America in Vietnam – 1969-1973

Published: 2021-09-10 10:00:09
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Category: Military, Vietnam, Cambodia, Imperialism

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Situation of Vietnam was no less then a mess, when Richard Milhous Nixon took over the reigns of President-ship in 1969. More than 500,000 troops were stationed in Vietnam and around 1200 American soldiers were being ambushed in action. In domestic front, no one was able to come to any consensus on any further course of action. Majority of the people was feeling that the war was a mistake and some were swayed by the notion that there won’t be peace for at-least two more years. And added to it, social complexities like the racism and skepticism for anti-war movement gave rise to the longstanding apathy toward Nixon among Democrats.

Melvin Laird and Henry Kissinger were appointed as a defense secretary and National Security Advisor respectively. The whole of Nixon and Kissinger’s policy towards Vietnam was based on the pessimism and negativity. And the situation was deeply complex. Nixon had to face the burden at home front too. People would not tolerate continuation of war. Secondly Nixon could not afford withdrawal of the troops too as the withdrawal could shake his political roots. In this scenario, Nixon adopted four prolonged strategies, “Vietnamization, The politics of polarization, The Madman scenario and a Triangular diplomacy. ”



The process of Vietnamization involved efforts to reduce the casualty rates of American soldiers. The strategy he adopted was marginalized. He ought to reduce the combat forces and at the same time turn the voice of the people to the point that South Vietnamese had enough strength to gain control on war and they did not require any ground troops. Secondly, in the process of politics of polarization, he meant to keep his opponents silent and thirdly Henry Kissinger would imbibe in among the representatives of North Vietnamese that the rage Nixon could get into in case they resort to any military action or any obduracy in peace talks.
Nixon also tried to follow geopolitical approach to the war. He attempted to expand the trade relations with Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China and indirectly forcing North Vietnamese to resort to peaceful settlement to the war. By the end of 1972, U. S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger and the representatives of DRV, Xuan Thuy and Le Duc fashioned a peace draft, which Washington and Hanoi believed its southern allies would accept in Paris but this did not happen. As a result, the war got more intensified when in December 1972, Nixon threw deadly bombs on their the larges cities, Hanoi and Haiphong.
These attacks were highly condemned world wide forcing Nixon administration to again reassess his tactics and change his strategy for negotiations. Since 1955, Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia had shown themselves neutral towards both agitating parties but PAVN/NLF took upon the opportunity to use Cambodia as a base of their activities and Sihanouk did not resist because he wanted to evade from being drawn into wider conflict. But when Washington pressurized him, he changed his policy in 1969 and he vehemently opposed.
The PAVN/NLF and President Nixon grabbed this opportunity and unleashed secret bombings, over their sanctuaries located by the border areas, popularly known as Operation Menu. In a period of 14 months, more than 2,750,000 tons of bombs were secretly dropped. In 1970, supporter of America, General Lon Nol ousted Sihanouk and closed the borders of the country and along with that both United States and the ARVN entered into Cambodia attacking severely AVN/NLF bases taking more time for South Vietnam. These attacks weakened Cambodia and gained the support for the Khmer Rouge. 2
His excursions over Cambodia created protests all over America. Ohio protests saw four students killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University raising the public outcry. 3 The attitude of the Nixon government towards the incident was enough to raise furor among public against the War itself. ___________________________________________ 2 Bragg, Christine, Vietnam, Korea and US Foreign Policy, 1945-75 (Oxford: Heinemann Publishers, 2006) 3 Bragg, 162 In 1971, the papers showing United States involvement in War was leaked revealing top secrets of United States policies in Vietnam.
Soon, ARVN took more offensive route by indulging in Operation Lam Son 719 with an aim to cut the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos. 4 This was against the violation of Laotian neutrality but they were resisted from all fronts and their operation was total fiasco with number of ARVN soldiers scattered here and there and clutched themselves at the United States helicopter skids to save themselves. Half of the soldiers were arrested or killed In 1971, both Australia and New Zealand brought their soldiers back to their nations and slowly and slowly United States too was reducing their strength of soldiers.
They were now only 196,700, with a promise to further withdraw other 45,000 troops by February 1972. As the peace protests increased, soldiers became quite disillusioned and the ranks saw the number of soldiers using drugs, adhering to racism and disobedience of their officers. 5 Easter Offensive of 1972 again tested Vietnamization. The PAVN/NLF went inside the northern provinces and with the help of other forces, gave forceful attack from Cambodia, posing the threat to divide the country into half.
Soon American airpower launched Operation Linebacker to resist these attacks. Meanwhile, United States continued with withdrawing off troops. Hereby it was coming to the notice of every one that it was impossible for South Vietnam to resist their enemies without American’s air support. By August, all the remaining ground force was completely withdrawn except certain civilian and military advisers. At the same time, Henry Kissinger was forging the secret negotiations with Le Duc Tho.
In October 1972, though they came to an agreement but South Vietnamese President Thieu wanted certain changes in the peace accord. When North Vietnam went with the details of the agreement, the ___________________________________________ 4 Bragg, 163. 5 Bragg, 165. Nixon administration thought that the North Vietnam was trying to humiliate the President. Negotiations came to a dead knell but Hanoi asked for certain changes and to just show that how much Nixon supported South Vietnam, he again ordered Operation Linebacker II and threw bombs on Hanoi and Haiphong. 6
Bombings however stopped by the orders of Nixon on 15th January 1973 against North Vietnam and finally the time arrived for every one to enter into the Paris Peace Accord of 1973. The Peace Accord of January 15 officially declared the end of United States involvement in Vietnam and a ceasefire was announced both in North and South Vietnam. Prisoners of War in United States were released. This agreement gave the territorial integrity of Vietnam and sought for elections in both North and South Vietnam. The Paris Peace Accord fixed sixty days for the United States to completely recall back their troops.
And as said by Peter Church, only this agreement was carried out in true letter and spirit. 7 _________________________ 6 Bragg, 169 7 Church, Peter, A Short History of South-East Asia, (Singapore: John Wiley & Sons, 2006) Bibliography Bragg, Christine, Vietnam, Korea and US Foreign Policy, 1945-75,Oxford: Heinemann Publishers, 2006. Church, Peter, A Short History of South-East Asia, Singapore: John Wiley & Sons, 2006. Simon, Dennis, The War in Vietnam, 1969-1973, (18 March 2008)

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