Blogs > HNN > JANUARY 1968 REDUX

May 24, 2004 2:21 pm


By the end of 1967 McNamara was so depressed that he had to be eased out of his post as the secretary of defense and Clark Clifford took his place. Within a couple of months he convened"the wise men" (the designers of the containment strategy) and the later decided that Vietnam was the wrong battle front on which to continue to fight the Cold War. (The Atlanticist Paul Nitze told the assembled that"the time had come to wind down the costly sideshow in Vietnam and return to the center stage, facing the Soviets in Europe." I suspect this time the Pacificists are also making their opinions known) The decision was signaled by the textual change of the speech Lyndon Johnson was about to give the nation in January. The speech which was about to begin with"let me tell you about the war in Vietnam" was changed to"Let me speak about peace in Vietnam."

Johnson who had opposed the policy shift also announced that he will not seek another term. Everyone I have interviewed on this subject insisted that had Johnson run, he would have won. Bush will have the opportunity to test this assumption. I would only add that his recent decline in the polls reflect not only the prewar opposition to the war but also the disappointment of those who supported the war. Following that 1968 speech the antiwar position which had been previously confined to the elite, gathered mass support. I know writing I told you so is unclassy, but I cannot resist. Why We Are in Danger of Losing the Peace in Iraq I wrote it in November 2003. Today's Safire's NYT column is a must primer though he still thinks that Bush may not follow in Johnson's footsteps.

Let's hope that we will ultimately win the War on Terror as we won the Cold War. I shudder to think otherwise.

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