For years the popular myth surrounding the Vietnam War
was that the Joint Chiefs of Staff
knew what it would take to win but were consistently thwarted or ignored by the politicians in power. Now H. R. McMaster shatters this and other misconceptions about the military and Vietnam in Dereliction of Duty
. Himself a West Point graduate, McMaster painstakingly waded through every memo and report concerning Vietnam from every meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to build a comprehensive picture of a house divided against itself: a president and his coterie of advisors obsessed with keeping Vietnam from becoming a political issue versus the Joint Chiefs themselves, mired in interservice rivalries and unable to reach any unified goals or conclusions about the country's conduct in the war. McMaster stresses two elements in his discussion of America's failure in Vietnam: the hubris of Johnson
and his advisors and the weakness of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dereliction of Duty
provides both a thorough exploration of the military's role in determining Vietnam policy and a telling portrait of the men most responsible.
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After the French proved themselves unable to recover their Indonesian territory after World War II, the United States gradually took on their role and became mired in a land war. Lyndon B. Johnson, a powerful Democratic Senator from Texas, was JFK's vice-president in the 1960 election and succeeded him in November 1963.