Cambodia and the Failure of Vietnamisation 1970-2

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The Invasion of Cambodia

  • Nixon ordered the bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and Cambodia in 1969 because he wanted a way to defeat the Communists and force them to moderate their negotiating position (without risking the lives of US troops)
  • He knew that this was a violation of Laotian and Cambodian neutrality and would caus considerable suffering to innocent civilians, so he ordered for it to be kept secret
  • The bombing failed to inflict significant damage: so Nixon ordered an invasion of Cambodia by US ground forces in 1970. This escalation was justified by the argument that it would disrupt Vietnamese Communist supply lines and bases in Cambodia and therefore make it easier for the ARVN to resist the Communists without US help (designed to pave the way fro Vietnamisation)
  • The results seemed impressive, with large amounts of the Communist's supplies destroyed - however this was only a temporary disruption as they were able to replace them with the stocks provided by the USSR and China and no elaborate COSVN was found. 

Other major consequences:

- Nixon's Defence Secretary (Melvin Laird) warned him that it would not be possible to keep US involvemeny in Cambodia a secret and that when it came out it would increase public and congressional opposition to the war

- It was dubious whether Nixon had the constitutional right to escalate the war without congressional approval and the Democratic majority in Congress were happy to oppose the policy of a Republican president. They voted both to repeal the Tonkin Resolution and to forbid any intervention by US ground forces in Laos or Cambodia

- Between April and July 1971 alone Congress voted 17 times on measures to restrict Nixons actions in South East Asia

- Invasion of Cambodia: provoked a massive upsurge in anti-war protests: including a tragic incident at Kent State University in Ohio 1970 where


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