Debating Vietnam: Fulbright, Stennis, and Their Senate Hearings (Vietnam: America in the War Years)

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9780742544369: Debating Vietnam: Fulbright, Stennis, and Their Senate Hearings (Vietnam: America in the War Years)
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In the midst of the Vietnam War, two titans of the Senate, J. William Fulbright and John C. Stennis, held public hearings to debate the conflict's future. In this intriguing new work, historian Joseph A. Fry provides the first comparative analysis of these inquiries and the senior southern Senators who led them.

The Senators' shared aim was to alter the Johnson administration's strategy and bring an end to the war—but from dramatically different perspectives. Fulbright hoped to pressure Johnson to halt escalation and seek a negotiated settlement, while Stennis wanted to prompt the President to bomb North Vietnam more aggressively and secure a victorious end to the war. Publicized and televised, these hearings added fuel to the fire of national debate over Vietnam policy and captured the many arguments of both hawks and doves.

Fry details the dramatic confrontations between the Senate committees and the administration spokesmen, Dean Rusk and Robert McNamara, and he probes the success of congressional efforts to influence Vietnam policy. Ultimately, Fry shows how the Fulbright and Stennis hearings provide vivid insight into the debate over why the United States was involved in Vietnam and how the war should be conducted.

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About the Author:

Joseph A. Fry is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is the author of Henry S. Sanford: Diplomacy and Business in Nineteenth Century America, John Tyler Morgan and the Search for Southern Autonomy, and Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations, 1789–1973.

Review:

Vivid retellings of testimonies by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Maxwell Taylor, and others enliven the text. These hearings were vital public education forums, and in the case of Fulbright's hearings, made opposition to the war respectable. Fry's book is strongly recommended. (Karl Helicher Library Journal)

An original and invaluable study. By looking closely at two well-known Senate hearings during the Johnson years, Fry tells us much that is new and important about Congress and the Vietnam War. (George Herring, author of America's Longest War)

Professor Fry's lucid and illuminating comparative analysis of the Fulbright-Stennis Senate hearings is a much needed and most welcome addition to the historical scholarship on the Vietnam War. Engagingly written and persuasively argued, Fry's book demonstrates that these hearings sparked overdue public debate on the contesting views on how to extricate the United States from the nightmare of Vietnam. This book will enlighten and educate the expert as well as the general reader and should appeal to all students of the Vietnam War. (Edward P. Crapol, Pullen Professor, Emeritus, College of William and Mary)

A fascinating comparison of two very different congressional heavyweights. Anyone attempting to come to grips with the complex relationship between American politics and the Vietnam War must read this book. (Randall Woods, author of LBJ: Architect of American Ambition)

Adroitly placing two senators of towering influence at each pole in the debate over Vietnam, this book offers a unique way to approach the Vietnam War. Joseph Fry's mastery of U.S. foreign policy is evident as he catches the nuances and contradictions in this battle of ideas in Congress, a forum that has not received its due when scholars examine America's longest war. Readers cannot help but take sides in this grand debate between the best and the brightest in the Johnson administration and congressional heavyweights. As they absorb the lessons of yesterday, students will ponder the hard choices of negotiation or war today. (Thomas W. Zeiler, author of Ambassadors in Pinstripes: The Spalding World Baseball Tour and the Birth of the American Empire)

Those interested in Congress's role during the Vietnam War could do no better than this superb work. Highly recommended. (CHOICE)

Well researched and written. Debating Vietnam effectively uses the records from both Senate inquiries and draws on the relevant secondary literature. Fry's examination . . . is an important contribution to understanding the evolution of congressional and presidential relations in Vietnam. (Journal of Southern History, February 2008)

Fry handles his subject well, with a lively mix of narrative and analysis. . . . As well as helping to fill a niche in the literature on the Vietnam War, the publication of the book is also timely. Readers will find Fry's analysis of the domestic political dynamics of the period an illuminating insight into more recent events and another seemingly intractable conflict overseas. . . . A welcome addition. (Philip Catton International History Review, March 2008)

Those new to the war (including students) will find Fry's expert, tight, and accessible rendering an excellent introduction to big issues of lasting importance. (The Historian)

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