The Wages of Globalism: Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of American Power

The Wages of Globalism: Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of American Power

by H. W. Brands
     
 

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One episode dominates the memory of Lyndon Johnson's presidency: the Vietnam War. The war has so darkened Johnson's reputation that it is difficult for many to recall his policies in a positive light-- especially his foreign policy. Now historian H.W. Brands offers a fresh look at Johnson's handling of international relations, putting Vietnam in the context of the

Overview

One episode dominates the memory of Lyndon Johnson's presidency: the Vietnam War. The war has so darkened Johnson's reputation that it is difficult for many to recall his policies in a positive light-- especially his foreign policy. Now historian H.W. Brands offers a fresh look at Johnson's handling of international relations, putting Vietnam in the context of the many crises he confronted and the outdated policies of global containment he was expected to uphold. The result is a fascinating portrait of a master politician at work, maneuvering through a series of successes that made his ultimate failure in Vietnam all the more tragic. In The Wages of Globalism, Brands conducts a witty and insightful tour through LBJ's foreign policy--a tour that begins in Washington, runs through Santa Domingo, Nicosia, and Jakarta, and ends in Saigon. He opens with a thoughtful portrayal of the tense, often fruitful relationship between the domineering Johnson and his advisers--Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, George Ball, Clark Clifford, Walt Rostow--as he picked up Kennedy's legacy and sought to make it his own. Leaving Vietnam for the end, Brands presents the various crises with all the force the White House felt at the time: the Dominican intervention, India impending famine and war with Pakistan, the coup against Sukarno in Indonesia, France's departure from NATO's unified command, the threat of fighting between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus, the Six Day War, and the worry that Germany might acquire nuclear weapons. In each, Brands captures the uncertainty in Washington and the conflicting advice that Johnson received. The picture that emerges is remarkably positive, revealing the president's ability to pick his way through fierce complexities. He forcefully stopped a war over Cyprus; handled de Gaulle with equanimity and skill; and--over the objections of all his advisers--intentionally delayed shipping grain to famine-threatened India, creating a real momentum for agricultural reform in that country that ultimately led to self-sufficiency. Only in Vietnam did Johnson's sure balance of determination and judgment break down: worried about his domestic program and the need to stand firm against aggression, he let his determination run away with him. "In 1947," H.W. Brands writes, "Truman made a bad bargain with history." By the time Johnson inherited the White House, it had become painfully clear that America was no longer supreme in the world, able to prop up the status quo worldwide. In this fascinating, behind-the- scenes account, Brands shows how skillfully Johnson steered the nation into the new era--until, in Southeast Asia, politics and his own personality led him into the ultimate trap of the Truman Doctrine.

Editorial Reviews

Mary Carroll
Brands--a Texas A & M historian whose previous works include "The Devil We Knew" , "Bound to Empire" (1992), and "Inside the Cold War" (1991)--reassesses Johnson's diplomatic record, placing his Vietnam policy in the context of (1) his approach to other international crises, and (2) the commitment to the global containment of Communism that he inherited from his predecessors. Brands first examines LBJ's relationships with his foreign policy advisers, many of them inherited from John Kennedy. He then analyzes less-remembered foreign policy issues of the mid-1960s--the Dominican Republic, India/Pakistan, Indonesia, the roles of France and Germany in NATO, Cyprus, and the Six-Day War in the Middle East--before tackling Vietnam. Brands argues that LBJ's successes as well as his most notable failure in foreign policy resulted, first, from his view of "American diplomacy as a branch of American politics" (which led him always to seek "the line of least political resistance"), and, second, from his "preference for the status quo." "The Wages of Globalism" asserts that "it was Lyndon Johnson's peculiar bad luck to preside over American foreign policy at the moment when . . . the Truman doctrine . . . shattered on the hard reality of a new international order." Includes notes and a select bibliography.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199729272
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
01/05/1995
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
479 KB

Meet the Author

H.W. Brands is Professor of History, Texas A&M University. His books on American foriegn policy include The Devil We Knew, Bound to Empire, and Inside the Cold War.

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