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Watergate Doomed Indochina


Watergate Doomed Indochina

By Francis P. Sempa
February 06, 2023

Jan. 27 marked the 50th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords negotiated by Henry Kissinger and North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho. The agreement did not end the war; it was effectively a ceasefire agreement that North Vietnam violated almost immediately. President Richard Nixon had sought “peace with honor” and pledged to South Vietnam’s President Thieu that the United States would take “swift retaliatory action” in the event of violations by the North. American prisoners of war -- 591 of them -- were brought home on Feb. 12, 1973. The last American troops left South Vietnam on March 29, 1973.

Domestic politics prevented Nixon from honoring his pledge to Thieu. Not only was a Democratic Party-controlled Congress hostile to the reapplication of American military power in Southeast Asia, but, more important, Watergate reared its ugly head. In their frenzied and politically self-interested desire to “get” Nixon and ruin his presidency, Democrats in Congress and a supportive media -- with the help of White House counsel John Dean and high-level FBI agent Mark Felt -- turned a minor case of political espionage into a “major Constitutional crisis” that resulted in weakening the president and dooming South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to communist rule.

In his book "No More Vietnams," Nixon recalled that the “possibility of retaliating against North Vietnam evaporated by the end of April 1973.” Nixon wrote that he was willing to retaliate, but Congress would not support it and soon stripped Nixon of the authority to do so. Congress ultimately prohibited “all direct and indirect American military actions in or around Indochina.” The political forces in Congress that doomed Indochina to communist rule were led by Senator Ted Kennedy, and Nixon noted the sad irony that the brother of the president who “committed the United States to the defense of the free countries of Indochina, was leading the fight to abandon them.”


Vietnam was a civil war that was elevated into an existential attempt to contain the spread of Communism ... without a Congressionally declared war.

As British and French colonial empires collapsed, the US took on the burden of attempting to prevent these newly independent nations from becoming Communist bases of operation.


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