This does not mean that the Vietnam debacle would necessarily have been avoided if different men had been president. Perhaps it might have.
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That is not the point. The essence of Steinberg's message is that the influence of psychodynamic factors cannot reasonably be excluded from political history, because it is so pervasive, both at the individual and the group level. So why have the mainstream social sciences avoided any systematic approach to this problem for so long? It is not clear whether Steinberg believes, like Kohut, that of all the sources of emotional conflict in human affairs, the narcissistic issues related to self-esteem and identity are the most important. But it would not be difficult to make a prima facie case for such a sweeping proposition.
Anyone familiar with the intractable, chronic, enraged quality of the political disputes in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, or even Quebec, for that matter, will concede that "narcissistic injury" is a potent and elemental political elixir. Nothing could be more basic in politics than the sense of personal or collective humiliation, whether real or imagined, and the felt need for "historical justice", which is the nationalistic code word for revenge. All the traditional feudal values of rank, honour, and display have their roots in human narcissism and remain fundamental ingredients in contemporary democratic politics.
Take the Johnson presidency. Johnson relied heavily on appearances, and had the skill to turn them into enough social and political reality to acquire wealth, power, and influence for himself. Like many successful politicians, he was a brilliant con artist driven by an excessive ambition to prove himself superior at almost any price. There is the well-known story of his first campaign for Congress, when he continued speechifying relentlessly in spite of an acute attack of appendicitis. But what made Johnson endearing to so many was his frankly perverse demeanour.
He was quite explicit in communicating his wish that others behave like submissive dogs in his presence: he really wanted them to sniff his behind and shove their noses in his excrement.
LBJ openly flaunted evidence of his own political corruption. The point of all this bravado was to create the impression that he was omnipotent, that he could do or get whatever he wanted. This strategy worked well for Johnson, before and during his years as Senate majority leader, when he was extremely effective at brokering power. But it failed dramatically when chance thrust him into the role of the actual top dog. As Kennedy's unanointed successor, Johnson could no longer rely on the image of the king-maker working cleverly behind the scenes. He was now the king himself and he felt tragically responsible for the whole of political reality, not simply its inner machinations.
His characterological style of covering up an apparently deep sense of personal inadequacy gradually broke down under the pressure. Johnson was an intelligent and practical man who understood instinctively the risks of military escalation in Vietnam. He also knew that his chief advisers were probably deluding themselves when they claimed that the Viet Cong could be defeated merely by sending more American troops and arms.
Unlike Eisenhower, however, Johnson was afraid of his advisers, particularly the Rhodes scholars and Harvard men-"the best and the brightest"-whom he had inherited from Kennedy. It seems that Johnson's intellectual insecurity, coupled with his need to prove that he "didn't have to squat to piss" a preoccupation which Steinberg traces to painful setbacks and shortcomings in his boyhood , finally led him in to step up the military campaign and commit the United States once and for all.
In a similar situation, around the time of Dien Bien Phu in , when there was intense local and international pressure on the White House to intervene in Southeast Asia, Eisenhower, the former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, had done precisely the opposite. This was not because Ike was ideologically less inclined to go to war than LBJ on the contrary , or because he was smarter, but because he doubted himself less.
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Eisenhower was not so easily distracted from practical reality by an emotional need to overcome feelings of insecurity through a show of strength. There are many ways of contrasting Johnson and Eisenhower, but for the purpose of Steinberg's argument, the difference in their personalities, as reflected in their conduct, boils down to the difference between what she calls "humiliated" narcissism and "healthy" narcissism.
No doubt, some readers will feel that Johnson was rather more the victim of pathological political circumstances than of his personal psychopathology; and that Eisenhower was not such a wise and balanced a leader as Steinberg makes him out to be, but a self-serving organization man who improvised policy and manipulated those around him brilliantly. For most readers, however, Nixon's single-minded and drunken determination to bomb Cambodia in will clinch Steinberg's central hypothesis, namely that the characterological style of regulating self-esteem must be a crucial factor in presidential decision-making.
As we have seen, one way to measure this is to investigate the degree to which an individual is dominated by the memory and the fear of shame and humiliation. The public record of "Tricky Dick's" often painful and embarrassing political life, with its overwhelming evidence of chronic ressentiment and paranoia, certainly suggests that he was dominated by such memories and fears. I have no room here to review the fascinating story of this complex and brilliant man in any detail.
This epithet is certainly apt. My only criticism is that Steinberg seems to overlook the role of masochistic self-punishment concealed within Nixon's constantly attacking style. As with LBJ and Ike, her account of Nixon's background, and of his Oval Office antics during the days leading up to the Cambodia bombing raids, is so lucid that it will leave the reader wondering for a long time afterwards about the precarious nature of the political process.
Steinberg's exploration of the relationship between character and the political process makes so much sense that one wonders why pathography isn't more prevalent in political science.
The glib answer is that in fact it is prevalent-very prevalent. There is no doubt that ordinary voting individuals-at least those not too blinded by ideological or partisan commitments-have arrived on the whole at the same conclusions about these three presidents as Steinberg: Johnson was weak but trying to hide it, Eisenhower was crafty but sane, Nixon was an intelligent but angry crook. Still, the pact provided Washington with an international rubric and undoubtedly strengthened the significance of Indochina.
Alternatively, Sanders critic of Eisenhower for both substituting U. Although concerned voices, particularly General Collins, judged Diem incapable of providing dynamic headship, his appointment initially achieved considerable success. Indeed, party historians indicate the demise of the Vietminh during this period. Kahin claims membership, which had stood at around five thousand in mid, fell by one-third at the end of the year. His government gradually became a constricted oligarchy composed of his brothers and other close relatives. More concernedly, Diem alienated the peasantry by forcing them to pay for land which Ho had offered them costless.
Also, his support derived overwhelmingly from the Catholic minority and continual disregard for social advancement rejuvenated fresh opposition. Also, it was not until September, that Ho began sponsoring the National Liberation Front and revivified his effort to unify the country. Although Eisenhower did provide France and later Diem with U. Nonetheless, while Eisenhower managed the Vietnam question politically he did not solve the issue substantively and therefore handed his successor a crumbling picture.
In comparison to both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, most historians rigorously denounce Kennedy for snowballing U. Firstly, Brown suggests Kennedy never offered the quandary sufficient attention and continued the alliance irrespective of nagging scepticism. Importantly, Kennedy had always been an interested observer of U. Thus, before Kennedy became President in his ideas on Vietnam had already been moulded. On the other hand, Kennedy fervently stressed his opposition against the deployment of U.
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Additionally, both his Green Berets and American military advisers were clearly exceeding presidential instructions. Kennedy wanted U. Also, pessimistic estimations from advisers were often suppressed. Yet, General Harkins disguised the catastrophic defeat and dismissed its long-term significance as a morale builder for the Vietcong.
Elites for peace : the Senate and the Vietnam War, in SearchWorks catalog
However, this massive relocation compelled farmers to leave their sacred ancestral lands and further alienated the Vietnamese people. Similarly, Chester Bowles advised Kennedy to utilise the Laos talks as an instigator for peace in Vietnam. However, Kennedy fervently dismissed these proposals.
Instead of reviewing the Vietnam problem, Kennedy persistently ignored warnings that the situation was deteriorating. The president evidently recognised by late that his policies were failing.
They are going to throw our asses out. Still, the most imperative mistake of the Kennedy administration occurred during the Buddhist crisis. Furthermore, governmental troops fired into the crowds, consequently triggering widespread popular resentment. Indeed, the immolation of Thich Duc on 11th June electrified the population and crystalized a peaceful religious movement into a political rebellion.