Cover: The Kennedy Withdrawal: Camelot and the American Commitment to Vietnam, from Harvard University PressCover: The Kennedy Withdrawal in HARDCOVER

The Kennedy Withdrawal

Camelot and the American Commitment to Vietnam

Product Details


$35.00 • £30.95 • €31.95

ISBN 9780674048812

Publication Date: 11/15/2022

Academic Trade

336 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


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Selverstone dissects one of the last enduring shibboleths of the Cold War: the Camelot myth that President John F. Kennedy would have avoided the quagmire of Vietnam had he lived.—Michael Hirsh, Foreign Policy

In this worthy book, Selverstone…takes a deep dive into whether or not Kennedy would have greatly escalated the war as Johnson did within two years after assuming the presidency… Revealing.—Marc Leepson, Vietnam Veterans of America (website)

Offers an intriguing deep dive into a topic long debated among scholars of the Vietnam War: had President Kennedy not been assassinated, would he have followed through on his plans to withdraw U.S. troops, or drastically escalated the conflict, as his successor Lyndon Johnson did?… Scrupulous and revealing, this is a persuasive answer to one of the Vietnam War’s biggest what-ifs.Publishers Weekly

A splendid work. I doubt there is any scholar anywhere who knows the archival material better than Selverstone does, and he is surely unsurpassed in his familiarity with the Kennedy tapes. His prose is consistently smooth, clear, and engaging. This book will be the go-to account on Kennedy and the Vietnam War for a long time to come.—Fredrik Logevall, author of JFK and the Pulitzer Prize–winning Embers of War

Had JFK lived, would he have withdrawn from Vietnam or sent in American regular troops, as Johnson did? This question has been a matter of intense debate since the war ended in 1975. Selverstone provides a fascinating look at what the president and his advisors said about the war in private, and what that can tell us about Kennedy’s views on withdrawal.—Frances FitzGerald, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam

With the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, the courage of a mountaineer, and the storytelling instincts of a mystery writer, Selverstone tackles head-on one of the most tantalizing what-ifs in modern history. The Kennedy Withdrawal weighs all the evidence, from every angle, to render a verdict that is at once surprising, convincing, and authoritative. This will surely be the definitive account of JFK’s intentions in Vietnam.—Andrew Preston, author of American Foreign Relations: A Very Short Introduction

This pathbreaking book redefines the terms of the long-running debate over John Kennedy’s Vietnam withdrawal plan. Weaving analysis and narrative together in compelling fashion, Selverstone cuts through the Camelot mythology to reveal the bureaucratic and political origins of the plan, as well as the reasons for its subsequent abandonment. A major contribution from a preeminent historian of JFK’s foreign policies.—Edward Miller, author of Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam

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