Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam

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Date: Aug. 1998
From: Canadian Journal of History(Vol. 33, Issue 2)
Publisher: University of Toronto Press
Document Type: Book review
Length: 857 words

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Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam, by H.R. McMaster. New York, HarperCollins, 1997. xviii, 446 pp. $27.50 U.S.

In Dereliction of Duty, Major H.R. McMaster argues that the American Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Vietnam War failed to fulfill their statutory role as principle military advisors to the president. Consequently, in his judgement, the United States gradually became more involved in Vietnam without long-term consideration of probable costs and without a military strategy that could assure ultimate victory. In faulting the performance of the Joint Chiefs, McMaster's conclusions are consistent with those of other military writers such as Bruce Palmer and Harry Summers, but this is a far more comprehensive account based upon many new historical sources. Well researched and effectively written, the book suggests that the Vietnam War was lost in Washington though sins of commission by President Lyndon Johnson and his civilian advisors and by sins of omission by the nation's highest ranking military leaders. It is a plausible argument, although considerably over-stated due to the author's unforgiving hindsight and his ironic sharing of the Joint Chief's narrow political vision.

McMaster fully documents the Chiefs' exclusion from the Vietnam policymaking process during the mid-1960s. Seldom convening the National...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A21260024