How Presidents Test Reality: Decisions on Vietnam, 1954 and 1965

How Presidents Test Reality: Decisions on Vietnam, 1954 and 1965

by John P. Burke, Fred L. Greenstein
     
 

Just as famines and plagues can provide opportunities for medical research, the unhappy course of United States relations with Vietnam is a prime source of evidence for students of American political institutions. How Presidents Test Reality draws on the record of American decision making about Vietnam to explore the capacity of top government executives

Overview

Just as famines and plagues can provide opportunities for medical research, the unhappy course of United States relations with Vietnam is a prime source of evidence for students of American political institutions. How Presidents Test Reality draws on the record of American decision making about Vietnam to explore the capacity of top government executives and their advisers to engage in effective reality testing.

Authors Burke and Greenstein compare the Vietnam decisions of two presidents whose leadership styles and advisory systems diverged as sharply as any in the modern presidency. Faced with a common challenge—an incipient Communist take-over of Vietnam—presidents Eisenhower and Johnson engaged in intense debates with their aides and associates, some of whom favored intervention and some of whom opposed it. In the Dien Bien Phu Crisis of 1954, Eisenhower decided not to enter the conflict; in 1965, when it became evident that the regime in South Vietnam could not hold out much longer, Johnson intervened.

How Presidents Test Reality uses declassified records and interviews with participants to assess the adequacy of each president’s use of advice and information. This important book advances our historical understanding of the American involvement in Vietnam and illuminates the preconditions of effective presidential leadership in the modern world.

"An exceptionally thoughtful exercise in what ‘contemporary history’ ought to be. Illuminates the past in a way that suggests how we might deal with the present and the future." —John Lewis Gaddis

"Burke and Greenstein have written what amounts to an owner's manual for operating the National Security Council....This is a book Reagan's people could have used and George Bush ought to read." —Bob Schieffer, The Washington Monthly

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
The authors are concerned with establishing whether policy alternatives were systematically and rigorously addressed when Eisenhower made his decision not to intervene in vietnam in 1954 and Johnson made the opposite decision in 1965 (the intrinsic quality of the decisions themselves is not their focus). Sources include recently declassified records and interviews with participants. Paper edition (unseen), $14.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780871541758
Publisher:
Russell Sage Foundation
Publication date:
09/19/1989
Pages:
339
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

JOHN P. BURKE is associate professor of political science at the University of Vermont.

FRED I. GREENSTEIN is professor of politics at Princeton University and director of the Program in Leadership Studies at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

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