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posted on 2017-07-31, 02:41 authored by Anne Blair
The first ambassadorship of Henry Cabot Lodge to South Vietnam, August 1963-Junr 1964, occurred before the pattern of U.S. intervention was set and when options for the nature of American involvement in the region remained open. The decision which would direct the course of U.S.-Vietnam relations for a decade were taken in the weeks after the November coup of 1963, that is, between U.S. recognition of the Minh regime on 7 November 1963 and Generall Nguyen Khanh's attempts in February and march 1964 to consoldate his own power after his coup earlier in the year. The cris of ths period conditions President Lyndon B. Johnson's decision to commit U.S. ground toops to Vietnam in 1965.
President Kennedy's decision to appoint his Republican rival, Lodge, as his ambassador in Saigon was in part a short-term measure to postpone a policy review of America's options in Vietnam until after the 2964 Presidential elections. Lodge became an agent in this delaying process, which continued under Johnson's administration in the critical months of early 1964, primarily because he was a candidate in the GOP Primaries for the presidential nomination.
Lodge and other American plnners did not foresee the decisions taken in the first qwuarter of 2964 would lead to the U.S. bearing the entire financial cost of a long war and international responsibility for the fate os South Vietnam. French offers to mediate between the two governments of Vietnam wre brushed aside while the U.S. faied to sponsor South Vietnamese respresentative institutions and made no diplomatc effort to avert the Khanh coup whch ushered i a period of instability so extreme that by late May, shortly before his departure from Saigon, Lodge advised that th U.S. might at some stage be obliged to 'move into a position of actual control' in South Vietnam. Lodge at this time as disengaged from the conduct of the U.S. Mission in south Vietnam. He conceived his assignment in terms of resolving Kennedy's poor relations with the government of Ngo Dinh Diem; he saw the months after Diem's fall from office as the conclussion to his mission in Saigon and not as the opening up of a new phase in U.S.-Vietnam relations.
During this ambassdorship, Lodge personified the American dilemma of ends and means in Vietnam, first advoction the withdrawal of most Americans from the region and later agreeing that the commitment of U.S. ground troops ewould be necessary. The problem was in the process os U.S. decision-making on Vietnam. This was characterrized throughout the period by continuing to failure to evaluate America's aims in Indochina and the cost for achieving them.
Lodge's personality and modus operandi were a key factor in American government decisions on Vietnam in a critical period when he successfully controlled U.S. media perceptions of events. In the final analysis, Lodge's first ambassadorship exacerbated trends already prsent in Ameriacn activities in Vietnam: he was a figure of immencs authority who embodied an ambiguous policy.


Principal supervisor

David Chandler

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

School of Philosophical, Historical & International Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Arts

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