-making process and allow General William Westmoreland to take the reins marks an irresponsible decision in which he further indicates a disinterest in developing a coherent Vietnam strategy. At first, Johnson’s consideration of escalating the ground war actually represented a departure from his previous experiences in crafting strategy and policy. Rather than isolating himself once again, the president convened a study group of leaders from the scientific, academic, and diplomatic communities, in addition to a group of bipartisan political figures.[38] However, of the group convened, the only dissenter was Under Secretary of State George Ball. The near-unanimous consensus reached by the study group convinced Johnson to escalate further.[39] Once Johnson expanded the commitment of American ground troops, however, the civilian leadership abandoned its responsibility to continue to craft strategy. In fact, James McAllister contends there is no evidence “to suggest that the president and his civilian advisers directed Westmoreland on how he should fight within the borders of South Vietnam.”[40] Regardless of one’s assessment of Westmoreland’s use of this power, it is certainly a reflection of Johnson’s inability to improve his strategy as the war continued, despite his willingness to escalate the conflict. Clausewitz argues that “war consists of a continuous interaction of opposites,” and strategy cannot succeed as a static entity.[41] When the Johnson administration’s escalation via airpower failed, it should have more deliberately reassessed its strategic capabilities. Instead, Johnson made the decision to simply expanded America’s role in the conflict and provided Westmoreland with the ability to wage the ground war as he saw fit. This neglect of the importance of crafting a dynamic strategy, in addition to his propensity to succumb to baseless pressure, demonstrates the weakness of Johnson’s approach to strategy during the period of escalation.

Alternative Options?

Given the depth of failure achieved by American strategy makers in Vietnam, it is crucial not only to address the misguided decisions, but also probe whether or not there were better strategic possibilities than that which was chosen. The presentation of counterfactual assessments can prove to be a valuable approach when analyzing strategic failure and American military history. This approach, however, must be undertaken with the recognition that hindsight is nearly always far clearer than the environment in which the strategic mistake occurred. For example, Lyndon B. Johnson inherited a conflict in which the United States had just supported the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, significantly increasing America’s responsibility and commitment to the now leaderless South Vietnam.[42] However, while Johnson faced pressure upon entering office, the context of his presidency cannot excuse the strategic mistakes that were made.

Departing from the Johnson administration’s strategy of coercion of North Vietnam through the use of American airpower, high-ranking CIA operative Edward Lansdale proposed the alternative path of “building up legitimate, democratic, and accountable South Vietnamese institutions that could command the loyalty of the people.”[43] In contrast to the 1965 decision to escalate, Lansdale found the commitment of American ground troops to be a distraction from the political imperative. While the Landsdale perspective appears preferable to Johnson’s failed 1965 escalation, this approach, too, must be assessed with skepticism. Though tempting to build a strategy around the development of democratic institutions, the blind exportation of Western political systems would have likely been unsuccessful. The so-called Lansdalism underestimated the strength of Vietnamese nationalism and the prevailing view in the South of America as an occupier.[44] Furthermore, the assumption that the South Vietnamese would automatically accept the establishment of American political institutions is dubious, at best. Recall that, in 1954, the United States ushered in the leadership of Ngo Dinh Diem, only to back a coup against Diem nine years later.[45] South Vietnamese faced the brutal consequences of the war, and there is little reason to believe that South Vietnamese trust in American political institutions would have been strong enough to make Landsdale’s approach feasible.

Why, then, consider the alternative approach of Edward Lansdale at all? This analysis is worthwhile because the weaknesses of Lansdale’s plan share the same shortcomings of the Johnson administration: a fundamental misunderstanding of both the enemy and the operating environment. Southeast Asia was so foreign to the American national security establishment that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara once quipped that the United States was “setting policy for a region that was terra incognita.”[46] Strategy is bound to fail if those who conceive it view the conflict from an exclusively American perspective. In theory, because American airpower doctrine and conventional warfare brought success in the previous conflicts of the 20th century, it should have succeeded against a materially inferior opponent in Vietnam. However, this line of thinking, as applied to Vietnam, reveals the limits of a formulaic conception of strategy as the combination of ends, ways, and means. As Army Strategist Major M.L. Cavanaugh contends, this model of thinking “minimizes the adversary.”[47] Rather than relying on the primacy of American military might, Johnson should have considered the challenges presented by a thinking, reacting enemy.[48]

Finally, some revisionist historians contend Johnson’s mistake was, in fact, too little escalation of force in Vietnam. This line of thinking, however, does not hold up to scrutiny. In assuming the possibility of success through sustained airpower and an even larger deployment of ground forces, this camp also crucially overlooks the superior political will of the North Vietnamese. The historian George Herring succinctly concludes “the war could [not] have been ‘won’ in any meaningful sense at a moral or material cost most Americans deemed acceptable.”[49] Short of an even more massively deadly and costly occupation, victory was unlikely. Any victory would have come at the cost of America’s national interest and resulted in even more Vietnamese casualties.

While hosting Defense Secretary Robert McNamara at the LBJ Ranch on 22 Dec 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson reacts to news of new problems in Vietnam. (Corbis)


By the time the Vietnam War concluded in 1975, the conflict contributed to the death of more than one million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians and 58,000 American service members. Johnson, hindered by bureaucratic and electoral politics, completely misunderstood the enemy, dooming the possibility of achieving the political goal of a negotiated peace settlement on America’s terms. The implications of such a massive strategic failure are evidently broad. The impact of the mistakes made in Vietnam influenced the American military and society more broadly for decades. Rather than carrying on an incoherent succession of operations in 1964 before stumbling into escalation the next year, Johnson and his civilian advisors should have embraced the criticism of their military counterparts and recognized that their strategy of graduated pressure simply would not be effective in this hybrid war. Unfortunately, this was not the course taken by Johnson, and Americans and Vietnamese alike paid the price.

Joseph Stabile is a Master’s candidate in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. He also completed his undergraduate coursework at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.

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Header Image: President Lyndon Johnson awards a medal to an American soldier during a visit to Vietnam in 1966. (Wikimedia)


[1] “1961–1968: The Presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson,” Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, https://history.state.gov/milestones/1961-1968/foreword.

[2] Adam Wernick, “LBJ knew the vietnam war was a disaster in the making. Here's why he couldn't walk away.,” PRI, September 8, 2017, https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-09-08/lbj-knew-vietnam-war-was-disaster-making-heres-why-he-couldnt-walk-away.

[3] Edwin E. Moïse, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 113.

[4] Lieutenant Commander Pat Paterson, “The Truth About Tonkin,” Naval History Magazine, U.S. Naval Institute, February 2008, https://www.usni.org/magazines/navalhistory/2008-02/truth-about-tonkin.

[5] “The Tonkin Gulf,” Miller Center for Public Affairs, https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/educational-resources/tonkin-gulf.

[6] Lieutenant Commander Pat Paterson.

[7] “U.S. Involvement in the Vietnam War: The Gulf of Tonkin and Escalation, 1964,” Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, https://history.state.gov/milestones/1961-1968/gulf-of-tonkin.

[8] Lyndon Johnson qtd. in Bill Moyers, “LBJ’s Path to War, Part I,” PBS, November 20, 2009, http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/11202009/watch2.html.

[9] Mark Clodfelter.

[10] Walter Cronkite, “Gulf of Tonkin's Phantom Attack,” NPR, August 2, 2004, https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=3810724.

[11] Gordon M. Goldstein, Lessons in Disaster: Mcgeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam, Reprint ed. (New york: Holt Paperbacks, 2009), 98.

[12] Robert Pape, 177.

[13] H.R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Mcnamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam (New York: Harper Perennial, 1998), 88.

[14] H.R. McMaster, 90.

[15] Gordon M. Goldstein, 98.

[16] H.R. McMaster, 90.

[17] William Martel, “America's Grand Strategy Disaster,” The National Interest, June 9, 2014, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/americas-grand-strategy-disaster-10627.

[18] X (George F. Kennan), “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” Foreign Affairs (July 1947), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russian-federation/1947-07-01/sources-soviet-conduct.

[19] Robert McNamara qtd. in Major James M. Bright, “A Failure in Strategy: America and the Vietnam War 1965-1968,” (master's thesis, United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College, 2000 - 2001), https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a401184.pdf.

[20] Michael H. Hunt, Lyndon Johnson's War: America's Cold War Crusade in Vietnam, 1945-1968 (Hill and Wang Critical Issues), Reprint ed. (New York: Hill and Wang, 1997), 93.

[21] Kyle Staron, “The Airpower Partisans Get It Wrong Again,” War on the Rocks, September 17, 2015, https://warontherocks.com/2015/09/the-airpower-partisans-get-it-wrong-again/.

[22] Mark Clodfelter, “The Limits of Airpower or the Limits of Strategy: The Air Wars in Vietnam and Their Legacies,” Joint Forces Quarterly 78 (3rd Quarter 2015), https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/jfq/jfq-78/jfq-78_111-124_Clodfelter.pdf.

[23] Robert A. Pape, Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996), 174.

[24] Robert A. Pape, 175.

[25] Lieutenant Colonel J.L. Schley, “Some Notes On the World War,” The Military Engineer 21 (1929): 55, https://books.google.com/books?id=kPdKAQAAIAAJ&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=Schley.

[26] Lyndon Johnson qtd. in Bill Moyers, “LBJ’s Path to War, Part I,” PBS, November 20, 2009, http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/11202009/watch2.html.

[27] Colonel Dennis M. Drew, “Rolling Thunder 1965: Anatomy of a Failure,” Airpower Research Institute (October 1986), https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a215903.pdf.

[28] Colonel Dennis M. Drew.

[29] Colonel Dennis M. Drew.

[30] Colonel Dennis M. Drew.

[31] Colonel Dennis M. Drew.

[32] Major James Bright.

[33] David Coleman and Marc Selverstone, “Lyndon B. Johnson and the Vietnam War,” Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Program, accessed December 13, 2018, https://prde.upress.virginia.edu/content/Vietnam.

[34] David Coleman and Marc Selverstone.

[35] Lyndon B. Johnson qtd. in David Coleman and Marc Selverstone.

[36] David Coleman and Marc Selverstone.

[37] Daryl Press and Jennifer Lind, “Red Lines and Red Herrings,” Foreign Policy, May 6, 2013, https://foreignpolicy.com/2013/05/06/red-lines-and-red-herrings/.

[38] David Coleman and Marc Selverstone.

[39] David Coleman and Marc Selverstone.

[40] James McAllister, “Who Lost Vietnam? Soldiers, Civilians, and u.s. Military Strategy,” International Security, Vol. 35, No. 3 35, no. 3 (Winter 2010/2011): 104, https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/40981253.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3Ac34201b5ae3772947c0f52acc112e963.

[41] Clausewitz, Carl (Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Eds.) Von, On War, Reprint ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ Pr, 1984), 136.

[42] Max Boot, The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam (New York: Liveright, 2018), 3.

[43] Max Boot, 8.

[44] Catharin Dalpino, “The Other Vietnam Syndrome,” Brookings Institution, April 23, 2003, https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-other-vietnam-syndrome/.

[45] Catharin Dalpino.

[46] Robert McNamara qtd. in Colonel Dennis M. Drew.

[47] Major ML Cavanaugh, “It’s Time to End the Tyranny of Ends, Ways, and Means,” Modern War Institute at West Point, July 24, 2017, https://mwi.usma.edu/time-end-tyranny-ends-ways-means/.

[48] Edward N. Luttwak, Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, rev. ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2002)..

[49] George Herring qtd. in Gian Gentile, “A Better Understanding of the Vietnam War,” Small Wars Journal, http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/318-gentile.pdf.