Given John Kennedy's military and foreign policy views, would he have followed the Vietnam policies pursued by Lyndon Johnson? Would he have escalated? Withdrawn?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to an article entitled "JFK’s Vietnam Withdrawal Plan Is a Fact, Not Speculation" by James K. Galbraith in The Nation, documents released under the JFK Records Act show that Kennedy was planning to withdraw troops from Vietnam by the conclusion of 1965. The article quotes Francis Bator, President Lyndon Johnson's Deputy National Security Advisor, to the effect that Kennedy was planning to start withdrawing troops from Vietnam in December of 1963 (the month after he was assassinated), and have withdrawn all troops by the end of 1965.

However, as the author of this article states, Kennedy may have reversed this plan. JFK was, after all, a committed cold warrior, and events in South Vietnam, including the continued victories of North Vietnamese troops against the troops in South Vietnam in the mid-1960s, might have caused Kennedy to reverse course and escalate the war in Vietnam (as President Johnson did starting in 1965). This question can never be answered definitively because of Kennedy's tragic assassination in November of 1963. 

jrwilliams4321 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is probably one of the most wondered about questions about what might have been; had it not been for the tragic event that ended Kennedy's presidency before its time.  Given some of Kennedy's views and some of the polocies that he followed during his thousand or so days in office; I have to say that I believe he would have chosen a different path than that of the Johnson administration.  Kennedy had already exhitbited a willingness to compromise and to use non-aggressive tendancies during the Cuban missile crisis.  Had the president acted more aggressively, we now know that the missile crisis would have turned out very differently.  That said, I think that Kennedy would have at least tried to find a way out of war in Vietnam.