We now consider the developing conflict in Vietnam, which was increasingly influenced by Washington’s understanding of the place of Indochina within its scheme of global anti-communist containment. The first section of this chapter briefly discusses the development of Cold War understandings of the conflict during the presidency of Harry Truman, touching on some of many Vietnam War ‘what-ifs’. We then concentrate on the period between partition and the 1963 assassinations of presidents Diem and Kennedy, raising some key questions of war interpretation. The chapter proceeds with an account of the career of Edward Lansdale. This, the first of our sketches of individuals at war, develops the chronologically-based analysis, while illustrating the impact of bureaucratic rivalries in Washington on developing politics in South Vietnam. Lansdale’s career also provokes questions, discussed further in subsequent chapters, about the possible impact of counter-insurgency strategies in Vietnam.
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