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Before the QuagmireAmerican Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961$
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William Rust

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813135786

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813135786.001.0001

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Epilogue: A Legacy of Strife and Confusion

Epilogue: A Legacy of Strife and Confusion

(p.256) Epilogue: A Legacy of Strife and Confusion
Before the Quagmire

William J. Rust

University Press of Kentucky

Inheriting a raging crisis, President John F. Kennedy entered office concerned by the unfavorable military situation in Laos, the kingdom's geographic proximity to powerful communist nations, and the political weakness of the Boun Oum-Phoumi government, both internally and internationally. In a break with Eisenhower's policy, and a departure from his own initial position, President Kennedy concluded that the best alternative in Laos was a coalition government with Souvanna as prime minister. The 1962 Geneva declaration helped avoid a direct superpower confrontation over Laos, but failed to arrest the deterioration in the military position of conservatives and neutrals in the kingdom. The chapter concludes that despite Kennedy's reluctance to back the U.S. commitment in Southeast Asia with American combat troops, the president viewed Laos as a cold war contest where he was prepared to settle for an apparent tie but not an obvious loss. In the spring and early summer of 1963, when Laos was considered a more dangerous military problem than Vietnam, Kennedy started down a path of covert and overt military escalation in Southeast Asia that his successor would follow and extend.

Keywords:   John F. Kennedy, 1962 Geneva agreement, cold war, Vietnam war

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