To the Editor:
This month marks the 40th anniversary of the resignation of President Nixon from office. Much has been said about the man and his presidency. And most of it not very good. He was a deeply flawed man, running a failed presidency at the end. But Nixon was an expert on foreign policy. One of the reasons he was elected in 1968. His greatest foreign policy maneuver was peace with honor in Vietnam.
This was probably the greatest achievement in his tumultuous presidency. Nixon was a bulldog in achieving his goals. One of the things people admired about him in 1968. He would not stop until all policy goals were met. Nixon was the man for the job when it came to negotiating an end to the war. And not surrender, but a peace treaty where America could leave with a certain degree of respect.
Can you imagine Hubert Humphrey negotiating firmly and forcefully with the North Vietnamese? Or for that matter, George McGovern if he was elected in 1968. I highly suspect that we would have been fighting in Vietnam well into the late 1970s if the prominent Democrats at the time were elected president in 1968. If not that, then we would have put out the white flag of surrender long before that. Can you imagine Humphrey or McGovern deploying unrestricted bombing on the North? Traveling to China in order to make North Vietnam very uneasy. Or even invading Cambodia to flush out communist guerrillas? Can you imagine if President Carter was involved in making peace in Vietnam? He could not even get a hundred or so hostages freed in Iran!
When Nixon took office in 1969, there were a half-million men in Vietnam. In early 1973, just a few thousand were left. As the Americans left in 1973, every provincial capital in South Vietnam was in South Vietnamese control, as well as the capital, Saigon.
Nixon assumed that the United States would continue economic aid to the South Vietnamese well into the 1970s. In 1974 Congress cut off aid to South Vietnam. It was done partially to embarrass Nixon and the Republicans. And it worked! In 1975 an isolated South Vietnam was overrun by communist forces.
Nixon did not start the war in Vietnam, but he certainly ended it! Congress is to blame for cutting off aid to a fledgling Asian democracy, just emerging after years and years of war. Cutting off economic aid to South Vietnam was ridiculous. Considering all the American lives lost and the money spent there. And as many would state, “that we lost the Vietnam war.” This is not true entirely. We certainly did not lose it on Nixon’s watch. If anything, it was a stalemate even after 1975. Yes, South Vietnam was lost. But during the war we ended the idea of “imperial communism,” the idea of exporting communism to other countries. This ideology was prominent in the ideology of communist party leadership in Russia as far back as the 1930s.