Professor John Cronin
November 02, 2011
“First, the United States will keep all of its treaty commitments. Second, we shall provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation allied with us or of a nation whose survival we consider vital to our security. Third, in cases involving other types of aggression, we shall furnish military and economic assistance when requested in accordance with our treaty commitments. But we shall look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for its defense.” (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/) This quote is from President Richard Nixon’s speech on “Vietnamization” in 1969. Vietnamization was a U.S. policy during the Vietnam War which gave the South Vietnamese government ultimate responsibility for the war to allow for the withdrawal of American troops. I will explain in further detail the overall goal, effects and outcome of this policy.
I would like to give a brief synopsis of the Vietnam War and the factors which prompted the “Nixon Doctrine.” The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War or the Vietnam Conflict, occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1959 to 1975. The war was fought between the communist North Vietnam and supported by its communist allies, and South Vietnam which were supported by the United States and other member nations of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). Also involved in the war were the Vietcong, the lightly armed South Vietnamese communist insurgency, which largely fought against anti-communist forces in the South Vietnam region. The North Vietnamese Army fought a more conventional war by sending large-sized units into battle. The South Vietnamese and United States forces also fought in a more conventional manner by relying on air superiority and overwhelming firepower involving ground forces, artillery and air strikes. The United States entered the war as part of a larger strategy called “Containment” to prevent a Communist takeover of South Vietnam. U.S. military advisors arrived in 1950, and U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s. Combat units were deployed beginning in 1965 and involvement peaked in 1968. (http://faculty.smu.edu/dsimon/Change-Viet4.html) When President Richard Nixon took office in January 1969, Henry Kissinger was chosen as his National Security Advisor. Kissinger realized the war in Vietnam was a mistake and wanted to withdraw American forces from the war. During a press conference in July of 1969, President Nixon outlined his "Nixon Doctrine." This approach to foreign policy stated that the United States would supply arms but not military forces to its allies in Asia and elsewhere. (http://www.commandposts.com) Southeast Asia was the area most visible of the application visible of the Nixon Doctrine. In an attempt to remove the United States from the war in Vietnam, Nixon sought to turn the actual fighting of the war over to the South Vietnamese. Nixon wanted the South Vietnamese to be self sufficient. By taking these steps, it provided a way for the United States to exit the conflict without completely abandoning South Vietnam. The United States would still fund, supply, and train the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The hopes were a slow troop withdrawal would appease voters and reduce the number of troop casualties in the field. President Nixon knew that the American public was growing tired of the war and he needed to keep his approval rating boosted. This plan of action took ultimately four years to complete, with the last of the U.S. troops leaving Saigon in 1973. The war in Vietnam became the longest war in U.S. history. By 1970, almost 50,000 soldiers had been killed and up to 200,000 wounded. Even though these numbers were considered low when factoring the amount of South and North Vietnamese that died. Still Americans thought the...