GLEN COVE, NY — When President John Kennedy was
killed by a communist, Lyndon Johnson became President. Growing dissatisfaction
with our gradual losses to the Soviets led to the 1964 Republican nomination
of Senator Barry Goldwater, a man firmly committed to victory in the
Johnson waged one of the most dishonest and vicious campaigns in American
history. His massive propaganda campaign sought to persuade Americans
that Goldwater would expand the war in Vietnam and even destroy the
world in an unlimited nuclear war.
After his reelection, Johnson quickly realized that Kennedy’s
dream of victory in Vietnam without committing American troops was
unrealizable. Shortly before Johnson's inauguration, Kennedy made the
disastrous mistake of involving the United States in the murder of
Vietnamese President Diem and his brother. This changed America’s
role from protector of self-determination for South Vietnam to meddler
in the nation’s
American soldiers fought well in Vietnam, winning every battle of
any significance. Although the newspapers at home depicted the Tet
offensive as a defeat, it was actually a major American victory. The
war was not turning out to be a success, however. Johnson tried to
simultaneously wage a war abroad and fund a huge expansion of programs
at home. He sought to save money on the quality of ammunition. He kept
changing the rules of engagement, especially regarding what we could
do to the communist lines of supply. His biggest mistake was his refusal
to allow a real pursuit of victory, which required making war on North
One of Johnson’s policies is particularly difficult to understand.
Members of the Army Reserve with sophisticated military specialties
and substantial military experience were never called up. Officers
who had been forced out in their middle ages were not allowed to come
out of retirement. Instead, a million young men without any military
experience were drafted. The Reserves and National Guard, restricted
to a supplementary role in emergencies, became havens for draft dodgers.
The greatest effect of Johnson’s policy, however, was to destroy
the 20-year-old national consensus to oppose communism. Unlike the
patriotism and unity that Americans displayed during the Korean War,
the Vietnam War was characterized by bitter division at home. Draft
cards were burned, and students wore shirts with images of hammers
and sickles. Domestic communists began to dynamite campus buildings
and murder people. Johnson had truly brought the Cold War, and not
in a particularly cold form, to our shores.
Johnson destroyed the political viability of the Truman doctrine
of containment. In the aftermath of the Goldwater campaign, the Republicans
stumbled uncertainly toward becoming the party of victory over communism.
The anti-communist Democrats from the South and Cold Warriors like
Senator Henry Jackson began to lose the Democrat Party to appeasers
and left-wing extremists.
Johnson’s policies led to the events at the 1968 Democrat Convention.
Outside the convention hall, huge crowds of opponents of the Vietnam
War, and indeed of the Cold War, rioted and clashed with the Chicago
police. Inside, the anti-Cold-War Senator Abraham Ribicoff made an
absurd motion to adjourn and re-convene in another city. Chicago Mayor
Richard Daley stood up and screamed obscenities at Ribicoff. Confrontations
occurred between delegates and security guards. Events expected to
occur in prime time took place at three or four in the morning.
Johnson left office with violent mobs in the streets seeking America’s
defeat. The Democrats were laying the groundwork for the champions
of Cold War defeat -- men like Senators Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern,
and Robert Kennedy -- to seize control of the Democrat Party.
While the Republican Party was not yet ready to favor victory unequivocally,
a pro-victory majority within the party was forming.
The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2010
by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the
New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in
many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles
about the law.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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