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IN RETROSPECT:
THE TRAGEDY AND LESSONS OF VIETNAM

ROBERT S. MCNAMARA WITH BRIAN VANDEMARK


2. The Early Years:
January 19, 1961-August 23, 1963

(selections from pp. 33)

Why did we fail to consider China and Vietnam in the same light as we did Yugoslavia--a Communist nation independent of Moscow? For several reasons, I believe. Tito seemed unique; he and Stalin had openly fallen out. China's and North Vietnam's heated rhetoric made us think they sought regional hegemony. And Cuba's recent tilt toward the Soviet Union seemed illustrative of how ostensibly independent Third World movements quickly placed themselves within the Communist orbit. Thus, we equated Ho Chi Minh not with Marshal Tito but with Fidel Castro.

Such ill-founded judgments were accepted without debate by the Kennedy administration, as they had been by its Democratic and Republican predecessors. We failed to analyze our assumptions critically, then or later. The foundations of our decision making were gravely flawed.

There were other mistakes as well. I will seek to identify them and to illuminate and distill from them lessons applicable to the future.


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