How lessons of Vietnam can be applied to Afghanistan

12/23/08 Robert Lorei
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Good afternoon,

Welcome to WMNF ‘S Radioactivity…I'm Robert Lorei. Coming up: a new book says President John Kennedy was committed to stopping an escalation of combat troops in Vietnam -- and the implications that this new information has for incoming President Barack Obama and the calls for a troop increase in Afghanistan.

But first some listener comments about last week’s program on reforming health care in the U.S.

President-elect Barack Obama has made a commitment to ending the war in Iraq. But at the same time, he’s indicated a willingness to increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan.

In the new book, Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam, author Gordon Goldstein describes how Americans were led, step by step, into a long and ultimately unwinable war in Vietnam. It also provides lessons for future presidents, members of Congress, and citizens as we grapple with the problems of where, when, and how to apply the American military around the world.

The book draws on the author’s unique collaborative relationship and extensive interviews with the late McGeorge Bundy, the national security adviser to presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, who in the last years of his life embarked on a retrospective assessment of the decisions that led to America’s entanglement in the Vietnam War

Goldstein, an international affairs specialist who earned his PhD at Columbia University, was selected by Bundy to work with him on a book about the genesis of the Vietnam War, and together they explored what happened and what might have been. With Bundy’s death in 1996, that manuscript could not be completed. Goldstein has drawn on his relationship with the former national security adviser to craft his own provocative and original work of history.

I spoke with Goldstein earlier and asked about the passages in his book in which he says JFK was not willing to commit combat troops to Vietnam, and how that conflicts with Kennedy’s image as a cold-warrior intent on stopping the spread of communism around the world.

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