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History As It Happens

Sep 14, 2023

This is the first episode in an occasional series examining major counterfactual scenarios in history. 

As the 60th anniversary of his assassination approaches, a question still hangs over John F. Kennedy’s legacy: had he lived and been reelected, would he have withdrawn from Vietnam? It’s a tantalizing counterfactual, not only because LBJ’s escalation led to an epic tragedy, but because of the relevant lessons we can apply to our foreign policy dilemmas today. In this episode, eminent Vietnam scholar Fredrik Logevall separates fact from myth concerning Kennedy's ideas and intentions for withdrawing U.S. military advisors from the Cold War theater of Southeast Asia. 

Note: The source of the Kennedy audio tapes is at the University of Virginia.