Eisenhower meets Diem. Diem will be deposed in a US condoned coup in 1963 and assassinated. Upon hearing of the assassaination JFK was said to have turned ashen and left the room. He himself would be assassinated just weeks later. After the coup ATK the US has no viable way out of South Vietnam. So how did we get there in the first place?
Does Kissinger seem a bit defensive here or is it just me? Maybe defensive isn’t the right word. Offensive? Basically he seems to be shouting ITS NOT MY FAULT and underscoring that if cooler heads had prevailed and used the cold hard calculus of national interests vis-a-vis Palmerston or Richelieu then the US would not have involved itself. It was not in tune with our interests. It was against our historic anti-colonial stance. We let China “fall” in 1948, why not little old Vietnam?
Document after document, NSC 64, NSC 68 assessments by Rusk, and all the presidents though point inexorably to more and more involvement into what will become an intractable situation. Kissinger is often vilified for his role in Vietnam. Remember that. No one would pretend, not even Christopher Hitchens (author of “Trials of Henry Kissinger”) that Henry had anything to do with decisions in SE Asia in the 1950s. He does certainly bear a great responsibility for America’s conduct in the late 60s and early / mid seventies. He puts his decisions and actions then, in the context of the history of Diplomacy on the 20th century.
How does he set it up? How does, why does the US get involved in exactly the way they do? Answer that question and you’re a long way to “getting” this chapter.