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Vietnam Was John F. Kennedy’s Biggest Mistake

The biggest mistake that John F. Kennedy ever did was to endorse a coup that saw the president of South Vietnam Ngo Dinh Diem ousted out of power and consequently his death. This was during the time when there was a war that historians refer to as the Vietnam War. This is said to have been the longest and among the worst in the history of mankind that lasted from they year 1960 to 30 April, 1975. This was a war the United States of America were fighting the communists of North Vietnam in aid of the south Vietnam. The war ended with the victory of the North Vietnam communists, though they later united as one country.

The war of Vietnam is said to have come about as a result of the US fear that should the entire Vietnam become a communist country, they would spread communism to the South East Asia. The US therefore used to provide financial and military support to Diem’s administration. John F. Kennedy was the 35th president of United States of America. He was popularly known as JFK. JFK’s tenure as a president was very short lived since he was assassinated on 1963 (Robert. et al. 1996). . He therefore ruled the USA from the year 1961 – 1963.

JFK’s career as a politician started in 1947 when he represented Massachussett in the House of Representatives to the year 1953. He thereafter was elected senate on a democrat ticket in 1953 and served as senate to 1960 when he ran for presidency and won the elections. He assumed presidency at the youngest age of only 43 years. However, on 22 November, 1963 in Texas, Kennedy was assassinated. Two days later his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald killed by Jack Ruby before trial. President Kennedy’s assassination is said to have been as a result of his unfavorable policies on the war of Vietnam (Fredrik. 2006).

Buddhist’s Attack In 1963 there was violence in the South of Vietnam which shook the relationship the South Vietnam and the United States of America. At this moment in time, Diem did not support or favour the Buddhist community. The USA government at the time was in favour of the Buddhists since their commitment to Buddhism meant that the communists would not easily manage to convert them. The attack on Buddhists elicited very many emotions for Diem’s government that lead to a break-up and a coup on November 1, 1963 that was successful and subsequently Diem and his brother Nhu’s death (Moyar. 2006).

On the contrary, Washington DC received reports about how successful Diem was managing the menace about communism. As a result the Diem regime started crumbling. Interestingly at the height of the crisis that involved the attack of Buddhists, Nhu ordered the US army to attack the Buddhists in the entire Vietnam living 30 people injured. This lead to Ambassador Lodge’s recommendation, that Diem is removed from power in the effort to gain support of other Vietnamese as opposed to them becoming communists. Consequent visit by Kennedy’s government brought back reports of the hope of sustaining the South Vietnam.

This is when debates of a coup started (David. 2008). Powers Vested in His Senior Advisors Kennedy was accused to have given too much power to his senior advisors and also failed to control the Ambassador in South Vietnam a Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge. Lodge was said to be unknowledgeable in the matters of media relations and Vietnam issues which ideally made him unqualified for such a sensitive position. Lodge is said to have single handedly made decision for America to participate in the coup (Anthony. 2008). Kennedy’s presidency was characterized by many challenges within and outside the United Sates of America.

He is said to have had within his government the best intellectuals in the country, however come end of 1963 the united government could not agree on how to handle the Vietnam crisis. Critics have warned that Kennedy was too busy doing other things and put all his trust in Lodge’s and his Secretary of defense Robert S. McNamara. McNamara later accepted that their administration had failed because they were busy following the states tradition and principles on how it handled similar crisis. There was controversy across Kennedy’s administration as to how to handle the escalating crisis of Vietnam and the generals of Diem’s government.

However, Kennedy ignored this strain of relationship between his subjects and Diem’s general. This non cohesiveness is said to have lead to the coup (Newman. 1992). The South Vietnam who was under the leadership of Ngo Dinh Diem supported the USA mission of anti-communism; in return they received financial and military support. However, Diem commitment to human right was questionable which lead to weakening of his relationship with the US. Meanwhile there were conflicting reports on the control of the US over Vietnam which facilitated lose of control by the United States of America over Vietnam.

It is at this point that Kennedy’s weak leadership skills lead to the death of Diem and his brother. Kennedy was indecisive and did not have the courage to make decision, which created a disorganized government (Jayne. et al. 2007). Hamlet Program The media brought to the open how Diem had failed in Vietnam and also how the US government had been supporting him most notably the hamlet programs. The Strategic Hamlet Program was an initiative of both the United States of America and the South Vietnam to prevent the spread of communism during the Vietnam War.

This was done by ensuring that the South Vietnam peasants did not interact with the communist insurgents (Richard. 2004). They designed a Rural Community Development Program where by villages were created. However, this initiative worked in favour of the communists leading to Diem’s government losing support. By this time Kennedy began to lose confidence in his own administration that is when he appointed Henry Cobot Lodge who was a republican as the ambassador of South Vietnam in order to please the republican majority (Jayne. et al. 2007). The Coup D’ etat was not the Last Resort

Later Robert McNamara wrote a book in which he evaluated the United State of America’s decisions surrounding the Vietnam War during the Kennedy’s regime. He pointed out other alternatives that would have been successful rather than removal of President Diem from office. He further pointed out the failure of the US to pre-analyze the consequences of removal of Diem from office. Bobby Kennedy said that at the height of the crisis America’s best option would have been to withdraw from the Vietnam War but simply because of the intense fear of the spread of communism they made a mistake of taking out Diem (James.

et al. 2009). Kennedy was also accused of having put together personnel that did not understand the gravity of Vietnam War to resolve it, and worse he never cautioned their decisions which were mostly founded on ignorance. The killings of Buddhists by Diem brought shame upon America and upon what Kennedy stood for (Moyar. 2006). Kennedy is said to have however ignorantly strived to rekindle the confidence that the American people had towards the South Vietnamese.

Historians have described Kennedy to have been very cautious in matters concerning foreign policy however he was incapable of restoring the South Vietnam. Even though he is noted to have been a good diplomat but not a leader that is why he rested all decision making powers to his subjects. In the event of being indecisive he also failed to interact with the Vietnamese people which lead to the victory of the communists (Mitchell. 2004). Suspension of Financial Aid Kennedy is also accused to have been unable to resolve the conflict amongst his administration when he really needed to.

For instance in the late 1963, Ambassador Lodge was campaigning for the US to suspend financial aid to the South Vietnam government as a measure of putting pressure to the Diem’s government to do what the US government wanted, however on the ground the CIA were secretly taking money to their military forces. Meanwhile Kennedy himself told the media that he had no intention of halting funds to the Vietnam. This way he facilitated a culture of miscommunication that fostered hidden agendas in his government (Cima. 1989).

Ambassador Lodge on the other hand having given the job on a silver platter and him not being competitive he failed to negotiate with Diem about the demands of the US. Kennedy had all the powers to ensure that he appoints qualified people in such sensitive positions but he didn’t, which was questionable to his leadership attributes. Due to Lodges incompetence’s and failure to convince Diem, he brewed hatred and thus fell to the idea of organizing a coup which he independently facilitated (Moyar. 2006). Weak Leadership According to the Pentagon Papers the John F.

Kennedy’s government was indecisive at the time on how to handle the Diem’s regime while clearly outlining his weaknesses as a leader. The Pentagon Papers revealed from the closet what the public had been hidden from. In fact Diem had given into the initial demands of the USA which made critics say that the coup was not necessary. There were fears that the communist would convert the Buddhists which also lead to Kennedy supporting the coup, a coup that historians described as the greatest mistake he made while in power (Andrew.

2006). A president is assumed to be a powerful decision maker and ready to accept responsibility should there be any fault. Kennedy was very weak in this area. Although Kennedy was on the thrown, in reality his main advisors and allies such as Mc Namara, Rusk, and Bundy were running the show. For instance at one point when a cable was to be installed in the effort of planning the coup as initiated by Mc Namara, when he was consulted he said that it was fine only if his advisors agreed to it.

However, when the senior advisors were handed over the cable they were informed that he had already signed the deal. Kennedy later accused a Mr. Roger Hilsman for pushing him too hard to sign the deal without his key advisors presence or knowledge (Jayne. et al. 2007). With the planning of the coup in the process Roger Hilman wrote a personal letter to Diem expressing America’s commitment to contain communism and that they would not support anyone who does not toe in line with the US’s stand in this issue.

The letter was in fact Kennedys secrete attempt to strengthen Diem in the fight against communism and a pledge that their support to him would continue. Given that his government at the time were planning a coup and also halting the military and monetary aid, this was not of much help as it only exposed the conflicts within his government. When the subject of the letter came into the open, Kennedy and his administration dismissed it (Anthony. 2008).

When Kennedy took office the foreign policy at the time was guided by the Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro’s and the like’s international movement of communism principle to convert the world. This principle was against the Americans democratic way of living. On this basis Diem was awarded full support by Kennedy and his administration. Critics have however said that the reason Kennedy describe Diem as the most effective leader was because he did not work with French neither did he work with the Japan above all Diem at the time had not done anything that would equate diplomatic embarrassments (Cima.

1989). Critics say that Kennedy’s government was only concentrating on training the South Vietnamese to defend themselves from the communist fraternity. Later in the years when Diem started defying the United States of Americans demands amidst all the financial and military support, the US started cautioned his commitment to fight communism in the South Vietnam. On the other hand the peasants were becoming more susceptible to the ideas of communism (Fredrik. 2006). Kennedy’s administration in the coup and subsequent deaths of Ngo Dinh diem and his brother was wrong.

Kennedy being a leader failed to take hard line stands as well as considering the consequences of the coup. The coup came at the time when the leadership in South Vietnam was weak and given that it was their war, they were not well equipped first financially and military wise. Above all the administration in the white house had very conflicting opinions about this war and Kennedy did very little to control his flocks to one direction rendering him incompetent as a leader (James. et al. 2009).

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