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Robert S. McNamaraʼs withdrawal plans from Vietnam: a bureaucratic history

Basha i Novosejt, Aurélie (2014) Robert S. McNamaraʼs withdrawal plans from Vietnam: a bureaucratic history. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The thesis looks at Robert S. McNamaraʼs support for withdrawal from Vietnam between 1962 and 1964, during the John F. Kennedy administration and during the transition to the Lyndon B. Johnson presidency. It offers a reassessment of McNamaraʼs role as one of the primary architects of the Vietnam War. From a methodological point of view, it approaches McNamaraʼs recommendations on Vietnam from the bureaucratic perspective of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), explaining the evolution of the office and the balance of civil-military relations during his tenure. Through a bureaucratic lens, McNamaraʼs support for a policy aimed at disengagement from Vietnam is logical. First, the withdrawal plans – the Comprehensive Plan for South Vietnam (CPSVN) – supported a strategy informed by the counterinsurgency thinking of the Kennedy administration. McNamaraʼs changes at the OSD were designed to align defense tools to civilian strategy. As a result, as Kennedy and McNamaraʼs counterinsurgency advisers suggested, the CPSVN put the onus on self-help (i.e. the South Vietnamese doing the fighting themselves), clear-and-hold strategies and the strategic hamlet program that was buttressed by paramilitary, rather than traditional military, forces. Secondly, the CPSVN dovetailed with McNamaraʼs economic priorities for the OSD, both mitigating the departmentʼs impact on the nagging balance of payments deficit and, in the nearer term, the impact of South Vietnamese operations on the Military Assistance Program.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Aurélie Basha i Novosejt
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International History
Supervisor: Casey, Steven

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