Politica Dynastia: Lodge, Kennedy, and the Escalation of the War in Vietnam
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Hart, Daniel Rielly
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CitationHart, Daniel Rielly. 2021. Politica Dynastia: Lodge, Kennedy, and the Escalation of the War in Vietnam. Master's thesis, Harvard University Division of Continuing Education.
AbstractIn the Spring of 1963, President John F. Kennedy faced a political conundrum over his policy in South Vietnam. As President, he oversaw the epic failure at the Bay of Pigs, stood idle while the Soviets built a wall in Berlin, and viewed the neutralization of the Southeast Asian nation of Laos as another defeat to the communists. A staunch anti-communist and adherent to the domino theory — that if one nation fell to communism, its neighbors would fall in progression — he could not allow, for personal or political reasons, South Vietnam to also fall. Kennedy had escalated and militarized the American commitment to the small nation by increasing the number of military advisors from under 900 when he entered office to over 16,000 by the summer of 1963. He was, however, saddled with a client nation whose leadership, President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, violated the civil and human rights of its people. The self-immolation of a Buddhist monk in protest of Diem’s government, a sensational symbol of protest that June, would occur five more times in the ensuing months. The coverage in the American press was increasingly hostile in questioning the young President’s strategy and resolve. To solve his problem, Kennedy turned to a formidable, and familiar, foe. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. was an independent and confident operator, a thrice elected U.S. Senator, the longest serving Ambassador to the United Nations, and a Republican Vice Presidential candidate, who had both a personal understanding of the young President and a generational knowledge of the Kennedys. This thesis examines the reason for such an unprecedented choice through a biographical and contextual study of the two men and their relationship. The structural components when Kennedy assumed office, the bipartisan consensus on foreign policy, the Manichean worldview of anti-communism, and rising third world nationalism appeared to overdetermine America’s involvement in Vietnam; but it was Kennedy’s act of agency, a personal choice borne out of a common heritage and shared experiences that would have a lasting impact. The eerily similar backgrounds of the two men were belied by their respective responses to their fathers and a shared sense of fatalism. The relationship between these two sons of Boston, 100 years in the making, would last just 100 days as Ambassador and President, during which time the course of the war in Vietnam altered irrevocably.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37367626
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