Refighting the Vietnam War is not an option. Rethinking it is. That’s what they’ll be doing in a star-studded, two-day conference to rival Sunday’s Oscars. (Well, almost.) It’s called “Vietnam and the Presidency” and will be held March 10-11 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
The conference will examine the antecedents of the war, presidential decision-making, public opinion, lessons learned, and the influence of the Vietnam experience on subsequent U.S. foreign policy.Who are “they”? Oh, just a few policymakers of the Vietnam era (like Kissinger and Haig), along with journalists (like Halberstam and Frances Fitzgerald), and historians (like David Kaiser and Jeffrey Kimball). Others expected to be there include Jack Valenti, Wesley Clark, Dan Rather, Bob Herbert. Even Jimmy Carter will put in an appearance (via video). And, yes, Theodore Sorensen.
You may recall Sorensen’s comment the other day about the mendacity of the current U.S. regime. (How could you not?) Well, that was only part of my brief conversation with him. What I didn’t mention was this exchange:
Me: Do you know Gareth Porter’s book, “Perils of Dominance”?
Sorensen: No. What’s it about?
Me: I think you might be interested. It’s a revisionist history of the Vietnam era. It talks about President Kennedy and Vietnam. Perhaps you could read it.
Sorensen: I’m sorry. I’m unable to read.
Me: Then I’ll just tell you. The major theme is that a huge imbalance of power during the Cold War, not fear of communism, led us into Vietnam.
Sorensen: That’s exactly right.
Me: It says that America had “decisive military dominance” over the Soviet Union and China, and that Kennedy didn’t believe in the domino theory. Not in private anyway. And he was formulating a strategic policy to keep us out of Vietnam.
Sorensen: That’s exactly what I’m going to say at the conference.
So folks, you read it here first.
The conference is being sponsored by the National Archives and the nation’s Presidential Libraries. NBC’s Brian Williams will moderate all the sessions on Saturday, March 11. I said it was star-studded, dint I? Don’t bother showing up if you don’t already have a ticket. The organizers have posted this notice: “Due to the overwhelming public response, the conference is now closed as we have reached capacity.”
Postscript: Will someone please ask Brian Williams to ask NBC to stop embarrassing him? This morning the network aired this TV commercial: “Ask not what this appliance can do for you. Ask what your appliance can do for your home.” C’mon.

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