As far as Presidential leadership, what lessons can be learned from the Vietnam War?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are a number of possible lessons to be learned.  Among them are:

  • Do not overcommit the US to an unclear mission.  Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in particular essentially promised open-ended support to South Vietnam.  They did so at a time when it was very hard to see what victory would look like and what steps the US would need to take to accomplish it.  This led to the "mission creep" that was such a negative aspect of US involvment in this war.
  • Do not micromanage the military.  President Johnson was notorious for going so far as to pick bombing targets himself.  This is better left to professionals.  The military should be given clear objectives and then left on its own to pursue them in what it sees as the most effective way.
  • Do not mislead the American people.  Johnson's desire to make the people feel that all was going well helped lead to failure.  When it became clear that all was not well, people lost faith in the government and in the war.

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