Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ambrose's Nixon: Ruin and Recovery 2

For my blog post today on Stephen Ambrose's Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990, I'll use as my starting-point something that Ambrose says about the Vietnam War on page 57:
"But no matter how strong the President's words, they could not change the facts.  Except for Thieu clinging to power in Saigon, an important point for Nixon, little had been achieved in January 1973 that the Communists had not been offering in January 1969; the bombing had not improved the October terms; the cease-fire was not holding.  What Nixon had achieved was impressive, but it was something he never talked about: the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam without a right-wing revolt in the United States.  What he did talk about, peace with honor, he had not achieved."

I first learned about the perspective that Nixon's agreement did little more than what the Communists had been offering in 1969 from the Oliver Stone movie, Nixon.  I think it was the second or third time that I watched the movie that I noticed that point.  You can watch the scene here.  Nixon announces to reporters that the Vietnam War is at an end, the reporters do not applaud, then a reporter asks Nixon if it is not true that the agreement accomplishes little beyond what the Communists offered in 1969, and that Nixon has unnecessarily prolonged and escalated the war to new levels of violence.  When I first saw the scene, I thought that Nixon was saying that the Vietnam War was at an end, and the reporters were only interested in talking about Watergate.  When I watched the scene later, I learned that one of the reporters (probably speaking the sentiments of Oliver Stone himself) was questioning whether Nixon truly deserved a pat on the back for how he brought the Vietnam War to an end.

I don't know enough about the issue to comment.  What exactly were the Communists offering in 1969, and how did that compare with the agreement that Nixon got in 1973?  I have my doubts that the Communists in 1969 were seriously committed to allowing South Vietnam to remain an independent country.

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