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Why did hawks support president lyndon b. johnson’s war policy?
Johnson was unwillingly caught up in the hot battle (Vietnam War) of the Cold War. Johnson was the US’s only Presidential Administration to be destroyed by the war. He went on nation wide television and flat out said he would not run for president again, and would NOT ACCEPT nomination for the presidency of the United States. He was truly fed-up with the war.
Johnson’s Foreign Policy
Privately, Johnson agonized over the consequences of the U.S. escalation in Vietnam and raged at the incompetence of the succession of military juntas that tried to govern that country and carry on a war against Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese regulars. Publicly, he was determined not to lose the war. As a result, in 1968 there were 500,000 American troops in South Vietnam and no end in sight to the conflict. After an extensive re-examination, President Johnson decided to disengage from a struggle lacking U.S. domestic support. He desperately tried to initiate formal peace negotiations in Paris before the 1968 presidential election, but the peace talks commenced only as he left office.
Johnson was also concerned about Latin American policy, which was another of his special interests. He chose Eisenhower official Thomas C. Mann to be Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. Mann let it be known that he would judge Western Hemisphere neighbors by their commitment to anti-communism rather than their commitment to democracy. The Alliance for Progress, begun with such fanfare under Kennedy, was allowed to wither as a result of neglect and its own internal problems. Johnson’s policy toward Latin America became increasingly interventionist, culminating with the deployment of U.S. soldiers to Santo Domingo to prevent another communist takeover in the Caribbean.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON: FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The major initiative in the Lyndon Johnson presidency was the Vietnam War. By 1968, the United States had 548,000 troops in Vietnam and had already lost 30,000 Americans there. Johnson’s approval ratings had dropped from 70 percent in mid-1965 to below 40 percent by 1967, and with it, his mastery of Congress. “I can’t get out, I can’t finish it with what I have got. So what the hell do I do?” he lamented to Lady Bird. Johnson never did figure out the answer to that question.
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The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a conflict between North and South Vietnam, but it had global ramifications. The North was led by a Communist and nationalist regime that had fought against the Japanese in World War II and against French colonial rule in the late 1940s. In 1954, it won control of North Vietnam when the French agreed to a partition in the Geneva Accords. The South was led by a non-Communist regime; after 1956, it was headed by Ngo Dinh Diem.
A Catholic, Diem was unable to consolidate his rule with a predominantly Buddhist population. He governed with the support of a military supplied and trained by the United States and with substantial U.S. economic assistance. By the late 1950s, a Communist guerrilla force in the South, the Viet Cong, was fighting to overthrow the Diem regime. By the early 1960s, it was receiving substantial military and logistical assistance from the Communists in the North.
Lyndon Johnson vs. the Hawks
By the late summer of 1967, Lyndon Johnson faced a stark choice on Vietnam.
His secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, had become convinced that the war
was unwinnable and urged the president to announce a bombing halt to coax North Vietnam into negotiations.
But the generals on the Joint Chiefs of Staff pushed back — the war was winnable, they insisted,
if only the president would double down on bombing, mine the North’s main port of Haiphong harbor
and add 200,000 men to the ranks, most of them destined for Vietnam.
Mediating between his civilian and military advisers was hard enough. Then came Senator John C. Stennis of Mississippi.
The Senate had been growing increasingly restive over the war for months.
Antiwar (or at least pro-negotiation) factions had emerged in both parties, as had voices calling for a more aggressive strategy
to win the war. Stennis, a Democrat, was among the latter. He was an ally of Johnson’s,
and the president might have been able to keep his bellicose dissent to a minimum.
But Stennis was looking for a fight, and he had a big gun: the Senate Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee, which he headed as a member of the Armed Services Committee. Over the course of August 1967, Stennis used his little-known subcommittee to host a series of high-profile hearings that gave the win-the-war caucus a national platform and forced Johnson into a compromise that, arguably, extended the war by several years.