thumbnail of Vietnam: A Television History; Interview with Henry Kissinger, 1982
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The way I see the picture all 24 62. The question is not good enough but I think one time I have not had a chance to beat I just landed here yesterday. Read my Vietnam chapters in the first book over we look at when we come back. Before you crack my feelings on what you get. If you're going to be the bomb that killed the broker Oh.
Right right right. Right. Well. I think. You're right. In nineteen. 62 to 65 when the involvement. Developed. I delayed my attitude was that this was an area about which I knew very little. I once asked. I believe it was all dressed up. And they were sending twenty thousand troops how they thought they could win with 20000 but the French couldn't win. But
I didn't fifty thousand and he sort of dismissed it but I didn't feel strongly about it one way or another. Probably I like most others was leaning. Towards supporting the involvement. But I didn't examine it. In 1965 I went to Vietnam as a consultant to Ambassador Lodge had an opportunity to travel around the country. I concluded that there was no way of winning the war. In the manner in which it was being conducted. And I said so did McNamara. Sunday. And others. McNamara pretty well I've come to the same conclusion. Bundy was. Less committal about his own viewers. And teach strongly supported the administration. Policy. So I felt. From that moment on that we had to find a negotiated. Way out.
But I also felt that having committed that many forces we couldn't simply. Walk away. And do start over a period of time crystallized into an article. That. I. Put before published in foreign affairs. More or less simultaneously with my appointment as security advisor to Nixon when I wrote it I had no idea that I'd become security advisor to Nixon simply the lead time of the magazine. In which I more or less outlined the policy that. Then pursued when I got into office. Tending to separate the military from the political outcome. And indicating the directions in which the negotiation should go. How do you or what.
Do you have to remember be and had it a nightmare. And much of the public discussion today impression is created as if the Vietnam War over Nixon's war. We found five hundred twenty five thousand troops in Vietnam and the numbers were still increasing on the basis of schedule to establish before we. Got into office. So the end headed as a priority. We had no choice about it. And we had made up our mind from the beginning. That we were going to try to disengage from Vietnam. And all of the debates afterwards were really about with a moderate critics. That about rates of disengagement not about the fact of disengagement so it had to be a high priority be it but shaking out a mistake stability it was a state. Of consuming concern of the intellectual community. It Up treated itself as a high priority it would have preferred to do something about. It you mention
here. The. Nixon doctrine. Evolved out of the need. Of. Responding to. The general debate the debate number ad generated generated. About the role of America in the world. And the intention of the Nixon Doctrine was to have to explain how America could reduce its direct involvement in. Various local conflicts. Without abdicating its responsibilities. As the ultimate guarantor of the global balance of power. And therefore it applied to Vietnam. It attempted to apply the lessons of Vietnam. In a more general sense. I don't think at the time that it was developed a clear cut. Decision had been made and the theory
had developed. On what precise could Tinu in the role the United States would play in Vietnam. After withdrawal. But I think in the back of our mind we of as expected. That a settlement that was negotiated would have to be backed in some way. By. By the United States I know no settlement in history that's been self-enforcing. Yes yes. But. My concern about the administration was and I don't have a memorandum. To that effect. My concern about the administration was that they'd. Raid. Objections to the Vietnam War especially in the intellectual community because. That would be increasing faster. Than we could possibly meet. But troop withdrawal and I don't in my memorandum to Nixon that it would become like salted
peanuts to boil you up a bit more. But you would want to eat. And so the concern was stirred up back in position but declined. A lot of the public pressures on us would not be eased. And that therefore the negotiated outcome. Was stupid. And at various times I've. Explored means of bringing matters to a head. Earlier by attempting a blockade or something of that kind. And getting it. Seeing whether we could get a negotiation triggered by a process. And. Then that's the intimidation. I never could develop. In my own mind any. Huge conviction about it and but I did some planning I never pursued it. But the intensity I pursued. Other preferred solutions.
And. So I had my doubts but. At the end I went along with it because the other alternative of unconditional withdrawal which is what most of the criticism finally of most of my critics at the end of the day finally recommended. I thought it would have catastrophic consequences for the United States. Yeah it was a life. That I thought it would be a close race. I thought it would be a close race with the Vietnamese that are the South that inmates could stand on their own. But. I thought what I thought was that they would. Give us a chance at their standing on their own against minor violations and against even pretty large scale violations but if it it gave it another all out you know if we need to solve probably some outside forces would be needed.
If you're like. Me You. First. Came here. Well. It was our misfortune medley Doctorow its. Assignment. Was to break the spirit of the American people for the war. And that he was engaged in a campaign of psychological warfare so what he attempted to do to us. Was extremely painful on. The other hand I had very high regard for him he was a man of no that's discipline. He. Never made any mistakes that I was a bit off. He. Stonewalled. And he was trying to generate. Opposition between the United States and when he decided to set up in the public bureau and I decided to set up. He did it is astonishing that they did it. At extraordinary patients and then at the end he was as flexible.
For a while as he had been. Brutal and tragic before so. I don't look back to my meetings with him. With any great joy. But. I have to say he was a man of. Substance and discipline. Who defended the interests of. The philosophy that he represented which I violently object with. Great dedication. You know it's just more just kind of that he speaks of me. You're already there. But I can't recall the name. And in particular that maybe monadic thought he had a tendency. To not lead octo had a tendency to. Make. The same speech every day months on end.
It was sort of like a prayer session at the beginning of the meeting. And. It met what it symbolizes for us that they had all kinds of time that we were going to have to collapse. Long before. Before they would even think of you know that. One of the lines in that speech was. You know make a big effort we'll make a big effort. One day I heard him say you make a big effort we make an effort. I said Mr. Special Advisor what's its title. Have I noticed you drop an adjective here. He said absolutely not. Because yesterday the paint a fake effort and you only made an effort. So today believers are out. But that's you know the stuff you can get at it to. Choke him. But. You have to keep our composure. But. I have to repeat it's an impressive man.
You are. You're changing something for us. But I think in general when I said that lead octo reacted obviously exactly the opposite. From the way. The. American intellectual community predicted it would react. When I was before I ended office. I believed like most of my colleagues that unilateral acts. Would impress the North Vietnamese and induce them to make concessions of their own. This was not in my experience. The most impossible session night sessions I had with lead October. After day after the North Vietnamese had taken one tree. We had a meeting in May 1972. Which we had negotiated to arrange for months. When I die after all he did was read newspaper accounts to me. When I said I didn't have to come thousands of miles and
negotiate for five months for a meeting. To hear newspaper accounts he said if they are true what difference does it make. Then. The. Nixon ordered the bombing. North Vietnam and the mining of the habits we resume negotiations can lead October's not to easy to deal with and made many more concessions after that. That he had made in the years before that. Similarly with Christmas bombing with the Christmas bombing and the session. Before we broke up the talks. It was impossible. At his absolute. Obnoxious or worse. Than it was the Christmas bombing. When we met again. But they were the easiest negotiation since the one. After that. I doubt about it in the first direct OK. That. Happens to be a
fact it was. Publicly good if used to shake hands with me and. You know the pictures that were taken. You never appeared with me but inside the negotiating room. You moved at tremendous speed. And with. As much human warmth as he was capable of generating to upset representative of the capitalist system. That certainly with more human wants than at any previous period. But it told me yesterday considered us fundamentally enemies. To. Leave doctor considered us fundamentally enemies to whom the elation ship would have to be determined by the balance of forces. And if the balance of forces was unfavorable to Vietnam he was willing to draw the necessary conclusion. That the balance of forces was favorable to Vietnam to North Vietnam. The fact that he knew. That he might respect me and that I might be conciliatory. I didn't plan it and it ought.
To be. Right for what they did was. Wrong. But those are two separate distinct. Two separate problems. Lended didn't know if it Minnie's agree. That you could stay in office. After the mining and the bombing. All summer long. They were trying out various can possible concessions on us. I formed the opinion. Inconclusive. I formed the opinion that they were very much afraid of Nixon's election. And that if. By the middle of September. A poll showed Nixon decisively at. That they would probably make a major effort to settle. I thought it was one of the few miscalculations I saw to make that they thought Nixon's task would be easier after the
election with respect to the Vietnam War than before. I didn't think so I thought. It would be just as if not after the election. Be that as it may they drop the demand that you had to resign on October 8. I believe it was it ended when ever they put forward their comprehensive proposal. And that as far as we were concerned was to break together. With respect to leaving North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam. That proposal is already in place set in October 1970 when we offered a ceasefire in place. That was not coupled with any proposal for the withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops. It was made explicit in a secret proposal of. 1971. It was publicly repeated in. January I believe 1972 in the sense that our peace programme did not call for the withdrawal of the troops and only called for a ceasefire.
So that. We did not make an additional concession on the presence of the north or even North Vietnamese troops. In October 1972 we thought that issue. Had been settled and we concentrated on resupply and noting it no resupply and no reinforcement which was the first time accepted by the North to be made. In the session. When did you first see if you're. Ready. Oh I think. Certainly I recognize that then I think the North Vietnamese recognized that they could keep their troops in the south. At the latest in May 1971. All of the proposal said to be made to the North Vietnamese. Were seen and approved by two or. So there but that was not a new new proposal by us in October 17. How did you are you know these.
Surely are. Not in any significant way very obvious. I don't think that that summit meeting and my previous visit to Moscow contributed in any significant way. On the substance of this solution. We always made sure that what we told that Russians lots of underground behind every bit and the negotiations with the military and these. Are the one thing we were sure of is that I know it would not respond favorably to a proposal that they saw the first time coming through Moscow. So whatever we told the Soviets we had already told the North Vietnamese one at least one or two rounds. Before that. It contributed to a solution not in the sense that the Soviets brought a new proposal to annoy. But in the sense that the Soviets. Did. The fact that the Soviets received that. After the. Intensification of the war on North
Vietnam. Must have contributed to the sense of isolation. And beleaguered and of a know it in that sense it helped but not in the. Terms of specifics that were negotiated. All right. Freshness reaction to the bombing of an oil and the mining of 5000 was. Very tough in rhetoric and relate. In consequential in action. He made many tough statements but he never did anything. He. Was. Really wacky. You are right. I think the Chinese told us to contribute to the Chinese role towards the settlement was. Again to contribute to the sense of isolation. I know
the fact that Nixon was received in Peking that obviously that minute the Chinese but I. Think great attention to improving that a ship of the United States and that they would say have a limit to the disks that they were going to run. I can be kept the Chinese generally informed of our negotiations with the North Vietnamese but we because we saw them less frequently in that period we gave them some but fewer details. And they never told us what they didn't know. The Soviets once sent a representative to. The desert and they didn't tell us exactly what had what he did. I think but go on a bender. The Chinese never told us. What. Was the reason for this. Yes. I've heard talk about it with respect to the pieces of that statement but most outsiders
and folks don't understand about policy making. It said you can reach a point of total exhaustion. But you have but you can't weigh every bit of what you're saying. I have a book on the morning. Of I guess it was a covert study as. To the fact that the North Vietnamese had published. OK but I booked the morning of October 26 to the. Fact that the North Vietnamese had published. The. Text of the. Preliminary agreement that we had reached. At that point I had been. Negotiating and traveling. Almost uninterrupted to its incept obeyed. I had had. Many 18 hour negotiating sessions. With Lee Dr. And equally Waring negotiating sessions which. I had just come back from. Vietnam to the United.
From Saigon to the United States. But. The piece is it is a Dan press conference was not something that we had planned to do. It was something that was imposed on us by the North Vietnamese. We woke up on the morning of October 26 to the news. That the North Vietnamese had published preliminary understandings we had negotiated with them to Beeks earlier. In. Paris. And in this period between of probate and October 26. That being exhausting and long negotiations with the North Vietnamese followed by equally exhausting and long and frustrating negotiations with the South Vietnamese So when we broke up. And. Up to that news our basic
concern was twofold one. Not to let the North Vietnamese stampede us into something. That Saigon was not yet ready to do. But on the other hand. Not to give the Noid the impression that we were overthrowing the agreement. And. The phrase peace is at hand was chosen. To indicate that we were sticking to the fundamentals of the agreement. But. At the same time that something still remained to be done. It was a warning to Saigon that we've been not going to be driven of course. A signal to the NOI that we were sticking to the main lines of the agreement and the fact that still some things remain to be done. Had we had three days to prepare for it we might have chosen happy a phrase and one that lend itself less to later second guessing but we only had an outage to prepare for it.
You're right. Problem. Is when you. You know. I think. It was. Hatred of me is poisonous. As a man I nevertheless respected greatly he had to fight a civil war. Long nearly indefensible frontiers. And defend an invasion simultaneously. And deal by the pressures of a distant country that really didn't know much about South Vietnamese culture and was trying to do it. To. Institute reforms. Of a kind for which that few presidents and we had made history and he did all of this with great dignity. And strength on the other hand I don't like all Vietnamese. No what I said was
you found the notion of compromise almost impossible. To. Accept. And for him it was a blow to the finish. And of course he was going to be there after we left. So it was a different problem for him. So. He had accepted a number of proposals as long as he thought they were going to be accepted. And the shock to him. Was not the specific proposals we had accepted. Because the proposals we had accepted were so far better. Than anything that we had. Previously put forward. That we thought foolishly that we'd be treated in Saigon. With expressions of enormous gratitude and relief. We had achieved no what we had in these acceptance. Of the continuation of the judiciary in its present bullet. Or in its in the territory that it except that it controlled which is more than he had been able to achieve. So. He months he was faced with a decision to
end the war. He started nit picking specific provisions about but she had never raised objections. And they were put first put forward plus provisions that we. Really had gotten very far. Much further to its objectives than any of our critics thought possible. The other hand I can understand his dilemma as. Well. Son. All right you're all about life. But I did it because I felt like I prob. Made his proposals. I had the proposals we made and the negotiations that. I made to use. I presented two was less of changes which we had whittled down already. So I got. Because I felt I owed it. To him.
To. Go through them. And frankly to demonstrate. That most of them are unattainable. It is not it. I do not believe that that. Unravelled the agreement because. When Lee Doctorow dejected them. Me immediately we didn't persist and I'd be immediately fell back. To forget. Six or eight essential conditions that with which we agreed. And we had reached that point already been the first round of negotiations renegotiations ended. What. Was your view. What if you. It was our judgment even before. He made the first agreement with the No. That did it. 1973 Congress. Refused to
appropriate the supplementary budget which was necessary to. Maintain the blockade and the additional land forces. And that it would probably set a fixed deadline for taking us. Out of the war unconditionally. So we thought our perception was that we were betting against a very. Tight deadline. I suppose. I don't know what we would have done because we were never faced with it. Nixon was threatening him. With a cut off of American aid. But we would have done if to had refused to demand a final agreement. I don't know Nixon had threatened. That in those conditions he would not be able to continue nomadic in aid. I don't believe he would ever have done that. And probably what would have happened is that the Congress what it is that. Would have legislated an end to the war. Unconditional this drawer for note
in return for the prisoners. What was it. Well. I was in favor of the Christmas bombing and had not occurred to me when I proposed. I did propose I had pointed out all through the negotiations that if they failed. They would have to do something military. I thought it would be a dissention of the bombing of the previous type. Which was mostly with phantoms. Nixon. Was of The View. That something shocking had to be done. That was not my view at the time but I didn't disagree with it and I went along with it. And I think Nixon turned out to be a guide. And. So it was a period of great ambivalence for me I was enormously unhappy. To me ending the Vietnam War had been. Principal goal. Of Nixon's first
not only in order to bring peace. But in order to end domestic divisions. For me. Almost all of my friends. My. Education a period of my professional life but on the other side of that debate and I wanted to create conditions. Which would unify the country again by having it under Bill and. To the war in Vietnam so I was extremely depressed not because I was opposed to the bombing. But because I was opposed to that because I was unhappy that things had reached a point where everybody's so close to a settlement and the thing blew up again. So that was perhaps the most unhappy period of my government service. You were like you're you're. I want to know that we would do something. I didn't tell them a lot because I didn't know what they were going to do but that they could not assume that we were doing nothing.
Just. Like what you get when the ceasefire was. This. Was just. A bit of respect to the argument that the agreement could have been reached earlier. That is simply the division that's nonsense. Agreement could have been reached earlier if the North Vietnamese had been prepared to accept the continued. Existence of any non communist government in South Vietnam. All during the negotiations. That preceded settlement. The condition of the North Vietnamese was unconditional withdrawal of the United States. Coupled with the oversight of the existing structure. And the formation of a coalition government in which they would retain the veto. Over the participants.
That they could not accept. If the North Vietnamese had accepted anything like that. In 1971 or 1972 we would have settled for that. So this is a mess. There was no solution possible before took debate and then they settled it and then they gave us the essential condition. That we had told them for four years we needed. On a probate and settled within 72 hours without even going back to Washington. And checking up. On what was my foot. It's been suspected my feeling when the ball ended. In foreign policy. I have found that. A great achievement and. It leaves you with us what I've been told. Women feel after a baby is born. You know we can't Carol 24 65.
Before. I could say I felt I could save it dates back to you. But you know on that is it. No no I thought you needed it so that the audience know what I was like when. I said. You know. I've been the ceasefire agreement was signed as in many other. Great. Experiences in foreign policy. I felt some but as it is I'm told. Women feel after they've given birth to a baby. A combination of. Relief let down. Some depression. Because. It was what we had aimed for for four years and suffered for four years. On the other hand one knows that any solution in foreign policy.
It's the admissions prize to a new set of problems down the finances and especially not there. So there was a sense of. Elation mixed with foreboding. And relieve. Mixed with wondering. When the next crisis would come and how we would handle it. So it was not the unrelieved joy. That. I. Might have expected. You're saying you're sorry. Let's. Look at this. I believe that if skill and discipline and luck. Through a combination of incentives to the military in a maze. And. Resolution that. Reform in the south. B might bring about a situation in which it
could last for. A fairly indefinite period. And. 10 years is a long time in foreign publics that. I thought they could. Do it. Right. But. You know. When the agreement was signed I didn't think of Vietnam but it's behind us. But I thought that the Vietnam War as a defensive element in America. Might well be behind us. I thought that those who had opposed the war might join with us on the ground that it had after all been ended and those who wanted an under honorable settlement. Would. Rejoice in the achievement of their echoed. In. Vietnam itself.
I believe that. On the basis of a new relationship but I don't know if they might devote a considerable period to the reconstruction of to know if we created the correct incentives and that we had to hold them to the danger that they would run if they started another offensive by. Maintaining some air and sea power. And. In the area that I thought that if properly. Balanced. He might have. Put. A prolonged period. Of peace which then would create its own imperatives. Work. Yeah yeah you know I have to tune after to 1973 I did not believe that the cease fire would hold. But certainly not after July 1973. When I saw Lee Doctorow again
into 1973. Watergate was in full swing. We had. Already. Acquired intelligence documents in which to know that we had no Mees at Mate the very correct analysis that Nixon but not be in a position to repeat what he had done in 1972. Because of his domestic difficulties. The Congressional agitation to end all military activities in Southeast Asia. Well it's already in full force and every day a new amendment but being proposed so it was just a question of time until it one of them would pass and Lee doctor would read them to make everyday that be mad. So at that point pretty well I felt that the situation was most precarious. With you. Say last long.
After the after the bombing cutoff. I love. I lost most of my hope. I thought it but maybe America could have maybe the South Vietnamese would get stronger faster. Maybe the North Vietnamese have been weakened more. Than we had assumed maybe they wouldn't believe that Nixon didn't find some way. Of retaliating anyway. But those up at all. Maybe it's at that time we had lots control over events. Was taken very serious very soon I. Was just like you stand to lose you are all yours. Vietnam. After the middle of 1978. Through a combination of factors we.
Slipped out of. Out of. The control of a decisive American policy that was the Middle East war. Which took most of our energy. The East-West relations. That was not such a decisive factor because they had got on even during. Even during the Vietnam War. And above all there was very little. We could do that with the decline of Nixon so I thought it did. And with the election of a. New Congress dominated by. Many of the opponents of the war the problem of getting. Even material aid for South Vietnam became more and more difficult. The aid to South Vietnam had run at about two billion a year I believe. In 1973 it was cut to billion in 74 to 700 million for 75. At the same time that did and
it's a crisis. Quadrupled the oil prices so that much of the aid went to the purchase of. Energy. It was at that point and we were hoping that the South Vietnamese. Were stronger than they were but that's about all of it could do. Even though I was. Very. Current. President Ford was. Lucky that. You know I'm not. Going I haven't had a chance to review these document of its respect to what I expected President Ford said in 1975. But President Ford said if he would give what material assistance he could. And he. Advocated an additional. Aid program.
At that time. Especially 1975. Bieber convents. On the basis of general violence mission. That South Vietnam would almost certainly be defeated. But we thought it was important for the honor and decency of America. That we not be perceived as a stick. Country. That stabbed its ally in the back in the last. Moment and therefore I went before congressional committees day after day asking for aid appropriations to make clear that it was not we will be pulling out but that circumstances have got to grown beyond our capacity to to manage. And this is what President Ford had in his mind. The shark remark that's. Right. The
evacuation of Americans. From South Vietnam. Was a very complicated problem because. We had to fear. That if we evacuated too rapidly the South Vietnamese government and its frustration might turn on us and there might be a massacre of Americans. Secondly. We wanted to withdraw at that measured pace so that the North Vietnamese would be concerned that if they moved too fast. We might intervene in order to save it in manning Americans. At about the rate of withdrawal of American civilians to many disputed. Some advocated a much more rapid. Evacuation. Some slow up on. Modern boats generally on the favor on the side of those who were in favor of a slow evacuation.
I was generally. In the middle between. The fastest and the slowest with drugs. But I don't find it in my heart to criticize Martin. Who lost a son in Vietnam. But with respect to its judgments about what was the best way of winding up that. Well after all we did evacuated. All Americans at the end. And. So. It worked out for the best. You call your. Own. The ceasefire collapsed. Because from the beginning the North Vietnamese did what they had. Done after every other ceasefire and. Indochina they
began to test the limits of the agreement. Infiltration. Began almost immediately. Again despite the fact. That. To us one of the most significant provisions of the agreement was that there would be no infiltration. Except through designated checkpoint. North Vietnamese interpreted this to mean that whatever didn't come through designated checkpoint was legal. So nothing came through a designated checkpoint and everything came through. Also it's. Of trails hundreds of Tang's. Much equipment and personnel a lot of which was prohibited. And the No the South Vietnamese were also pushing against the edges of duty. The North Vietnamese simply had never given up. Their. Determination. To conquer all of South Vietnam. Then one thing led to another. We gradually lost the capacity to retaliate. The North Vietnamese
began to have less and less fear. As it became. And the economic agreements between us and the North Vietnamese could not be understanding's could not be carried out because in that climate of constant North Vietnamese violations. There was no congressional support for them. So both the carrots and the sticks were simultaneously lost. But the major fact of US the implacable determination of the North Vietnamese used the ceasefire simply as an interlude. Of. Life. If you. Read. At the end. Of to go at the end of the collapse of an update Saigon government.
We assembled a large fleet of South Vietnam for evacuation purposes. And I attended that other for a long attempt. Rather for negotiation. To ease the transition by creating a coalition government in Saigon. And implying that that fleet might be there for purposes other. Than. Simply evacuation. And. Propose some sort of coalition effort which was not good. Refused initially. But then after about a week of the North Vietnamese started their final offensive and it collapsed. You know what you mean. I don't understand. Yes I said I saw the brain and I made a specific proposal to him but I had no illusions. I knew the Coalition government would only be a way station. To a complete communist takeover at that point by the South Vietnamese army destroyed. But I thought it might ease the
transition and save lives and enable us. To get more people out. At that point my overwhelming concern. At that point after the violent mission we're talking about April 1975. My overwhelming concern was to evacuate the largest number of Vietnamese south and these. Two we owed at least that minimum of protection. And therefore I engaged in any kind. Of. Time saving maneuver that occurred to me. I did not believe that it was possible. To address the ultimate takeover by more than a month or so. But I thought even a month would enable us to get more people out. There. Yes. You will. My meeting with Ryan didn't President Ford. I don't
remember the details except that it big. It was general lines judgment that it was very likely. That the South Vietnamese could maintain their position. For any length of time. And therefore what our problem was how to. Bind up to go in a manner that was. Most protective. Of the millions who had after all relied on American promises. Over. 30 American administrations. And painful as that may have been especially on the first administration that got us involved at it. Which was a pretty decisive. Value for us. He's right. He's yet. To learn speech did not come out of that meeting. And. I I was not aware that he was going to use that exact
phraseology. And. It reflected our view it's but I did not. Think that it would be announced in quite this manner. Although it cut it reflected our views. How you. Feel. When Saigon fell I was. I was extremely depressed. It was the end. Of an effort that America had started. And Kennedy and Johnson administrations with idealism. And with its. Good purposes. It had steak we had steak. And we could achieve. That.
I had given. Many years of my life to try to achieve an honorable outcome but above all I felt for the people. In Indochina who and relied on distant friends. And pursued a certain cause of action and it would not be left to the mercies. Of a victor who had never shown. Enormous compassion. In the past. But of course on that last day. My job was to manage to evacuation. So I was. I was extremely busy. Just. AS. You know. If. I. Had had that a different American approach could have achieved a different and. The only American approach that could have achieved a
different end would be to go for it would have been to go for a loud victory. Dance for me but engaged in a protracted war. It was. When we were playing. Their bug game. Maybe if we could have kept a domestic structure intact. They might have been a different band. But it would still have been very painful. If it hadn't been for about a good. I didn't think then and I regret to say I don't think today. That the situation. That. The Nixon administration had it. But made it many different publishers. It's a close call. Rather like whether we had numbers of a victim of a gate or not. Depends on my unbiased judgement whether the
American people that have supported the limited. Military efforts that would have been needed to shock the North Vietnamese into understanding that we would not accept. A total violation of the agreement. At any rate Watergate accelerated the demise of Vietnam. I don't believe that. The collapse would have occurred. This rapidly. Whether whatever could ultimately and historians will debate forever. You. Ask evacuation. OK. But. The anti-war movement. At least the moderate. Side of the anti-war movement which but the one I know best. Was led by. Friends of mine.
And it contained almost all of the people. With whom I had been with been colleagues of mine at Harvard. And whose opinion I valued. And I came to Washington convinced. That I would succeed in bringing them to a policy of negotiation. And conciliation. And within the first year of. My period in Washington. We in fact proposed formally. What was the minority plank of that of the Democratic Party that had caused all the uproar at the Democratic convention. In 1969. To my sorrow and dismay I noticed. That for every move we made towards this group. They moved a step further. So that. Maybe. We never got any firm ground under feed.
And we never obtained the support of the people whose opinion. I had always treasured. And many of whom. I still people respect enormous. So gradually they drifted apart. And from my point of view. The anti-war movement became more and more dominated by its radical elements. And became an objective obstacle to the objectives. Which I believed I shared with them. We wanted to end the war. For. One. How do you. Think it's. OK. For men I set. The radicalization of the anti-war movement.
Made it more and more an obstacle to negotiation rather than a help to negotiation. I ended government with the conviction. That one could create a large consensus behind a reasonable program which but then impressed annoyed. But our determination to people was conciliatory but also to indicate the limits of a conciliatory and as that object if we never achieve because. The moderate groups of us felt they had to be a step ahead. Of the administration that in turn. Prove it produced a situation where in every negotiation with any doctor. I had to spend. I was listening to his recital of what various leaders. Of the anti-war movement had said to what various congressional resolutions were trying to poach and why we would be forced by our own domestic opinion. Sooner or later to accept his demands. Yes I know Nixon's handling of tangible movement.
Was not generous. And. Contributed to the polarization of our society. Nixon. And challenge politically. Tended to react. With certain gut. Feelings. And he never found that language. Of respect and compassion. Which might have bred created a bridge that leads to the more reasonable elements of the anti-war movement. So that civil war conditions develop. The anti-war movement also behaved in a ruthless and brutal fashion. But I believe higher standards are to quiet of a president. Of the opposition. You know. In fact yes.
The impact of Vietnam on the social fabric of the country that. It sought for people. Those who usually provide continuity and stability. To the concepts by which the society that runs. Moved into opposition the majority of the population on the whole supported the administration. So there was. A conflict. Strangely enough between what the elite was thinking. And what the general public was thinking. It was not that the anti-war movement ever achieved a majority. But events 30 percent of the population and many of those who died for the media. And. Speak publicly. Oppose a given cause. Confusion is inevitable. And I think we lost in this period. The consensus behind foreign policy in all fields. And we have never been able to be created
since then. And this may well be the heaviest price we have paid for the Vietnam War. I don't single out the media. I mean the media the intellectual community. Preponderantly. Moving into opposition. This is now independent of whether they better I don't. I'm describing a condition. Under which government had to be conducted. Q Are you. Hearing. Q. Yes but. The fact that we had a majority of the population behind us. Gave us a sense of confidence but we also the fundamental problem was. A different one. And it has to do with one's conception of the role of leadership in a democracy.
If a national leader is convinced that a certain cause will produce a catastrophe. What is his obligation to the public. Especially when the majority of the public supports him. Should he yield to those who. Tend to dominate the discussion. Knowing that. He will be blamed for the catastrophe and he will be responsible for the catastrophe. Even if it reflected. The dominant editorial and congressional opinion of the moment. It's a very difficult problem. Nixon. And. We're convinced that an unconditional withdrawal from Vietnam. Would be a catastrophe. The dispute between us and the moderates was over that issue. Or about the date of withdrawal and B was true. Within months of the various deadlines that were being said. I think the damage to the country that was crossed over the intensity of the conflict over
that narrow issue. Was too great. Yes yes. Yes yes yes yes. Yes. The. Impact of Vietnam on the atmosphere that finally led. To Watergate was to create a sense of belief. In which. The methods on both sides. Reached the edges of legality. Well as a president is not and does not have the same ride. And has additional duties. And responsibilities to the moton of the country I would not equate. The
actions of the two sides. Which of the various things that are now increasingly lumped under Watergate. Bit peculiar to Nixon. And which of them. Were really relics of previous administrations. That is something that. Ought to be examined in a study on logic gates and. While. The. So-called secret bombing of Cambodia started in March 1969. Following. A North Vietnamese offensive. That. Began in the middle of February Nineteen sixty nine.
Three weeks after Nixon came into office and before. He had had any opportunity to formulate a policy and after he had sent messages to the North Vietnamese. That he was looking for an honorable negotiated solution. This offensive caused 500 American dead a week in some weeks anywhere between three and five hundred dead a week. Nixon issued several warnings. And then finally in the middle of March around the middle of March 1969. He ordered an attack on the sanctuaries. Sanctuary. Along the Cambodian. Vietnamese frontier. Sanctuaries in up a section. Of occupied entirely by North Vietnamese troops. They extended for a distance of two or three miles beyond the Vietnamese. Border. The Vietnamese troops would come North Vietnamese troops would enter South Vietnam and. Kill
Americans and South Vietnamese and then withdraw into these sanctuaries. And they also used them as supply depots. You know what it wanted to act. The instructions were. That if the Cambodians protested. Or if the North Vietnamese asserted we would. Be attacked. And we would then ask for a UN investigation. Of the area in which the attack took place. In order to determine whether it was occupied by the North Vietnamese. To our amazement Cambodia didn't protest. The North Vietnamese didn't say anything. And therefore. We believed that for us to take the initiative. Would force a protest. But Prince Sihanouk the ruler of Cambodia. And forced us to stop doing something. That we believed was important to put an end to the offensive that was taking place. In South Vietnam.
Especially And it seemed as especially important since we were planning to withdraw American troops at the same time. That yes. Yes. YES YES YES YES YES YES YES. So I thought we had. We have many. Indirect evidences of SI and exactly actions in the bombing. Repeatedly when he was asked at press conferences he would say. That of course he did not approve attacks on Cambodian territory. But he did not know what was going on in territory occupied by what he called the Viet Minh which was the earlier name for the North Vietnamese. It's sponsored activity. He invited Nixon to visit Cambodia. While the bombing was going on he established diplomatic relations but that was. Why the bombing was going on and we have to remember we are talking about bombing a.
Small area as. A city to five kilometers and Depp's. At substantially unpopulated. Along the border. And B but he never complained that any Cambodians were. Injured or killed. It's just us. Right. Now the president doesn't have to try. To buy a neutral country. The question is does the president have to decide to react against concentrations of enemy troops that have already occupied neutral territory have to establish themselves as they have for three years and a killing have
expelled the local population and killing Americans. From that territory. All the opinions we had received was that this was a clear exercise. Of the right of war. So we are not talking about an attack on a neutral country. We are talking about the attack on territory occupied by an enemy forwards. That it's killing Americans. From that that. You know you will see. See an upset overthrow took us completely by surprise in fact for the first two days. I thought that CNN could engineered the overthrow so that he could come back under better conditions than some of they had at Rassmann state which he had been exposed prior to his taking his vacation in France. So. Maybe but we're not aware of. Its being
overthrown ahead of time. And I have never seen any evidence and certainly been not conscious in Washington of any American complicity. In his overthrow nor was it in our interest. If he had not gone from Moscow to Pete King. Sihanouk could have been restored to power. If he had followed his initial internet initially Cnoc wanted to go from. Paris. To Cambodia. If he had stayed in Paris. If he had not gone to Peking. There was a chance of restoring him to power. But by going to Peking putting himself at the head of the Khmer Rouge. Focusing his attacks on the United States he gave up that road that. Everybody had lived with before. It's a balance between contending factions and as what we tried to restore him as. Later on as
negotiations. Develop. I think his passions ran away with him. We would have liked to see him back. But that doesn't mean we couldn't even communicate with him in picking. Us. The incursions followed five weeks. Of. Constantly expanding North Vietnamese attacks in. Eastern Cambodia. It was. A perception. That astronauts Vietnamese left their base areas and started cutting communications all over the eastern Cambodia and gradually began and circling. That nightmare that had caused us to. To. Try to interrupt supplies through Cambodia. Was
becoming even worse. That the whole eastern part of Cambodia would then become one. You know if we had limited supply bases at a moment when we had already announced a bit of close to 200000 American troops so that a new front would open as we. As we were. Withdrawing Then don't know if we had the means and circled numpad. And it began to look to us as if the overthrow of the NUMP and government was only a question of the numpad government that was recognized but now has to remember by the U.N. and even by the Soviet Union was only a question of weeks. This followed the fact that on October 4th I believe it was. And the secret talks with Lee Doctorow head off at the complete neutralisation of Cambodia which would have opened also the possibility of three interviews in Sea and had been rejected by the doctor he said. I think this is almost a bait him quote. They wouldn't
Cambodian Indo-China have not become. This is. It was the sequence of events. That made us decide to go in. And clean out their sanctuaries once and for all and at a minimum it gained us the years needed for the withdrawal of American forces. Les had a post published largely for domestic reasons. He thought it would create and a serious. It but create a serious problem. Domestically as indeed it did. No it was not a but a difficult problem. A lot of the decision was being made. That was the essence of lead conduct of his office. That he might of that event. However how do you objected to a particular publisher
once the president had concluded Lee decided it carried out with energy and conviction and had every died to state his point of view but you did. And afterwards he carried it out. And race. Yes yes. Yes. Yes yes. Why was. This. But. That Ace two it's not. The negotiation it's the Cambodia negotiations which. Were conducted side by side with the Vietnamese negotiations all the way through. And we thought during the negotiations that eventually docked at the end of the road in Vietnam but also to bring an end of the war in Cambodia as it was supposed to and. After the negotiations developed it became apparent that this was not necessarily the
case. The lead October constantly promised us that no if we mean with North Vietnam would make a major effort to bring peace in Cambodia. We convinced. The Cambodian government to declare a unilateral cease fire. That was rejected by the crucial continued military operations. So this through the negotiations on Cambodia and Vietnam somewhat out of phase. As soon as it became clear that Cambodia but it's not going to fall under the gender of the umbrella of the ceasefire and. Viet and South Vietnam and Laos. Be initiated negotiations both in the know and been peeking to see which would be more productive if turned out the picking the more productive channels. But but communications were slow. CNN was traveling a great deal. The Chinese did not feel they could communicate. Efficiently with CNO.
While he was traveling so they were a bit long. Interruptions. One of our office. The key of it was. That we would stop bombing in Cambodia and return for that it for Syrian oaks and ceasefire. That bombing. Was being constantly being. Ended. By congressional action so. Asked us negotiation develop. The chief was being taken out of. And shortly after the con congressional mandated end of the bombing. The Chinese withdrew from the negotiation and soon it. Ended. Truck. Station Yeah.
Well I think it's respect of the charges that have been made that the ministrations policy contributed to the. Devastation of Cambodia. I think this is. I think this is. An act of considerably park to. Many of the critics have to. Face the dilemma that after devoting Vietnam and Laos. And headed by the Nixon administration. And that many of the people that finally joined their cause their cause. Had indeed been the originators of that war. Cambodia they can present as a Viet as a Nixon effort. And so all of the criticism has focused on Cambodia. I'm not saying that every decision was correct that I'm a party to that and that will have to be sorted out by others. But I am saying that serious people face for the withdrawal of five hundred fifty thousand American troops seeking a base area being developed under flank of these troops could come
to the conclusion that the Nixon administration. In fact did end the murder in Vietnam and the devastation of Vietnam was largely caused by their own rulers who brought into. Date devastation of Cambodia. Was largely caused by their own rulers. After the collapse of that existence. Let me just make this person. Reading this. No I don't I get. OK. Just dress thinking this is where you get money as you say this.
I think Cambodia. Is a great. Tragedy and the tragedy is that out of my stick divisions were fought over. And essentially peaceful people read Nixon and his associates like myself were right. In. Ordering the incursions into. Cambodia. Can be discussed for ever but months they have taken place. The only way out was to prevent the Khmer Rouge. From taking over the country. But the bitterness in this country was so great that many people seemed to want to refight the. Anti-war protest of May 1970. Over and over and over again putting on restriction after restriction which made it impossible. To be effective so that everybody involved enough. For the board to continue
but not involved enough to bring it to any negotiated. Conclusion. And I think both sides of this debate ought to search their selves. And stop this vicious personal attacks. On something in which on which reasonable people could differ. But in which finally. Millions of people were killed. Because of a murderous gang was permitted to take over. Largely as a result of our own division. I didn't take much of this or that long no regime had many weaknesses and. AS. Many regimes in underdeveloped countries in the middle of a get a level of it the best officials get assassinated. It had its elements of corruption. But the Llano regime was after all the
Scieno government without CNN. This is what was there to begin with. It was not the government that I would have created if I wanted to make Cambodia of in the American image. But no regime and no people deserve the murdering. That took place when the Khmer Rouge took over. This is unprecedented in modern history that a government takes over. That then begins to exterminate its own people. And. As between lognormal and the Khmer Rouge. I thought the Llano group was a better intermediate solution but even so but into law no will be offered constantly. To create a new structure including Sihanouk. We had arranged for a long road to leave the country as and on many occasions that was not the big obstacle. The big obstacle was the Khmer Rouge insistence on totally. Now I have to. Right after a late night look and I know it well today
I've got gets coming at 1. I'm going to make fun of you. And. I think Vietnam is still with us. It has divided. Consensus that carried American foreign policy it's a good generation. It created. Doubts about American judgment. About American credibility. And American power not only in. Our country. But in many in many parts of the road. It has poisoned our domestic debate in which almost every issue now. To its more on motives. Than on substance. And so we paid an exorbitant price for the
decisions that were made in the middle 1960s. In good faith. And for good purposes. And the lesson they should learn that we need. View both as to our ultimate purpose in that we're about the objectives that are within our power to reach and about the means set out appropriate to these objectives. And the second lesson we have to learn. Is that you cannot run a society. By civil. Kind of debates. That there has to be something. That I said you know what unites people must be preserved. And that. That political opponents strive not only for the victories of each other. But that ultimately be judged by that reconciliation. Thanks a lot.
Vietnam: A Television History
Raw Footage
Interview with Henry Kissinger, 1982
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Episode Description
Henry Kissinger's involvement with Vietnam started before he was Nixon's National Security Advisor. While at Harvard, Kissinger was a consultant on foreign policy to both the White House and State Department and in a 1973 peace agreement, Kissinger helped mediate between Washington and Hanoi. In this interview Kissinger recalls the period before he joined the Nixon White House and how he did not question the United States involvement in Vietnam. In 1965, Kissinger travelled to Vietnam and saw that the war was not winnable in the way it was currently being conducted. Moreover, he had doubts as to whether or not South Vietnam could stand on their own once the United States left. He also describes his impression of Le Duc Tho as someone whose goal was to break the morale and spirit of the American people and partake in psychological warfare. Kissinger continues by stating that Vietnam still has an effect on American policy.
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Raw Footage
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Vietnam (Republic); Cambodia--History--Civil War, 1970-1975; Political corruption; Government, Resistance to; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives, American; United States--Politics and government; United States--History--1945-; Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam (1973); Vietnam (Democratic Republic); Intellectuals--United States; Peace movements--United States; Vietnam--Politics and government; Watergate Affair, 1972-1974; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Mass media and the war; Evacuation of civilians; Armistices; United States--Foreign relations--1969-1974; neutrality; Vietnam--History--1945-1975; Escalation (Military science); Coups d'etat; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Bombing, Aerial; Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Cambodia; Peace treaties
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Publisher: WGBH Educational Foundation
Writer: Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
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Identifier: 6fc1d376bb489a0f8414bca25cfab5f545ce422e (ArtesiaDAM UOI_ID)
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Color: Color
Duration: 01:24:47:10
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Chicago: “Vietnam: A Television History; Interview with Henry Kissinger, 1982,” 1982-04-17, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 20, 2024,
MLA: “Vietnam: A Television History; Interview with Henry Kissinger, 1982.” 1982-04-17. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Vietnam: A Television History; Interview with Henry Kissinger, 1982. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from