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Fixing the FactsNational Security and the Politics of Intelligence$
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Joshua Rovner

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801448294

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801448294.001.0001

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The Johnson Administration and the Vietnam Estimates

The Johnson Administration and the Vietnam Estimates

(p.49) [4] The Johnson Administration and the Vietnam Estimates
Fixing the Facts

Joshua Rovner

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the Johnson administration's strategy in Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson was a longtime believer in the domino theory. He feared that friendly states would fall to communism in quick succession without the support of the United States. In May 1964, on the verge of escalating the war in Vietnam, he wanted to make sure the theory was valid and sought the advice of senior intelligence officials. The chapter shows that the Johnson administration politicized the order of battle estimate, despite the fact that it had previously ignored contradictory intelligence. In 1964 the president carefully avoided making a clear commitment about U.S. strategy in Vietnam, and no critical constituencies threatened to undermine his policy agenda or political future. By 1967, however, the president had publicly committed to an attrition strategy, and he faced a number of groups that had the power to sink his plans. Domestic politics gave the White House strong incentives to force the CIA to accept the lower estimate of the enemy order of battle. The president used intelligence to justify his strategy publicly, despite the fact that CIA analyses did not support it.

Keywords:   intelligence agencies, intelligence–policy relations, Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam War, defense policy, politicization, domino theory, order of battle

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