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The Pentagon

The Pentagon

Research papers on the Pentagon Papers explain their importance and what they revealed. Paper Masters custom writes government or political science research for college students to use as a guide in their own writing.

The publication of the top secret documents known as the Pentagon Papers in 1971 revealed that the federal government was engaged in a systematic effort to deceive the American public regarding it ability to achieve victory in the Vietnam War. The public position of President Nixon and his cabinet maintained that the war was progressing satisfactorily and that the sacrifices of the nation would eventually lead to a successful conclusion to the war. The Pentagon Papers, however, revealed the following:

  • Highly placed military and political leaders had strong misgivings about the progress of the war
  • Many believed that it was not possible to achieve the victory conditions of expelling North Vietnamese troops from South Vietnam and ending the Viet Cong insurgency.
  • The publication of the papers revealed that there was a growing disconnection between the American government and the people of the United States that was made possible by the use of a national security rationale to conceal information that would be politically damaging to government officials.

McNamara Ordered the Pentagon Papers

The Pentagon Papers are actually the result of a study ordered by Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who presided over the escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam War. Before leaving office in 1968, he ordered a small staff to examine American decision-making regarding Vietnam since the end of World War II. This study was prompted by McNamara's growing concern that the United States had based its decisions regarding Vietnam on faulty assumptions, and as a result, was fully engaged in a war that could not be won. The study was completed in 1969, after Nixon became President. It comprised 47 volumes of various documentary material and narrative, and only 15 copies were made. Of the cabinet level officials in the Nixon administration, only Henry Kissinger received one of the 15 copies.

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