Toward a Tragedy
Historians are reluctant to speculate on what might have happened in Vietnam had President Kennedy lived. Then why examine this issue? Kennedy died in Dallas, cynics declare, rendering it meaningless to debate whether he might have adopted an alternative policy in Vietnam that could have averted the deaths of millions. It is not speculation, however, to examine President Kennedy's policies toward Vietnam in an effort to discern whether or not a pattern of withdrawal was in the making. The materials undergirding this study demonstrate that President Kennedy intended to reverse the nation's special military commitment to the South Vietnamese made in early 1961. After receiving continued mixed reports on the war's progress, he turned toward a phased military reduction that would begin in late 1963 and, after his presumed reelection in autumn 1964, succeed by the end of 1965 in returning America's military status to its 1961 advisory level.
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