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John B. OakesJohn B. Oakes
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suffer anything that even looked like a military defeat or retreat or anything else at the hands of the Vietcong or anybody else during his presidential watch. And my answer to that was: of course we don't want to see the United States suffer a defeat, but we do feel that we can afford to make some real concessions in order to achieve a peace. It seemed increasingly obvious to me and my editorial colleagues on the Times -- most of them, anyway -- that the more overwhelming force we put in, why, the more difficult it would be to achieve any kind of solution. We even were concerned that this could, that the policy -- Now I'm stepping ahead a little bit of the year, the time, by the middle of the next year --


By the middle of 1965, you mean?


Became very worried that the continuing increase of American military force -- including the bombing and especially the carpet -- the big bombing -- could, in the first place, could not possibly result in a surrender of the other side because they were able to fight, you see, on the ground in a way that could conceivably even lead to a much wider war with the Russians, or the Chinese really coming in. And so we could find ourselves, even, conceivably, in a nuclear -- but certainly in a disastrous new war -- major new war. And Lyndon Johnson didn't want this to happen any more than we did, but he couldn't see the moderation of the military as a way to achieve this end. He was so afraid that it would look like a retreat or surrender, and that he couldn't stand.


This is, of course, an extremely speculative question, and so if you don't want to answer it, please don't feel obligated. Do you think the Pentagon and certain right-wing advisors of Johnson made use of his psychological defensiveness to convince him that in fact there was a possibility of a major conflict and that he had to make sure that that didn't happen? I

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