2. When and why did Nixon's views on the Vietnam war change?

  • Created by: Alasdair
  • Created on: 20-06-17 13:40
View mindmap
  • 2. When and why did Nixon's views on the Vietnam war change?
    • Cold Warrior (1953-67)
      • As Eisenhower's Vice President
        • Nixon advocated helping French at Diem Bien Phu with American air strike
        • He was even willing to use (small) atomic bombs
        • He said that if sending American boys to fight in Vietnam was only way to stop Communist expansion in Indochina, then government should take 'politically unpopular position' and do it
      • After his defeat in 1960 presidential race
        • Nixon held no political office for eight years
        • Kept himself in political news by foreign policy pronouncements
        • Criticised anti-war protesters as traitorous minority and advocated escalating war in Vietnam, saying 'Victory is essential to the survival of freedom'
        • As recognised leader of Republican opposition on foreign policy, Nixon spurred Democrat Johnson to greater involvement in Vietnam
          • Whatever President Johnson did, Nixon urged him to do more
          • 'The United States cannot afford another defeat in Asia' Nixon said
          • 'When [President] Nixon said, in 1969, that he had inherited a war not of his making, he was being too modest', said his biographer Stephen Ambrose
    • Presidential candidate and Vietnamisation(1968)
      • Changes
        • In 1967, Republican Presidential hopeful, Nixon seemed last man likely to advocate withdrawal from Vietnam
        • Tet Offensive of early 1968 was great turning point for Nixon
        • Realised there would have to be changes in US policy and started to call (like Kennedy and Johnson before him) for increased use of South Vietnamese soldiers
          • Policy became known as Vietnamisation
        • Vietnamisation
          • 'The nation's objective should be to help the South Vietnamese fight the war and not fight it for them. If they do not assume the majority of the burden in their own defence, they cannot be saved'
          • Idea SV gov should take main responsibility for war against Communism in VT
        • Nixon said American forces should be withdrawn while ARVN was built up
        • He ceased to talk of escalation and instead spoke of 'peace with honour'
      • Did Nixon really believe Thieu could maintain a strong SV without ever-increasing American aid Nixon himself strongly advocated until Tet?
        • Perhaps not
        • Main concern was to get America out, through more American bombing and a radical change of diplomatic direction
        • Nixon hoped America could replace era of confrontation with era of negotiation
        • And get Soviet and Chinese help in forcing Hanoi to accept American peace terms
    • Paris Peace talks (1968)
      • Final months of Johnson's presidency
        • Dominated by Paris peace talks
        • Some criticised Nixon of sabotaging negotiations in order to stop Democrats getting credit for peace
      • Hanoi offers Thieu
        • Opportunity to remain in power with coalition agreement
        • Nixon privately encouraged Thieu not to participate in talks:
          • 'We don't want to play politics with peace,' said Nixon, but subsequently admitted, 'that was inevitably what was happening'
      • So, had Nixon sabotaged the talks?
        • Although Nixon might have tried to do so, Thieu needed no persuasion to reject idea of coalition government
    • Why Nixon decided to exit Vietnam
      • How Nixon made his name and differed from previous CW presidents?
        • As Congressman and Senator Nixon made name as extremely anti-communist
        • But got America out of Vietnam
        • Drew closer to Soviet and Chinese than any previous CW presidents
        • Tet Offensive idealism, political ambition and changing CW world all combined to make old Cold Warrior ready to end Vt War
      • Tet Offensive
        • Convinced Nixon Vietnam was unwinnable and America needed to withdraw as soon as possible
        • He wanted to bring peace at home and abroad, saying in his inaugural address 'The greatest honour history can bestow is the title of peacemaker'
        • Improved relations with China and USSR and peace in Vietnam would reinvigorate American America and ensure Nixon's place in the history books and his re-election in 1972
        • He knew Vietnam War had ruined Johnson's presidency and upon learning of Johnson's bugging and wiretapping in White House, said privately:
          • 'I don't blame him. He's been under such pressure because of that damn war, he'd do anything. I'm not going to end up like LBJ...I'm going to stop that war. Fast!'
      • Cold War world changed
        • US withdrawal from Vietnam and détente with both Soviets and Chinese facilitated by Sino-Soviet split
        • Sino-Soviet disagreements shattered threat of monolithic Communist bloc that first caused Truman then Eisenhower to initiate and sustain US involvement in Vietnam
        • Nixon decided America could play off two rival Communist giants against each other and he hoped that if he improved American relations with both China and USSR, he could enlist their support in pressing Hanoi to a 'peace with honour' settlement in Vietnam
        • Soviets in particular had considerable leverage over Hanoi because of vast amounts of aid they contributed
    • The USSR's influence in Southeast Asia
      • Soviet attention in Southeast Asia
        • Initially focussed upon Berma and Indonesia, but little was achieved
        • Soviets had more success in Vietnam, where Moscow rather than Beijing was Hanoi's main ally against Americans
        • Soviet aid to Vietnam was motivated by ideology, anti-Americanism and rivalry with China
        • Moscow supplied democratic support and several billion dollars worth of economic and military aid, including:
          • high-quality jet fighters
          • Bombers
          • Anti-aircraft systems
          • Tanks
          • Artillery
      • Relationship between Hanoi and Moscow
        • Relationship sometimes uneasy
        • Khrushchev infuriated Hanoi when he called for admission of both Vietnams to UN in 1957
          • Also reluctant to provide Hanoi with sufficient diplomatic and military support for reunification of Vietnam
        • A second great period of tension arose from developing Sino-Soviet split, which prompted deep divisions amongst Communist leadership in Hanoi
        • In 1963, Ho Chi Minh praised Khrushchev's policy of peaceful co-existence with West but soon after retired from day-to-day politics, suggesting he was pushed upstairs by pro-Chinese faction
        • Soviet aid increased again after Khrushchev's fall
        • By late 1968, Soviets were clearly major suppliers of aid to North Vietnam
        • Nevertheless,China continued to be vital source of food, consumer goods, military equipment, anti-aircraft weaponry, troops and foreign currency
      • Moscow's ignored advice
        • Moscow always advised Hanoi to negotiate peace settlement with SV and Americans
        • But Hanoi disregarded advice until Nixon's détente policy prompted heavy pressure on NV to allow US to exist Vietnam with honour
        • During Nixon era, as at Geneva Conference in 1954, both Soviet Union and China put their own concerns before those of any communist ally

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Cold War resources »