Friday, August 14, 2009

Kennedy and Vietnam

During the great Walter Cronkite (Peace Be Upon Him) retrospective we endured last month following the secular saint's untimely death, one clip from an interview with President Kennedy was given lots of airtime. Vietnam revisionists love this clip because it seems to show JFK wavering in his commitment to South Vietnam and the war itself:

But just seven days later Kennedy sat for an interview with Huntley and Brinkley (the second and third most trusted men in America at the time) in which he articulates a more conventional position. Vietnam is part of a global struggle against communism and therefore transcends the interests of the South Vietnamese people.

Of course, Kennedy was no peacenik. (Notice the Bush-like smirk when asked about covert operations.) He was a true blue cold warrior and his final analysis (a week after Cronkite) was, of course, correct. The fall of South Vietnam led to the genocidal collapse of Cambodia and to instability throughout the region. Only President Nixon's triangulation diplomacy allowed us to contain China which was Kennedy's greatest concern.

So, had JFK lived would we have avoided a deeper commitment to South Vietnam? Impossible to answer but Kennedy's words suggest that Vietnam was extremely important to his national security policy and not subject to whims of popular opinion.

The hagiographers have it wrong. JFK was not antiwar. He was anticommunist.

Note to Oliver Stone, even in 1963, Kennedy could see "light at the end of the tunnel."

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