Paris Peace Accords and End of War 1972-3

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Progress of the War in 1972

  • March 1972: Communists launced their Easter Offensive - designed to inflict defeats on the SV and force the US to accept peace on their terms. They captured Quang Tri and a densely populated area around the Makong Delta in the far South - showing yet again the low morale and incompetence of the ARVN
  • In response: Nixon ordered the bombing of NV to show that he meant business and they would suffer appalling destruction if a peaceful settlement was not reached quickly
  • Operation Linebacker 1 bombed a range of targets in NV - including Hanoi and Haiphong - and for the first time mined the harbour of Haiphong desipte the presence of Soviet and Chinese ships there
  • The USSR and China protested against this, but Nixon was proved right in his calculation that it would not alter their desire for improved relations with the USA (each feared the USA might ally with one against the other)
  • The damage to NV was sufficient: along with the 100,000 casualities they had suffered in their Easter Offensive - to force them to be more flexible in peace negotations
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The Presidential Election 1972

  • Democrats helped Nixon by selecting a radical anti-war candidate (George McGovern), who made it easy for Nixon to accuse him of being "unpatriotic" by saying he would "crawl to Hanoi" if necessary to get peace and proposed giving an amnesty to "draft dodgers", which Nixon opposed
  • Le Duc Tho (the chief NV neotiator) had told Kissinger in 1971 "I don't know why I am negotiating with you...Senator McGovern and your opposition will force you to give me what I want"
  • Nixon's landslide victory showed that (like LBJ in 1964) he had struck the right balance between patriotism and seeking a peaceful solution
  • The end of Nixon's presidency in 1974 was due to the "Watergate Scandal"
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Peace Negotiations 1972

  • Result of Communist Offensive had been a stalemate and this finally created a situation in which both sides were ready to abandon positions that had been an obstacle to a settlement before
  • May 1971: Kissinger admitted for the first time that the USA might abandon its insistence that any settlement be conditional on the withdrawal of NV soldiers from SV. Kissinger finally agreed to the NVA staying in SV in 1972 to get a deal in time for the presidential election in November
  • US had finally accepted that it had no way of forcing the NV to withdraw its troops from the South and was now only looking to achieve Kissinger's "decent interval" during which its forces could pull out before the fighting restarted
  • However, the NV realised they weren't strong enough to defeat the SV straight away and accepted that they would have to wait until the US forces had withdrawn. They therefore dropped their demand for the replacement of the Thieu government by a coalition including the VC
  • Nixon's visits to Beijing and Moscow in 1972 led to China and the USSR putting pressure on the NV to compromise, but in fact they had less influence on NV than Nixon and Kissinger thought
  • The Peace Agreement was made in January 1973
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"Linebacker 2" & The Paris Peace Accords

"Linebacker 2" & The Paris Peace Accords December 1972 - January 1973

  • December 1972: the agreement seemed to have been reached NV walked out of the peace negotiations in protest against the USA's failure to force Thieu to accept the terms
  • But Nixon was keen to get a settlement in time for his inauguration in January 1973 and was also under a lot of pressure from Congress, where the Democrats were planning on cutting off all funding and end the US involvement
  • He therefore launched "Linebacker 2" - a massive bombing campaign against NV which (at the cost of 15 planes shot down, costing $8 million each) forced NV to make enough minor concessions to enable Nixon to finally force President Thieu to accept the settlement - by threatening to withdraw all US support
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The Peace Agreement in Paris - January 1973

  • The peace agreement was signed in Paris in January 1973:
    • There would be a ceasefire and the NV/VC and the Saigon government would hold the territory currently in their control
    • US forces would be withdrawn (but not the NVA) and there would be an exchange of prisoners
    • A Committee of National Reconciliation which both sides were represented on would negotiate a political settlement and elections
    • Following the agreement, the 600 US prisoners held by the Communists were released
  • Nixon claimed he had gained 'peace with honour,' but if this claim really true?
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