Wednesday, September 27, 2006

LBJ, pt. 2

Marilyn Young, in her amazing synthesis The Vietnam Wars, describes how Lyndon Johnson explained his strategy of gradually ramping up the bombing against North Vietnam in early 1965:
To the popular syndicated columnists Evans and Novack [sic], for example, he "pointed out the targets he had approved for attack and the many more targets he had disapproved." And anybody worried about Chinese intervention, Johnson told the reports, should just relax:
the slow escalation of the air war in the North and the increasing pressure on Ho Chi Minh was seduction, not rape. If China should suddenly react to slow escalation, as a woman might to attempted seduction, by threatening to retaliate (a slap in the face, to continue the metaphor), the United States would have plenty of time to ease off the bombing. On the other hand, if the United States were to unleash an all-out, total assault on the North--rape rather than seduction--there could be no turning back, and Chinese reaction might be instant and total.
Senator George McGovern met with Johnson that same spring to protest the bombing on the grounds that it might lead to Chinese intervention and was almost certain to increase the number of soldiers North Vietnam sent south. Johnson reassured him: "I'm watching that very closely. I'm going up her leg an inch at a time... I'll get to the snatch before they know what's happening, you see."
In case you're wondering: yes, the Novak in question is in fact that same Plamegate Bob Novak.

No comments: