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At the end of hostilities from WWII one thing stood out above all others. This had become American's time. Pax Americana was soon to become a household word. Soon to be President Dwight David Eisenhower had become one of the most recognized and trusted names in America. His leadership throughout WWII and the chaos immediately thereafter had already become the stuff of legends. He was the ultimate CEO. He was that person able to hold the minions of Babel together during one of the most trying experiences mankind had heaped on itself.
WWII had left an enormous vacuum in the world. For want of a better description, evil's ranks had temporally been decimated. The communists eagerly moved in to fill the space vacated by the Hiterites and Japanese. Eastern Europe was brought under the yoke, China and it's nearly billion people, Korea divided, Vietnam divided, the rest of Southeast Asia under threat, and even India. Dominos were falling everywhere. This is the context in which Eisenhower rode to the White House. People were afraid and looked to a person they knew had the knowhow to keep the wolf from America's door.
President Eisenhower did not want the United States unilateral intervention in Vietnam (Moss, G. 2006 pg. 62). He did keep up the previous administration's financial support for the French in their campaign. Finally when it was obvious that the French would fail, Eisenhower tried to enlist the aid of Congress, and our Allies, especially the British. Unfortunately the great negotiator failed also. In a speech on April 7, 1954 he outlined how Southeast Asia would "fall like dominos", if the West did not intervene . (Moss, G. 2006 pg. 63) With the imminent failure of the French to contain the communists in Vietnam and the failure of the Allies to participate, Eisenhower saw that the only the United States could prevent a communist victory in Vietnam.
The continuing fate of Vietnam was left to another American President, John F. Kennedy.
Kennedy, another American war hero of WWII fame, was the product of northeastern families and schools.
President Kennedy believed in containing communism. In his first speech as president, Kennedy made it clear that he would support South Vietnam and continue the policy of the former President, Dwight Eisenhower. He was a believer in the 'Domino Theory' and was convinced that a communist South Vietnam would cause other states in the region to fall to communism also (Trueman, C, 2009) . This, Kennedy was not prepared to contemplate. President Kennedy backed the French-installed South Vietnamese government, which included sending 16,000 military advisors and U.S. Special Forces to the area. This was an increase from the 800 personnel in Vietnam during the previous administration. Some speculate that Kennedy after the Diem assassination and before his own, had begun to doubt that America's involvement in the inferno that was Southeast Asia, might not be in America's best interest. He might have been pursuing plans to end the United States involvement (Newman J. (1992). That theory is contrary to his past decisions.
Kennedy, from all appearances was a passionate patriot and a firm believer in the need for America to take the lead against the communist's incursions into what was considered the free world. It would seem he had a much more hands on style of governance. The manager promoted from the factory floor.
The answer to the last question is simple yet carries a vast complexity. The president is the chief executive. He is the one who executes all of the laws and policies of the United States Government. If we are at war, he is commander and chief. The president decides foreign policy.
He is charged with enforcing the law of the land. The congress or supreme court can make laws or uphold them, but as Harry Truman once said, "The buck stops here". That is why the president must lead. If not then the president thus our country will be lead by events, and not lead them. This will lead to the same downward spiral that engulfed the vary and sundry South Vietnamese governments. They were and are an excellent study in the lack of leadership.
It makes no difference if a governor is an administrator or a hands on type, the important thing is he or she has to be the leader.
Kennedy and Eisenhower had different managerial styles, yet held the same outlook as far as Vietnam was concerned. Neither viewed it as a civil war between factions in one country. They both looked on it as a much larger scale. Communism was an ideology that was on the march and had to be contained by the free world, or the United States, the only super power ready, willing and able to stanch the flow. I do wonder how it would have turned out had the fight been about unifying the country instead of the outside influence of communism and its many detractors.