"The most thoughtful and judicious one-volume history of the war and the American political leaders who presided over the difficult and painful decisions that shaped this history. The book will stand for the foreseeable future as the best study of the tragic mistakes that led to so much suffering."—Robert Dallek
Many books have been written on the tragic decisions regarding Vietnam made by the young stars of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Yet despite millions of words of analysis and reflection, no historian has been able to explain why such decent, brilliant, and previously successful men stumbled so badly.
That changes with Road to Disaster. Historian Brian VanDeMark draws upon decades of archival research, his own interviews with many of those involved, and a wealth of previously unheard recordings by Robert McNamara and Clark Clifford, who served as Defense Secretaries for Kennedy and Johnson. Yet beyond that, Road to Disaster is also the first history of the war to look at the cataclysmic decisions of those in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations through the prism of recent research in cognitive science, psychology, and organizational theory to explain why the "Best and the Brightest" became trapped in situations that suffocated creative thinking and willingness to dissent, why they found change so hard, and why they were so blind to their own errors.
An epic history of America’s march to quagmire, Road to Disaster is a landmark in scholarship and a book of immense importance.
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About the Author
Brian VanDeMark teaches history at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, where for more than twenty-five years he has educated students about the Vietnam War. A Ph.D. graduate of UCLA and an elected visiting fellow at Oxford University, he served as research assistant on Clark Clifford's bestselling autobiography, Counsel to the President, and coauthor of Robert McNamara's number one bestseller, In Retrospect. A Texas native, he now lives in Maryland.
Table of Contents
Prologue: A Very Human Culprit xv
Chapter 1 The Danger of Unquestioned Assumptions (January-April 1961) 1
Chapter 2 The Limits of Imagination (April 1961-October 1962) 47
Chapter 3 The Failure of Anticipation (October 1962-November 1963) 113
Chapter 4 The Peril of Short-Term Thinking (November 1963-July 1965) 203
Chapter 5 The Hazard of Sunk Costs (August 1965-May 1967) 295
Chapter 6 The Jeopardy of Conflicting Loyalties (May 1967-February 1968) 379
Chapter 7 The Difficulty of Ending War (March 1968-January 1969) 457
Epilogue: The Burden of Regret 521
Select Bibliography of Published Sources 593