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Policy Precedents: United States Involvement in Vietnam 1944-1961
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS
Pagination or Media Count:
This thesis identifies a force, inherent in the national security decision-making process, which contributed to the American involvement in Vietnam. Termed policy precedents, this force may be outside the control of the unwary decision maker and can result in irrational international behavior on the part of the nation. Once a policy or program becomes totally enmeshed within the governmental organization it becomes such a firm commitment that deviation from within becomes virtually impossible. At this point the means supplants the end and past policy drives present and future policies. Flexibility in decision making is lost and only a force from outside the government can effect a change. This study shows that the increasing United States involvement in Vietnam from 1941 to 1961 can be explained, at least in part, by the impetus given the decision process by policy precedents. It clearly shows that American policy evolved from relatively minor incremental but always escalating changes. With the exception of the initial post-World War II policy of containment, the broad global policies enunciated by American political leaders had little impact on the American course in Vietnam. Instead, this involvement was driven by commitments which were firmly established as early as 1950.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE