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Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam (1997)

de H. R. McMaster

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"The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of the New York Times or the college campuses. It was lost in Washington, D.C." --H. R. McMaster (from the Conclusion) Dereliction Of Duty is a stunning analysis of how and why the United States became involved in an all-out and disastrous war in Southeast Asia. Fully and convincingly researched, based on transcripts and personal accounts of crucial meetings, confrontations and decisions, it is the only book that fully re-creates what happened and why. McMaster pinpoints the policies and decisions that got the United States into the morass and reveals who made these decisions and the motives behind them, disproving the published theories of other historians and excuses of the participants. A page-turning narrative, Dereliction Of Duty focuses on a fascinating cast of characters: President Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, General Maxwell Taylor, McGeorge Bundy and other top aides who deliberately deceived the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U.S. Congress and the American public. McMaster's only book, Dereliction of Duty is an explosive and authoritative new look at the controversy concerning the United States involvement in Vietnam.… (més)
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I love to read about the behind-the-scenes machinations of political leaders and how they arrive at their decisions. This is an older book based on McMaster's PhD thesis when he was a major in the Army. Later, he became Trump's National Security Advisor. I wish he would write a book devoted to those two years. Juicy machinations. ( )
  ben_r47 | Feb 22, 2024 |
​I picked up a copy of H.R. McMaster's 1997 book "Dereliction of Duty" after he was named as President Trump's second National Security Advisor. While the book was written twenty years ago, I hoped the book would provide some insights into how General McMaster looks at the role of a presidential advisor and that relationship with a President during time of war. McMaster was critical of LBJ's military and security advisors in their dealing President Johnson and in their advice during the Vietnam War. President Johnson's advisors proved unwilling or unable to provide clear, honest advice. According to McMaster, they lied to the President, to the Nation, and possibly even to themselves. Apparently more interested in holding onto their jobs, their power, and their prestige, they failed to challenge the president, to set goals and objectives in the war, and told the President pretty much what he wanted to hear.

Fast forward twenty years, and now General McMaster is in the same position as some of the people he was critical of during the Vietnam War. I now wonder if he's taken the lessons of his book to heart, and will be willing and able to provide sound military and security advice to President Trump. I'm leaning to the belief that he will. However, McMaster was sent out to meet with the media and speak the party line after President Trump apparently revealed intelligence about ISIS when meeting with the Russians, possibly endangering foreign intelligence sources and relationships. On the other hand, there have been stories of Trump and McMaster having yelling matches behind closed doors, certainly making it sound like the General is doing his best to provide honest and sound advice to the President, even if it runs contrary to the President's beliefs and ideology. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
This was an important book to have published (a pretty clear indictment of specific bureaucratic failures which led to the mess of the Vietnam War), but was a very boring read -- in 2017 we know most of this and have seen it happen again and again. ( )
  octal | Jan 1, 2021 |
Great history of the complete failure and arrogance of McNamara and the weakness of LBJ during Vietnam War interactions, 1963-65.. McMaster clarifies what we already knew...micromanagement was the order of the day for LBJ. Further, his domestic programs seemed to drive foreign policy, causing secrecy in the creation of a war posture without consent of Congress. Strategy creation, or lack of it, also comes under scrutiny. It also demonstrates how the JCS was marginalized by a master politician (LBJ) and that resulted in later legislation requiring the JCS to provide their views in planning military operations. That's not to say that the Joint Chiefs did not push their own agendas--they did; to the detriment of the USA. Great research by the author about lying, cheating politicians. ( )
  buffalogr | Oct 9, 2020 |
Simply, highly recommended. Has to do with the timeless interaction between the branches of military; military and politics and government and citizenry. Basically, sad. ( )
  tmph | Sep 13, 2020 |
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"The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of the New York Times or the college campuses. It was lost in Washington, D.C." --H. R. McMaster (from the Conclusion) Dereliction Of Duty is a stunning analysis of how and why the United States became involved in an all-out and disastrous war in Southeast Asia. Fully and convincingly researched, based on transcripts and personal accounts of crucial meetings, confrontations and decisions, it is the only book that fully re-creates what happened and why. McMaster pinpoints the policies and decisions that got the United States into the morass and reveals who made these decisions and the motives behind them, disproving the published theories of other historians and excuses of the participants. A page-turning narrative, Dereliction Of Duty focuses on a fascinating cast of characters: President Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, General Maxwell Taylor, McGeorge Bundy and other top aides who deliberately deceived the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U.S. Congress and the American public. McMaster's only book, Dereliction of Duty is an explosive and authoritative new look at the controversy concerning the United States involvement in Vietnam.

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