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Michaela Keil

8:00am Did Nixon Negotiate a Peace with Honor?

Richard Nixon Vs Larry Berman Vietnam was one of the most hated wars in American history, and still inspires a lot of feeling. It makes sense that hard feelings and confusion would continue even today. Former president Nixon himself argues that his policy of Vietnamization and bombin g brought about peace and defeat for North Vietnam, but it fell when North Vietnam didnt play nice and we didnt step in. Nixon, of course, is a recognizable if not loved name. On the other side, author and Professor Larry Berman argues, there was no peace and no honor, only plans to bomb and shoddy supports. I came into this without any real opinions on the issue, but a healthy distrust for Nixon. Nixon begins by authoritatively setting the stage for his participation in Vietnam, outlining the necessity of American aide to prevent its fall into communism. He praises Diem as a good leader who did what he had to and condemns the American press for their shortsighted and judgmental looks upon him as an oppressor (which of course lost him the support of the American people). He argues that we plunged in to impulsively in the 1960s, the behaved to indecisively and didnt change with the times or adapt to guerilla warfaresomething long, arduous and uncomfortable that democracies dont like. He argues we could not win the war for the South Vietnamese (emphasis mine).

Therefore, Nixon the clear-sighted began to change strategy into something he claims was workable. He wanted to turn the war over to the South Vietnamese carefully and gradually, without causing their collapse and to focus on the endpeace. That meant disabling the enemy. He argues his strategy workedWe had won the war militarily and politically in Vietnam. But defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory because we lost the war politically in the United States when we cut off aid and allowed them to fall when Hanoi broke their end of the bargain. Nixon offers a strong portrayal of the war, which is something I ve never devoted intensive study to. However, I just have a hard time trusting information form such a biased source. This is a complete not my fault! deflection of blame for failure. Which we know he has some propensity for. So its just all colored by doubt for me. Berman argues that Nixon (and his yes-man Kissinger) blamed everyone but the rightful targets: themselves. Oh, if only Watergate hadnt happened then we could have enforced the broken treaty until a good one was made Oh, if only wed been allowed to bomb them. Berman calls BSrecently declassified records show that the United States expected the signed treaty would be immediately violated and that this would trigger a brutal military response. Basically, he argues that Nixon knew the treaty was never going to work, because it was an excuse to get bombers in with public support. Nixons plan was just to bomb the hell out of North Korea as long as he was in office . The only reason he didnt was because another secret scheme of his that he did everything possible to deny and bury emerged. He

argues that Nixon and Kissinger deliberately muddied up the historical records with top-secret documents that everyone else would have great difficulty accessing and prevented independent assessment as much as possible. This is, I think, a more logical argument. He drawing on new information that has at last become available, instead of merely what we had been told by those who would definitely have a stake in keeping this quiet. This leads me to favor Bermans argument. I think it comes from a much less biased source. Someone known for telling at least one gigantic lie is, well, maybe not the best person to defend his own reputation. And I do understand the desire to do that, really, but that doesnt make it write or true. Nixon wrote well, but it was rather whiny and defensive. He outright blames Congress for the failure. Well, its not like they had a real reason to trust his recommendations after Watergate. I mean, seriously. I do hate to believe that the whole treaty was just an excuse to murder, because I would like to believe better of people. But of the two options, its a lot more compelling. I havent done a lot of study on Vietnam, but Berman is simply more compelling. I have argued before against such Machiavellian cunning, but in this case there is precedent and motive and a desperate man. Sorry, Nixon. Youve already cried wolf before.