Chapter

Johnson, McNamara, and the Tonkin Gulf Episode

Gareth Porter

in Perils of Dominance

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780520239487
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940406 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520239487.003.0006
Johnson, McNamara, and the Tonkin Gulf Episode

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This chapter reports the struggle between Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara over the bombing of North Vietnam. The full story of that struggle shows that the national security bureaucracy's pressures on Johnson for war were much stronger and more persistent than has ever been recorded. The three-phase program of operations prepared by the interdepartmental committee reflected McNamara's desire to escalate the war, including air strikes against military targets in North Vietnam. The most serious pressure for military action in the Tonkin Gulf came not from the Republicans but from Johnson's own national security team. By early October, the degree of Johnson's disaffection with the bombing option had become a matter of concern to the White House national security staff. Noting Johnson's reluctance to use force on Vietnam, Robert Komer urged McGeorge Bundy to “bring home to him why he's got to fight.”

Keywords: Lyndon Johnson; Robert McNamara; Tonkin Gulf; North Vietnam; bombing; national security bureaucracy; Robert Komer; McGeorge Bundy

Chapter.  10431 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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