In "The Best and the Brightest," David Halberstam chronicles Lyndon Johnson's absolute terror of appearing soft on communism. Having seen fellow Democrats destroyed in the early 1950s because they tolerated a Communist victory in China, Johnson swore that he would not let the story replay itself in Vietnam, and thus pushed America into war.
The second sentence is factually inaccurate. Period. Now, Halberstam may have written what Beinart says Halberstam wrote. Lyndon Johnson may have thought what Beinart says Halberstam says Lyndon Johnson thought. In fact, however, the Democrats did not "tolerate" a communist revolution in China. All that happened was career professionals who had worked in China and seen the brutality of the Nationalists and the way the communists used that brutality to their advantage said over and over again that the government of Chiang Kai-Shek had no legitimacy and would fall. That's all any of them ever did.
If you read, say, Dean Acheson's memoirs, you get no hint, no clue that Democrats in the State Department said, "Well, Mao's in, Chiang's out, so let's roll with it." Far from it. The whole "Who lost China?" business was a concoction of right-wing Republicans who sought to use the Chinese revolution as a bludgeon to beat Democrats with. No matter how hard they tried to explain the facts, Republican politicians and reporters who knew less of the facts than the politicians did kept repeating over and over that "someone" in the US government "lost" China.
That such ideas made any sense whatsoever to anyone still amazes me. That anyone would think that a government that included Dean Acheson, perhaps the most gifted, erudite, and conservative (in a traditional sense) Secretary of State in our history, would "tolerate" the communists taking over anywhere is even more ludicrous.
Beinart's piece is nor worth reading precisely because the second sentence is full of crap. Even if Halberstam wrote what Beinart says he wrote; even if Lyndon Johson believed what Beinart says Halberstam says Johnson believed, it would seem to me an elementary proposition that, knowing the facts of the matter would create an opportunity to set the record straight. So, either Beinart is intellectually lazy, or he's ignorant.