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The Art of Creating PowerFreedman on Strategy$
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Benedict Wilkinson and James Gow

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190851163

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190851163.001.0001

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Essence of Indecision

Essence of Indecision

Coup Scripts, Ngo Dinh Diem and the Kennedy Administration

Chapter:
(p.155) 9 Essence of Indecision
Source:
The Art of Creating Power
Author(s):

Jeffrey H. Michaels

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190851163.003.0010

Informed and inspired by Freedman’s examination of the Kennedy administration in Kennedy’s Wars and his introduction of the ‘strategic scripts’ concept, this chapter analyzes Washington’s role in the 1963 military coup that deposed Ngo Dinh Diem as President of South Vietnam and saw him and his brother murdered the following day. The US role was, at best, indirect because of Kennedy’s indecision, but although Kennedy did not choose to overthrow Diem, his ambivalence produced the same outcome. While Washington had discussed the possibility of a coup, there was no thought that Diem would be killed. There was an assumption and contingency planning to fly Diem into exile, if the coup happened. There was no script for the situation that actually emerged. This gave rise to a script, which US policy makers have used ever since to deter discussion about overthrowing friendly governments whose leadership is viewed as problematic.

Keywords:   South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, Kennedy’s Wars, Coup, Friendly Governments

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