Kennedy and the Cold War

George Will on RFK talking about JFK about Vietnam:

Interviewer: “There was never any consideration given to pulling out?”

RFK: “No.”

Interviewer: “. . . the president was convinced that we had to keep, had to stay in there  . . .”

RFK: “Yes.”

Interviewer: “. . . And couldn’t lose it.”

RFK: “Yes.”

The fact is, the doomsayers were both right and wrong about losing South Vietnam. Yes, all of Indochina ended up going Communist as a result — the dreaded “domino effect” — but the end result didn’t much alter the balance of power. Containment was always about holding on to the periphery, but in the South China Sea, the Philippines were just as good a place to draw the line (and arguably better, given the relative weakness of the Soviet navy) as South Vietnam. And the domestic politics in Manila, while never good, was still an improvement over Saigon’s. Going all in by the mid-’60s was almost certainly a mistake; but by 1975 so was cutting off an ally facing naked aggression in violation of a peace treaty.

Had we won in Vietnam — or at least had the Democratic Congress not so shamefully abandoned the Saigon in ’75 — then South Vietnam today would likely be like South Korea instead of the semi-basketcase it is today.

That’s an awful lot of wasted human potential, thrown into the ash heap of history in a fit of anti-Nixon pique.