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1. How well prepared was Nixon for achieving peace?
During his years as Eisenhower's vice president, Nixon had an exceptional apprenticeship in foreign
affairs, frequently travelling abroad and meeting leaders of many nations. He was present during
Eisenhower's foreign policy debates and had thorough education in problems of Vietnam.
2. What military policies did Nixon pursue and what problems did these create?
Nixon first made his name as a politician because of his extreme anti-communism. He championed
crusades against communists at home and abroad and yet got America out of Vietnam.
He wanted to help the French with air strikes and was willing to use small atomic bombs. He said that
if sending Americans into Vietnam was the only way to stop communist expansion in Indochina, then
the government should do it.
Nixon encouraged Johnson to greater involvement in Vietnam. Whatever Johnson did, Nixon urged
him to do more. He approved the sending of American ground troops. Nixon wanted two
independent Vietnamese states, one of which was not communist. In his fight to become president
Nixon criticised Johnson for lacking new ideas.
In 1967 Nixon seemed the last person likely to want a withdrawal from Vietnam. He criticised
In early 1968 Nixon was like everyone else shocked by Tet and this was a turning point for him and he
started to call for increased use of Vietnamese soldiers.
Nixon said American forces should be withdrawn while the ARVN was built up and he stopped talking
about escalation and there was no more talk of a victorious peace, only an honourable peace. He
probably believed that Thieu could survive with the help of a change of emphasis in American aid
(more American bombing and fewer American soldiers) and a change of diplomatic direction, for
example by using diplomatic leverage with the USSR.
In October 1968 there was the possibility of a breakthrough in the Parish peace talks. Nixon disliked
the idea of a coalition and feared that successful talks would jeopardise his chance of becoming the
Democratic presidential candidate
When elected Nixon chose Henry Kissinger to be his National Security Adviser. Nixon and Kissinger
spent a lot of time together and as the presidency wore on Kissinger became ever more influential.
3. What problems did Nixon encounter on the Home Front?
Vietnam was Nixon's greatest single problem. His aim was clear peace, but what sort of peace.
Peace through a great victory was impossible and peace through American withdrawal was
unthinkable. Honour required that Thieu remain in power. He hoped for Korean style settlement, an
armistice under which two separate states would co-exist. He knew Eisenhower had obtained the
Korean armistice through pressure on USSR and China. Nixon tempted the Soviets with promises of
arms agreements and trade and the Chinese with a normalisation of relations.
America was at home as well as abroad. At his inaugural parade thousands of anti-war
demonstrators chanted that the NLF (the political arm of the VC) was going to win and burned small
Nixon was determined to end the war but he had to have peace with honour and this took time. He
persuaded Hanoi to agree to allow Thieu to remain in power and applied diplomatic pressure to gain
a settlement where Thieu was given a reasonable chance for survival and it could not be said that
America had wasted its time and effort in Vietnam. He also had to take into account American
left-wing opposition to the war and right-wing opposition to losing it.
By 1971 the morale of the American army had plummeted. Eighteen year olds were still being asked
to fight a war that everyone in America agreed was just about finished in order to allow time for the
army of a corrupt dictatorship in Saigon to improve.
While putting pressure on the enemy Nixon used several tactics to keep the home front quiet. He
made a series of American troop withdrawals from Vietnam and timed the announcements to defuse
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He adjusted the draft so those over 2o0 were no longer threatened which
temporarily decreased protests. He also used speeches to keep the home front quiet and on 3
November 1969 delivered one of his best. He asked for time to end the war. The speech won
Speeches, troop withdrawals, adjustments to the draft and attempted secrecy were insufficient to
halt the protests. In Oct 1969 the campuses were in uproar and the largest anti-war protest in
American history took place.…read more
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Diplomatically Nixon's first initiative was the April 1969 suggestion of secret Washington Hanoi
negotiations. In May Nixon offered Hanoi new peace terms offering simultaneous withdrawal but
Hanoi was not impressed
As he was making little progress with Hanoi Nixon turned to Moscow and in October put pressure on
the Soviets promising detente for their help in ending the Vietnam War. Nixon was struggling he had
tried changes, concessions and threats but was no nearer to peace.…read more
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By the second half of 1972 Nixon was running out of time and money. He asked congress not to
damage his negotiating capabilities and said that just walking away from Vietnam would lead to a
blood bath for former Thieu supporters and would be the height of immorality.
In October Kissinger thought he had an agreement.…read more
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Although Kissinger and Nixon believed in detente, they thought it was dangerous if the Soviets and
Chinese thought America was weak and they were probably right.
Even Nixon's critics have to admit that he got the American troops out of Vietnam. He did not always
get very much thanks for it. Perhaps retreat from America's uncompromising and impossibly
expensive Cold War militancy was one of Nixon's greatest achievements.
The fighting continued in South Vietnam. Thieu's interpretation of the cease-fire was clear.…read more