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Richard Nixon on War & Peace

President of the U.S., 1968-1974


Madman theory: fake nuke strike on USSR to end Vietnam War

During Nixon's first year in office, he and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, cooked up a plan to end the Vietnam War by pretending to launch a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. They code-named the operation Giant Lance.

On Oct. 27 1969, a squadron of 18 B-52s "began racing from the western US toward the eastern border of the Soviet Union. The pilots flew for 18 hours without rest. Each plane was loaded with nuclear weapons."

This was one of a bunch of military measures aimed at putting our nuclear forces on higher state readiness. We had destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers doing all kinds of maneuvers in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Gulf of Aden, and Sea of Japan. This was all executed secretly but designed to be detectable--but supposedly not alarming--to the leadership of the Kremlin. And our commanders-in-chief (CINCs) had no idea why Nixon had ordered the "Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Readiness Test," also to become known as the "madman theory."

Source: 63 Documents, by Gov. Jesse Ventura, p.170-171 , Apr 4, 2011

OpEd: Panicked on Pentagon Papers because of CIA exposure

In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the media, secret policy documents about the Vietnam War buildup, and Nixon went ballistic. That's what first spawned the Plumbers, who mounted a covert "op" to break into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist, with assistance from the CIA's Office of Security. Except, it wasn't only the Pentagon Papers that worried the CIA. "Their concern--indeed what seems to have been their panic," focused around Ellsberg's friendship with Francis On the night of Nixon's big speech, four College Republicans grabbed a cab to the Convention Center.. But the cabbie drove out of the security zone, [and got] swarmed with tens of thousands of protesters. Some began rocking the taxi. The cabbie panicked, ordered us out, and hightailed it to safety. Angry, screaming antiwar hippies began spitting at us and pounding the pavement with long bamboo sticks while chanting "guilty, guilty, guilty."

There was tear gas in the air, fired in response to protesters

Source: Link , Mar 9, 2010

1972 convention speech marred by antiwar riots & teargas

On the night of Nixon's big speech, four College Republicans grabbed a cab to the Convention Center.. But the cabbie drove out of the security zone, [and got] swarmed with tens of thousands of protesters. Some began rocking the taxi. The cabbie panicked, ordered us out, and hightailed it to safety. Angry, screaming antiwar hippies began spitting at us and pounding the pavement with long bamboo sticks while chanting "guilty, guilty, guilty."

There was tear gas in the air, fired in response to protesters who had thrown animal blood at those manning the barricades. With help from riot police who ventured out with bayoneted rifles to gather us up, we made it inside the sally port. We took our seats in an arena filled with delegates, many of whom were coughing or suffering watery eyes from tear gas. It was a surreal way to arrive at Nixon's opening speech.

The 1972 campaign's final weeks saw McGovern drawing huge crowds of enthusiastic antiwar supporters. But Nixon swept 49 states on Election Day.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p. 31-32 , Mar 9, 2010

1972: Mobbed by anti-war hippies at Nixon convention speech

On the night of Nixon's speech, four College Republicans grabbed a cab to the Convention Center. But the cabbie got lost, and we were swarmed with thousands of protesters. Some began rocking the taxi. The cabbie panicked, ordered us out, and hightailed i to safety. At first, the angry, screaming antiwar hippies didn't impede out progress toward the Convention Center a few hundred yards away. As we got closer to the gate, however, they grew more aggressive and began spitting at us and pounding the pavemen with long bamboo sticks while chanting "guilty, guilty, guilty."

There was tear gas in the air. With help from riot police, we made it inside the sally port. It was a surreal way to arrive at President Nixon's opening speech.

The 1972 campaign's fina weeks saw McGovern drawing huge crowds of enthusiastic antiwar supporters. But Nixon swept 49 states on Election Day. Even among the young, Nixon fared well. Exit polls showed the 18-to-24-year-old vote went 50% for McGovern and 48% for Nixon.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p. 31-32 , Mar 9, 2010

1972: Signed first SALT treaty during visit to Moscow

In 1974 Brezhnev, while professing his wish to end the arms race, for years had been investing Russia's wealth in an ongoing buildup of its armies and their weapons, to an extent that the economy as a whole was stagnating. The USSR and the US had signed the first Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty (SALT I) when Nixon had visited Moscow two years earlier, but Russia's continued testing of nuclear weapons was a matter of great concern to the US government.
Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p.338 , Sep 14, 2009

1968: Secret plan to end war morphed to secret bombings

The policy of "Vietnamization" soon took hold--in public, at least. There was an increasing perception in the country that Vietnam was no longer "Johnson's war," it was now "Nixon's war" --a scalding rebuke to a president who'd campaigned on the promise that he had "a secret plan" to end the war. I always doubted Nixon ever had such a plan. But as American casualties mounted in the spring of 1969, he began to improvise secret tactics. One of them was the bombing of presumed enemy supply lines in neighboring Cambodia. This operation did not remain "secret" for very long. Nixon's outrage over leaks and supposed leaks escalated his impulse toward surveillance telephone taps, procurement of personal records, and ultimately, the bugging of the Democratic offices at the new Watergate apartment and office complex in Washington
Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p.286 , Sep 14, 2009

OpEd: Strength in Southeast Asia won Vietnam War

McCain's snap take on events, as captured in his 1970's U.S. News essay, contained plenty of analysis and depictions that went missing in his subsequent statements about Vietnam. He gave hawkish testament to the "caliber" and "courage" of President Nixon in mining Hanoi Harbor and bombing Cambodia, acts he credited with ending the war. "He has a long background in dealing with these people. He know how to use the carrot and the stick," he wrote. "We're stronger than the Communists, so they were willing to negotiate. Force is what they understand. And that's why it is difficult for me to understand now, when everybody knows bombing finally got a cease-fire agreement, why people are still criticizing his foreign policy."
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.122-123 , Oct 9, 2007

OpEd: Sought only to get out of Vietnam on honorable terms

In Vietnam, reprehensible as well were the timid strategies of President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara--their refusal to bomb the North, allowing sanctuaries for enemy troops, absurd limitations on the bombing of enemy missile sites, even in the South; and generally fighting a half-hearted war. But Tin said that Hanoi could not have won if Johnson had approved General William Westmoreland's requests to enter Laos and block the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Instead, our political leadership ensured that the war could not be won. By the time Richard Nixon came to office, the opportunity to win was gone, and he sought only to get out on honorable terms. But Congress, now cowed and sick of the effort, refused assistance to the South Vietnamese after American troops were brought home. It may or may not have been a mistake to get involved in Vietnam; it was most certainly a mistake and worse, having gotten involved, not to fight to win.
Source: Slouching Towards Gomorrah, by Robert Bork, p. 20 , Dec 16, 2003

Operation Vulture: Nuke Vietnam if North overruns South

When the Viet Minh surrounded the French army at Dien Bien Phu [in 1954], Nixon grew more hawkish still, telling news editors he supported sending "American boys" to replace them. He backed a secret plan, "Operation Vulture," to drop atom bombs on Ho Chi Minh's [North Vietnamese] forces should the French forces get overrun. "We simply cannot afford further losses in Asia," he said
Source: Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews, p. 95 , Jun 3, 1996

US should mediate Arab-Israeli peace initiative

[Arab-Israeli] peace must be grounded in concrete security arrangements reinforced with a balance of power. Any US-mediated peace settlement must have four objectives:
  1. full diplomatic recognition of Israel by its neighbors
  2. secure borders for Israel
  3. return to Arab states of territories captured in 1967, and
  4. self-government for the Palestinians.
If Arab leaders will not accept the reality of Israel after 48 years, they are interested not in a peace settlement, but in a temporary armistice. If Israel agrees to return the occupied territories, we should enter a mutual security treaty with Israel stipulating that a conventional attack on Israel will be treated like an attack on the United State. The United States needs to craft additional measures to ensure that the loss of land would not mean a loss of security for Israel.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.224-226 , Jan 15, 1992

Palestinian autonomy without right of return

The United States needs to craft additional measures to ensure that the loss of land would not mean a loss of security for Israel.

To achieve Palestinian self-government, the United States should seek to resuscitate the Camp David formula--local Palestinian autonomy in association with Jordan phased in over a multiyear transition period.

Palestinians must accept the fact that refugees from the 1948 war--who together with their descendants now number 3 million--will not return to their homes in Israel proper.

We should engage in broad discussions with each side to explore their ideas for an adequate security framework. We should then determine what kind of settlement would be fair and feasible. Only after we identify the general outlines of such an agreement should we embark on the contentious task of crafting provisions and language for a formal treaty.

Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.225-227 , Jan 15, 1992

Victory of freedom is a cause greater than winning Cold War

Today, we are witnessing one of the great watersheds in history. The Cold War world order--based on two clashing ideologies, two opposing geopolitical blocs, and two competing superpowers--has been irrevocably shattered. We now have a cause even greater than the defeat of communism--the victory of freedom. If we meet the challenges of peace, our legacy will be not just that we saved the world from communism but that we helped make the world safe for freedom.

Instead of complaining about international competition, we should welcome it.

America needs a National Economic Council with a status equal to the National Security Council. In our embassies abroad and our bureaucracies at home, economic issues must receive the same priority attention as political and military issues.

The US will lose its economic and technological edge if we fail to do a better job of educating young American for the tasks they must perform as we move from an industrial to a high-tech economy.

Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.273&280-81 , Jan 15, 1992

Our mission was not completed with the defeat of communism

The world has not changed to the extent that we can ignore the realities of power politics. But it has changed enough so that we can devote more resources and attention to issues other than security in the narrowest sense. Our motif should be the concept of practical idealism. Beyond its security concerns, the US has a profound interest in the survival of democratic states, and the promotion of democratic forms of government.

Our mission was not completed with the defeat of communism. We must now work to ensure the success of freedom. Winning a revolution is not easy, but governing after winning is far more difficult. This is the challenge facing the new democracies in Eastern Europe and the new noncommunist governments in Moscow and the former Soviet republics. We should bear in mind that many East Europeans chose freedom primarily because they hated communism, not because they loved capitalism. Democracy, free markets, and private enterprise are on trial.

Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p. 31-40 , Jan 15, 1992

We liberated Kuwait, then royals shockingly refused reforms

The refusal of the Kuwaiti royal family to adopt meaningful democratic reforms after the liberation of their country from Saddam Hussein is a shocking example of the insensitivity of too many nonelected authoritarian rulers in the Muslim world. In supporting a friendly but nondemocratic ruler, we should make it clear that we do not support government systems that give no voice to the people over whom they rule.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.203 , Jan 15, 1992

Bomb Saddam's suspected WMD sites if he fails UN compliance

In the Gulf War, the US-led coalition scored a knockdown but not a knockout. We won round one, but Saddam Hussein's strategy is to go the distance. Because he knows that he cannot fight us toe-to-toe, Saddam will try to win on points by staying in power, recovering gradually, retaining his weapons of mass destruction, and waiting for the US to lose patience and throw in the towel. While we should allow Iraq to purchase some humanitarian supplies, we must keep the sanctions in place as long as he remains in power. We should insist that Iraq fully comply with the UN resolutions calling for the destruction of its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons facilities. If Saddam Hussein persists in playing cat and mouse with the UN officials, we should bomb sites suspected of containing equipment and material related to producing weapons of mass destruction.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.215 , Jan 15, 1992

Israel-Palestine solution is land-for-peace formula

There are 3 reasons why we must press forward with the peace process based on the land-for-peace formula.
  1. The Arab-Israeli conflict totally distorts our foreign aid budget.
  2. The Arab-Israeli conflict poisons our relations with the Muslim world and undercuts our ability to cooperate with countries with modernist, pro-Western leaders.
  3. More than any other flash point, the Arab-Israeli conflict poses the danger of dragging the US into a war involving the use of nuclear weapons.
If Israel annexes these lands, its security problem will become a national problem, as intractable as those in multinational states such as Iraq and the Soviet Union.
Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.219-222 , Jan 15, 1992

Sent Israel 550-plane airlift during 1973 war

On Oct. 12, 1973, Egyptian and Syrian troops attacked Israel. After some initial Arab successes, the Israelis turned the tide. The Soviets countered by airlifting arms to their Egyptian and Syrian allies. The Arabs had already imposed an oil embargo against us, and many felt that sending additional arms to Israel would do irreparable damage to our relations. The Defense Department finally agreed on a proposal for sending three C-5A planeloads of arms to Israel.

I asked, "Why send only 3?" The reply was that 3 was the maximum the Pentagon felt the political situation could bear.

I said I would take responsibility for the politics. I knew we would take no more heat for sending 30 than sending 3. "Use every one we have," I said. "Tell them to send everything that can fly." Our 550-mission airlift, which was far bigger than the Berlin airlift of 1948-49, helped the Israelis prevail and set the stage for successful shuttle diplomacy, which produced mutual withdrawal agreements on both fronts.

Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p.394 , Apr 1, 1991

1975 loss in Vietnam led to Communism in Laos & Cambodia

In Vietnam, we sought to defend our critical interests in Southeast Asia. First of all, we wanted to prevent Moscow from gaining a foothold along the vital sealanes connecting the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean to the Pacific, through which Japan ships almost all of its oil imports. When Hanoi prevailed in 1975, Moscow did not wait long before setting up major naval bases in Cam Ranh Bay and Danang. We also wanted to stop North Vietnam's expansionism.

After its victory, our fears were confirmed when the Vietnamese Communists quickly took over Cambodia and Laos and overtly threatened Thailand.

Even so, we attained part of our goal. We preserved the freedom of our friends and allies for more than a decade. More important, by holding off the North Vietnamese until the mid 1970's, the regions developing countries won valuable time. Singapore's Lee Kwan Yew said, "American involvement in Vietnam had given Southeast Asia 10 years of breathing space."

Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p.399 , Apr 1, 1991

Afghan invasion shows that whole world affects US security

In a carefully prepared and brazenly executed move, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan on Christmas Eve. President Amin was killed; a reliably pliant Soviet puppet was put in as Amin's replacement. The proud people of Afghanistan were crushed, and Russia came one country closer to achieving its goals of a warm-water port on the Arabian Sea and control over the oil of the Persian Gulf.

The Soviet seizure of Afghanistan is a continuation of the old tsarist imperialism. It also is a stark reminder that America no longer has the luxury of considering any place on earth too remote to affect its own security.

What made the fall of Afghanistan so significant a loss to the West was not just the fate of its 18 million people, nor its strategic location. But it did not occur in isolation. It was part of a pattern of ceaseless building by the Soviets toward a position of overwhelmingly military force, to take over one country after another, until they are in a position to conquer or Finlandize the world.

Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p. 12-13 , Jan 1, 1981

WWIII has been waged between US and USSR since 1945

World War III began before WWII ended: Stalin had his eye clearly fixed on his postwar objectives for a divided postwar world. WWIII has proceeded from the Soviet seizure of Eastern Europe, through the communist conquest of China, the wars in Korea and Indochina, and the establishment of a western hemisphere outpost of the Soviet power in Cuba, to the present thrusts by the Soviet Union and its allies into Africa, the Islamic crescent, and Central America. The expansionism has been accompanied by a prodigious military buildup that has brought the Soviet Union on the verge of the decisive supremacy over the West.

WWIII is the first truly global war. No corner of the earth is beyond its reach. The US & the Soviet Union have both become global powers, and whatever affects the balance between us anywhere affects that balance everywhere. Military power, economic power, willpower, and the clarity of a nation's sense of purpose--each of these is vital to the outcome.

Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p. 19-22 , Jan 1, 1981

Iraq has threatened Kuwait since 1960s

Radical Iraq is now the most powerful military force in the Gulf. Its military strength is overwhelming in strictly regional terms. Even without any further Soviet support, the Iraqis could move with impunity anywhere they decided to: in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or Iran.

Iraqi military forces have already been deployed against Kuwait--in 1961 and again in 1973. In the 1961 incident the British and the other Arabs forced the Iraqis to pull their massed troops back from the Kuwait border. In the 1973 incident, however, the Iraqis did not back down, but took some Kuwaiti territory. Iraq has since settled its border differences with Kuwait, but the possibility of future problems remains.

The vast majority of the crude oil reserves in the Persian Gulf are within a few hundred miles of the Iraqi border--in the nearby areas of Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. The payoff for a successful Iraqi move into any one or all of these areas would be an enormous transfer of assets.

Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p. 93 , Jan 1, 1981

Defuse the Palestinian timebomb, but no quick fix

The Palestinian time bomb must be defused before we face another Yom Kippur crisis. It would be presumptuous and foolhardy to suggest that there is some magic formula, some quick fix, for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are, however, some basic principles that must form the foundation of any viable policy.
  1. Whatever group does in fact or claims to represent the Palestinians must recognize Israel's right to exist in peace and must reject the use of terrorism or armed actions against Israel or Israeli citizens.
  2. Israel must comply with the provisions of UN Resolution 242 with regard to the return of occupied territories. However, Israel is entitled to secure borders and cannot and should not be expected to agree to setting up a hostile armed state in its gut on the West Bank.
  3. Occupied territories that are returned should be demilitarized.
  4. Jordan can play a constructive role in resolving the Palestinian issue.
Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p.101-102 , Jan 1, 1981

Key to Israel's survival is keeping Soviets

Israel demonstrated in 4 wars that it can hold its own against its neighbors. But if the Soviet Union were to stage a full-scale intervention, as it threatened to do in 1973, Israel would go down the tube. Even if Israel has or acquires nuclear weapons, its modest nuclear capability would not be a deterrent against the nuclear might of the Soviet Union. The key to Israel's survival, therefore, is our determination to hold the ring against the Soviets.

Our airlift to Israel and the alert of our forces which I ordered in 1973 with the knowledge that these actions might lead to an Arab oil embargo were a demonstration of how far the US will go to keep our commitment to Israel's survival and to prevent Soviet intervention in the area.

But that decision was a close call then and it will be even closer in the future as the Soviets gain clear nuclear superiority. The Palestinian issue is a rallying cry for radical forces throughout the area and is constantly exploited by the Soviet Union.

Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p.101-102 , Jan 1, 1981

Goal was Vietnamization, pacification, & US withdrawal

In 1969, my administration was committed to formulating a strategy that would end American involvement in the war and enable South Vietnam to win. Our goals were to:
Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p.116 , Jan 1, 1981

Cambodia: Secret bombing was invited by Prince Sihanouk

In 1968 Prince Sihanouk said "We don't want any Vietnamese in Cambodia.We will be very glad if you solve our problem..I want you to force the Vietcong to leave Cambodia."

In March 1969, in response to a major new offensive that the North Vietnamese had launched against our forces in South Vietnam, I ordered the bombing of enemy-occupied base areas in Cambodia. The bombing was not publicly announced because of our concern that if it were Sihanouk would be forced to object to it.

However, even after it was disclosed by leads to the New York Times in April, Sihanouk did not object. On the contrary, in May 1969, two months after the bombing had started, he said, "Cambodia only protests against the destruction of the property and lives of Cambodians.If there is a buffalo or any other Cambodian killed, I will be informed immediately....and I will protest."

Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p.118 , Jan 1, 1981

We won militarily in Vietnam, & then threw away our victory

By following strategy I initiated in 1969, we and the South Vietnamese were able to win the war militarily by Jan. 1973. The 550,000 American troops that were in Vietnam had been withdrawn and South Vietnam was able to defend itself.

But the public had been so misinformed and misled by unwise government actions and the shallow, inflammatory treatment of events by the media that morale within the US collapsed just when the North was overwhelmingly defeated on the battlefield. We won a victory after a long hard struggle, but then we threw it away.

The war-making capacity of North Vietnam had been virtually destroyed by the bombings in Dec. 1972, and we had the means to make and enforce a just peace, a peace with honor. But we were denied these means when Congress prohibited military operations. A major part of the blame must be borne by those who encouraged war in the 1960's, and who then by their later actions sabotaged our efforts to get us out in an acceptable way in the 1970's.

Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p.130-131 , Jan 1, 1981

Vietnam goals: de-Americanize; pacify; then withdrawal

When I took office in 1969 it was obvious the American strategy in Vietnam needed drastic version. My administration was committed to formulating a strategy that would end American involvement in the war and enable South Vietnam to win.
Source: The Real War, by Richard Nixon, p.106 , Apr 1, 1980

Cambodia: Only regret was not invading sooner

One of them asked whether I had any regrets for ordering the "invasion" of Cambodia in 1970. I answered that my only regret was that I had not done it sooner. I am sure that most did not agree with the answer, but the unexpected sharpness of the rejoinder brought a burst of applause. I added that to accuse the US of "invading" North Vietnamese-occupied areas of Cambodia in 1970 would be like accusing the Allies of "invading" German-occupied France in 1944.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p. 47 , Nov 30, 1978

Took hard line against Vietnam draft dodgers

One way to hasten the healing process and draw a real distinction between the Nixon and Ford Administrations would be to do something about the 50,000 draft evaders and deserters from the Vietnam War.

After the Civil War, Lincoln had offered deserters restoration of their rights if they withdrew support from the enemy and swore allegiance to the Union. He was criticized for being too lenient, but his was probably the right decision at the time. Nixon had maintained a tough approach. Because draft evaders and deserters had broken the law, he felt, they should be punished before being allowed to return to society.

In a speech to the VFW on August 19, I announced, "I am throwing the weight of my Presidency into the scales of justice on the side of leniency. I foresee their earned reentry--earned reentry--into a new atmosphere of hope, hard work, and mutual trust."

Source: A Time To Heal, by Gerald Ford, p.141-142 , Sep 16, 1974

For the first time in 12 years, America is at peace

Tonight, for the first time in 12 years, a President of the United States can report to the Congress on the state of a Union at peace with every nation of the world. Because of this, in state of the Union message, I will be able to deal primarily with the problems of peace--with what we can do here at home in America for the American people--rather than with the problems of war.

Five years ago, when I took the oath of office as your President, America was at war in Southeast Asia. We were locked in confrontation with the Soviet Union. We were in hostile isolation from a quarter of the world's people who lived in Mainland China. Five years ago, our cities were burning and besieged. Five years ago, our college campuses were a battleground.

As we look at America today, we find ourselves challenged by new problems. We met the challenges we faced 5 years ago, and we will be equally confident of meeting those that we face today.

Source: Pres. Nixon's 1974 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 30, 1974

FactCheck: No, Vietnam War ended in 1975, not 1973

Nixon said on 1/30/74, "For the first time in 12 years...the US [is] at peace with every nation of the world," meaning the Vietnam War had ended. That statement was untrue.

Nixon declared the Vietnam War "ended" as of 3/29/73. But there was no legal meaning to that "end"--Nixon only marked that date because the last official US combat troops left Vietnam. In fact, there were thousands more troops still in Vietnam. To highlight: