Moyar’s book Triumph Forsaken has a deep view in Chapter 16, The Prize for Victory: January–May 1965 regarding the risk Johnson faced in considering an exit strategy from Vietnam. Moyar has written an interesting aspect of America’s effort in defending Saigon after a less-than-stellar-efforts by the South Vietnamese Army throughout 1964.
Moyar’s view is Johnson lack of strong, even overpowering reprisals against the North in 1964 opened the door to global criticism of America’s policy in fighting communist expansion.
Was global domination reaching a tipping point? According to Moyar China was America’s threat not in 1964 but in the future. Russia was clearly not a long term threat.
Stemming the tide against growing communist expansion in Southeast Asia Moyar indicates the White House was measuring the geopolitical shifts within Asia and beyond.
In chapters 13: Self-Imposed Restrictions: January–July 1964 and chapter 14 Signals: August–October 1964 Moyar illustrates a range of points for the overall failure of the South Vietnamese Army to recover from previous confrontations with the North and Vietcong.
Moyar continues to see the failure of Ap Bac in early 1963 as a defining point for America’s policy. The South never recovered according to Moyar from Diem’s assassination. Did a real opportunity to pull out of Vietnam in 1965 impact Johnson? Moyar documents his view throughout Chapter 16:
In the event of a precipitate American withdrawal from Vietnam, Johnson told his advisers on one occasion, the Southeast Asian nations would label the United States a “paper tiger,” and the United States would see its credibility plummet in the region …. Rusk informed the President on one occasion that if South Vietnam fell, the United States would lose its alliances with Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, and in addition the Chinese would dominate India, while America’s European alliances would remain intact.
During a meeting with Eisenhower in February, he read the former President a State Department message on Thailand as evidence of Vietnam’s international significance. In the message, the U.S. ambassador to Thailand described a discussion with Thai Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman in these terms: “This morning, in my first meeting with Thanat after my return, I found him in a rosy glow over the vast improvement in morale throughout Southeast Asia as a result of American and South Vietnamese [air] strikes on North Vietnam.”
Ho Chi Minh told an African diplomat that a Vietnamese Communist victory would “help the people of all nations see that they need not be afraid of the Americans,” and that “once the United States is defeated in Vietnam it will never be able to win anywhere else in the world.”
Aside from France, which doggedly called for the neutralization of South Vietnam to gratify old grudges against the United States and assert its independence, the countries of NATO supported America’s stance on Vietnam. NATO’s Expert Working Group, composed of representatives from NATO countries small and large, asserted in the spring of 1965, “It remains a vital interest of the West to prevent a Communist victory in South Vietnam which would stimulate similar developments throughout Southeast Asia.” Many NATO nations – including the two most powerful, West Germany and Britain – said that America’s willingness to defend Vietnam was a key indicator of whether America would protect its allies not only in Asia but also in Europe.