What is the relevant lesson that can be learned about presidential leadership during the Vietnam War?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that President Johnson becomes the ultimate cautionary tale and most relevant lesson on how presidential leadership is so important during any conflict.  Every President since Johnson has had to wrestle with this.  Of the many lessons learned, in my mind the most lasting one is that the President must grasp the full implications and complex, nuanced nature of fighting a war when convincing the American people of its need.  President Johnson's failures stem from his inability or unwillingness to be able to provide a clear and focused vision for American success in Vietnam.  The metrics that Johnson used or were forced to use were too complex to be able to be fully absorbed by the changing social dynamic of the American people.  By the time 1968 had rolled around, Johnson realized that he could no longer control the war and its impression amongst the American public.  Rather, it controlled him, crippling his administration's domestic goals and its political capital.  His decision to not run for reelection stems from this.  President Johnson lost control of the message about the war and could no longer convince the public of its success or its mere presence in terms of why America should continue to fight it.  I think that it is here where the ultimate lesson of Presidential leadership becomes evident from the Vietnam War.  Its proof is that no president since Johnson has taken office without being mindful of "another Vietnam," a state of being that strikes fear in every post- Johnson American President