What if JFK had lived?

How would events have differed if John F Kennedy had not been assassinated in 1963? Here four historians offer their views on what might have come next

President John F Kennedy speaking at a press conference, c1963. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

Hugh Brogan says: “Kennedy wouldn’t have matched Johnson’s domestic reforms, but he would have escaped the Vietnam quagmire”

Had he lived, Kennedy would surely not have sacrificed his ambitions, achievements and popularity for the sake of the war in Vietnam. He had been so shocked by the assassination of South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem that he decided the time had come to reduce America’s commitment. In fact, he had already started to withdraw troops. He knew that this would be a difficult process, but was determined to do it because he was disgusted by the whole business.

After Kennedy’s death, Johnson allowed himself to be swayed by the generals, so that instead of withdrawing troops, he started to pour more in. He didn’t believe in the crusade in Vietnam any more than Kennedy had done, but he didn’t want to be the first US president to preside over a military defeat.

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