Johnson's Decision for Vietnam

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Before Lyndon Johnson made his decision to increase American involvement in the Vietnam conflict, he had received written recommendations from the National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. These documents are key in understanding Johnson’s decision but they only comprise part of the decision making process. While well-written and thoughtful position papers can make a persuasive argument, they are not the most important factor in making a decision. The most important factor in decision-making is the schema of the decision maker.

The use of a variety of tools can provide insight into how Johnson made his decision. Allison’s three models of decision-making are all useful to build the picture and try to gain an understanding of why Johnson decided to increase America’s military role in the Vietnam War. Each model can provide an added layer of insight, which combined with an analysis of Johnson’s schema, can help explain why Johnson made the decision he did.

Allison’s Model I, The Rational Actor, serves as a good starting point for analysis. This model provides an initial outline of the stated “goals and objectives” . These stated objectives can offer insight for what decision makers and advocates see as important. The position paper from the executive committee makes the objectives clear. First, to have “...North Vietnamese (DRY) support and direction removed from South Vietnam….” Second to “Re-establish an independent and secure South Vietnam….” Lastly to “Maintain the security of other non-Communist nations in Southeast Asia….”

While Model I illustrates the stated goals and objectives, it does not give the whole picture. As Allison explains, it neglects to take into account Bounded Rationality . Th...

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White House Executive Committee, “Position Paper on Southeast Asia” 2 Dec 1964 (School of Advance Warfighting 7190 Writing Assignment Reader) 17. Cited hereafter as White House, “Position Paper on Southeast Asia”

White House, “Position Paper on Southeast Asia” 17

White House, “Position Paper on Southeast Asia” 17

Allison, 20

Allison, 145

Joint Chiefs of Staff, JCSM-982-64 “Memorandum regarding Courses of Action in Southeast Asia” 23 Nov 1964 (School of Advance Warfighting 7190 Writing Assignment Reader) 15. Cited hereafter as JCSM-982-64 “Memorandum regarding Courses of Action in Southeast Asia

National Security Council Working Group “Course of Action in Southeast Asia” 12 Nov 1964 (School of Advance Warfighting 7190 Writing Assignment Reader)

JCSM-982-64 “Memorandum regarding Courses of Action in Southeast Asia, 17.

Allison, pg 264
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