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Recognizing a stalemate : Clark Clifford and the changing of American policy in Vietnam, 1965-1968
A. Gabrielle Westcott
May 8, 2012
Department or Program
On January 30, 1968, the Tet Offensive changed the course of the Vietnam War. This event challenged basic assumptions of American progress in the war and prompted a large scale review of Vietnam policy. Clark Clifford, the newly appointed Secretary of Defense in 1968, was a critical participant in this re-evaluation. Through the deliberations of the Clifford Task Force, Clifford concluded that a military victory in Vietnam was not possible within the limited nature and objectives of the war. As he grew increasingly disillusioned with what he saw as a fundamentally flawed policy in Vietnam, Clifford became a leading advocate for a change in U.S. policy that shifted away from seeking a military victory and toward achieving a negotiated settlement. His continued advocacy for a change in policy tempered hardline policy makers within the Johnson administration and turned the direction of the American effort in Southeast Asia from escalation and military victory to de-escalation and negotiation.