AMERICAN VIETNAM POLICY DURING THE EISENHOWER ADMINISTRATION
This research paper traces the evolution of United States policy toward Vietnam during the administration of President
Dwight Eisenhower (January 1953-January 1961) and discusses the
factors which shaped that policy and contributed to its ultimate failure. The focus of this paper is on the mind-set and operating assumptions of President Eisenhower and other key members of his national security team and their manifestation in Vietnam policy. Its theses are that:
(1) from the late 1940s and throughout the Eisenhower administration, American policy toward Indochina/Vietnam was strongly shaped by Cold War tensions and was dictated primarily by Cold War considerations --i.e. the imperative need as perceived by American national security policymakers to contain communist expansion in Indochina, and, after mid-1954, to prevent a communist takeover in South Vietnam;
(2) although the roots of American involvement in Vietnam during this period reflected a bipartisan political and policy consensus, domestic political conflict and controversy led during the Eisenhower years to a hardening and rigidification of American Vietnam policy which represented a distinctive Republican response to the threat of communism in Southeast Asia;
(3) the ineffectiveness of both the Vietnam policy inherited by the Eisenhower administration and the reorientation of that policy which began in 1953 was exposed by the Dien Bien Phu crisis of the spring of 1954; and
(4) the administration's response to that crisis and its immediate aftermath resulted in a much deeper and more direct American commitment in Vietnam than had existed previously which was based on, and helped perpetuate, basic misconceptions concerning military and political realities in Vietnam.
Because of their relatively low media profile in the United States, the Indochina War and problems presented by internal str...