South Vietnam’s fortunes tied to Nixon’s downfall

This month marks a sad and tragic time in the history of this country – and in the history of South Vietnam. Forty years ago, Richard Nixon was forced to resign the presidency. However traumatic that may have been here at home, it also foretold the death of South Vietnam.

At that time, American foreign policy dictated that we must contain the global threat of communism. Much as we feel threatened by terrorists today, Americans then saw international communism in similar terms.

So, American advisers were dispatched to South Vietnam and, by November 1963, over 16,000 were serving there. The adviser program was failing and the U.S. would have to get in or get out. Lyndon B. Johnson chose the former and, by 1968, over 536,000 U.S. soldiers were in country.

This country was divided over the war and Nixon was elected in 1968 partially because he promised a secret plan: Vietnamization – to let the South Vietnamese fight, withdrawing the Americans.

At the peace conference, a treaty was hammered out which allowed for thousands of North Vietnamese to remain in the south, but South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu refused to agree. Nixon threatened that Thieu’s refusal jeopardized American aid. But, Nixon promised to bomb the North Vietnamese if they violated the agreement. Thieu agreed. But then came Watergate, which forced the resignation. Had it not, one wonders if the country of South Vietnam – like that of South Korea – might be part of the global community today.

John Glen