The Vietnam War Files

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How Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger pursued their public vow to end the Vietnam War and win the peace has long been entangled in bitter controversy and obscured by political spin. Recent declassifications of archival documents, on both sides of the former Iron and Bamboo Curtains, have at last made it possible to uncover the truth behind Nixon's and Kissinger's management of the war and to better understand the policies and strategies of the Vietnamese, Soviets, and Chinese.

Drawing from this treasure trove of formerly secret files, Jeffrey Kimball has excerpted more than 140 print documents and taped White House conversations bearing on Nixon-era strategy. Most of these have never before been published and many provide smoking-gun evidence on such long-standing controversies as the "madman theory" and the "decent-interval" option. They reveal that by 1970 Nixon's and Kissinger's madman and d├ętente strategies had fallen far short of frightening the North Vietnamese into making concessions. By 1971, as Kissinger notes in one key document, the administration had decided to withdraw the remaining U.S. combat troops while creating "a healthy interval for South Vietnam's fate to unfold."

The new evidence uncovers a number of behind-the-scenes ploys-such as Nixon's secret nuclear alert of October 1969-and sheds more light on Nixon's goals in Vietnam and his and Kissinger's strategies of Vietnamization, the "China card," and "triangular diplomacy." The excerpted documents also reveal significant new information about the purposes of the LINEBACKER bombings, Nixon's manipulation of the POW issue, and the conduct of the secret negotiations in Paris-as well as other key topics, events, and issues. All of these are effectively framed by Kimball, whose introductions to each document provide insightful historical context.

Building on the groundbreaking arguments of his earlier prize-winning book, Nixon's Vietnam War, Kimball also offers readers a concise narrative of the evolution of Nixon-era strategy and a critical assessment of historical myths about the war. The story that emerges from both the documents and Kimball's contextual narratives directly contradicts the Nixon-Kissinger version of events. In fact, they did not pursue a consistent strategy from beginning to end and did not win a peace with honor.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
According to former Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, "From the first days in office the brilliant Nixon-Kissinger team was confident they could finish, with honor, the most difficult conflict this nation has ever waged: the Vietnam war." But as Kimball asserts in this enlightening volume, the president's strategy for ending the war was neither as swift, nor as straightforward, as the American people were led to believe. Gathering memoranda, letters and diplomatic communiquEs from 1968 to 1975-as well as transcripts of Oval Office conversations between Nixon, Kissinger and other White House advisers-Kimball shows the many sides of Nixon's Vietnam agenda, which was often shrouded in duplicity and presidential image-making. This illuminating collection demonstrates how the Vietnam question was framed differently for different audiences and was used as a diplomatic tool that allowed Nixon to play two communist giants, China and the Soviet Union, against each other even as he negotiated with both. As the war raged, Nixon and Kissinger publicly touted "peace with honor," while privately focusing on political expediency, making policy shifts that would absolve the administration from blame should the South Vietnamese government collapse after U.S. troops withdrew. Just as compelling is the account of the spin-doctoring that occurred towards the end of the war, when Nixon attempted to recast the conflict as a diplomatic and military victory for the United States. Prudent in his interpretation of these documents, Kimball does not comment too much on the sources that he presents; instead, he prefers to showcase them within a clear, factual narrative history. This structure succeeds in giving the reader a context in which to place these documents while allowing the suspense and drama of the situations to come through. An important and gripping work, this volume is a must-read for any serious student of the war. 15 photographs, 3 maps. (Dec.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Kimball's highly regarded Nixon's Vietnam War investigated Nixon's Vietnam policies from 1953 until the 1973 Paris Peace Accords. Although Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger portrayed themselves as peacemakers in their voluminous postwar writings, Kimball relied on newly declassified National Security Council documents to present a compelling argument that Nixon's policies were cynical, manipulative, and largely ineffective. The author expands his earlier book by covering 1973-75, the final years of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Kimball provides excellent appraisals of Nixon's diplomacy and includes interviews, entries from H.R. Haldeman's journal, memos between Nixon and Kissinger, and correspondence among members of the State and Defense departments to support his assertions. Nixon is shown to be an arrogant leader who failed to recognize that the leaders of the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, and North Vietnam viewed as transparent his attempts to play one country against the other. Kimball's most damning indictment of Nixon is that he sought a "decent-interval" strategy, which deliberately delayed negotiations and the fall of the Thieu government until the President was reelected in 1972. Recommended for comprehensive Vietnam War-era collections in academic and larger public libraries.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700612833
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 1/20/2004
  • Series: Modern War Studies
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 386
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents


Notes on Editorial Conventions


1. Reality versus Myth in Vietnam War Strategy from Nixon to Ford

2. Grand Policy Goals and Initial Strategy Options

3. Initial Plans and Mad Schemes

4. Back and Forth between Options

5. Toward a Decent, Healthy Interval

6. Going Out with a Bang and an Armistice

7. Tales of the Fall: Spin, Myth, and Historical Memory


Appendix: List of Documents with Source Data




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