The Vietnam War: Richard M. Nixon Essay


Richard Nixon is considered one of the most prominent political figures of 20th century. His political career began in 1947 when he was first elected to the House of Representatives. He was strong anti-communist. Nixon always believed on the politics of reconciliation. Here I am explaining his decision making strategies that will further explore his political personality.

Many political thinkers and analysts consider Richard Nixon as a synthesizer. Basically synthesizers have the ability to exert pressure and influence on people around them. They have the ability to understand and see the big picture quickly and find ways to integrate different elements. Such type of leaders has great insight into issues and they have great intelligence level to find solutions and sort out problems. They are considered the leaders of great strategy and vision. 

Richard Nixon is also considered synthesizer who has ability to resolve complex issues. He was detached from emotions which meant that he was less sympathetic. However this trait worked very well in solving complex issues. While mentioning the personal characteristics, Deborah Hart Strober mentioned in his book ‘The Nixon Presidency’ that Nixon was not as attractive physically. However, he was so intense and strong mentally. His mental capabilities made him successful candidate for political activity. His political skills and intelligence were remarkable.

Elizabeth Drew also mentioned in her book ‘Richard M. Nixon’ that Richard Nixon was the most complex man who handled America at the time when America was under most destructive conditions. She further mentioned in her book that President Nixon had very complex relations with Henry Kissinger. And this is what we will see later on in our study. In the study below we will see that Kissinger was the right hand of Nixon who played active role in all decision making processes of Nixon and his administration.

Vietnam War: A National Security Issue and the Policies of Richard Nixon

Vietnam War which is also known as Second Indo China war, Vietnam Conflict or American war was a cold war that occurred in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from 1955 to 1975. This war was fought between communist North Vietnam which were strongly supported by communist allies and the government of Southern Vietnam which was supported by many anti communist nations as well as United States.

As already mentioned, this war started from 1955 to 1975. So, here we will analyze the role, decision making policies and strategies of Richard Nixon in this war. Vietnam war became the national security issue that is of deep concern to American public. This war also created lots of internal disturbances in America same as war on terror did in the recent world.

On January 20, 1969 the situation Richard Nixon inherited was no less than a mess. In fact the situation got worsens as compared to what it was in Lyndon Johnson’s times. Over five lac American troops were stationed in Vietnam. The average strength of American troops killed in Vietnam was 1200 troops per month. As far as domestic opinion about this war is concerned, this was negative throughout America. Many people felt that this war was a big mistake. Some people saw that the fighting and peace talks would go on further and this war would extend for at least 2 or more years. Several pro democratic groups started anti-war campaigns against Nixon government and the war.

For foreign policy, Nixon chose veteran decision makers like William Rogers who had been served in Eisenhower Administration and Melvin Laird who was the former member of US house. Henry Kissinger who was the professor of International Relations in Harvard University was announced as National Security Advisor. Kissinger and Nixon had close ties. So, under Nixon presidency, Henry Kissinger became popular as well as controversial figure among masses.

Nixon Policies on Vietnam Issue:

Due to domestic pressures in Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon realized the fact that the war in Vietnam was not winnable task. There were extreme domestic pressures. Public opinion was also hard and most of the people did not want any further escalation and continuation of war. Over 1,000 American troops were killing each month. 

Second important decision that Nixon’s government made was that unilateral withdrawal was not possible. Such withdraw was not feasible because of the political costs, both international and domestic, that Nixon and his government would face afterward. According to Nixon and his advisors, withdrawal meant political dissolution of Nixon’s government at home. This would obviously weaken the overall political base of Richard Nixon. On the other hand, if America would withdraw it meant the complete loss of American credibility abroad. 

However, it was the fact that political situations were badly tarnished the credibility of Nixon’s government. He did not want to erode his public support. He wanted some sort of strategy that could resolve the issue and brought peace with honor for Nixon and his cabinet. So, the strategy Nixon followed consisted of four major components. His strategy was specially designed by him and his advisors that could meet and satisfy the international as well as domestic pressures.

Important Components of Nixon Strategy:


First important aspect was that the overall rate of American causalities was required to reduce at immediate effect. This was very important to calm down the overall domestic pressures existed on the government. So, Nixon formulated and put forward a policy known as “Vietnamizatin”. The basic purpose of this policy was that South Vietnamese would slowly and steadily assume a greater combat role and finally eliminate the requirement for American ground forces. However, it was the fact that the policy of “Vietnamization” would require enough time. It was slow and steady process. US forces would not withdraw abruptly. Still the main objective of the Nixon government was just to satisfy the masses that the Army of Southern Vietnam would finally handle the war.

Politics of Polarization:

To overcome issue, pressures and maintain support, Nixon had built a more reliable and large support base within the public. As, it was the fact that the democratic coalitions were shattered in 1968 and there were political opportunities. So, Nixon government formulated a specific strategy to exploit the opportunities. The administration pursued “the politics of polarization”. In this policy a specific group including silent majority was developed. The aim of this group was to develop an atmosphere that could further isolate the opponents. Moreover, this group also attempted to paint opponents as extremists. 

The “Madman” Scenario:

Madman theory was especially devised for proper negotiation with North Vietnam government. Basically, it was thought that Henry Kissinger would hold meetings with top representatives of North Vietnam. In these meetings he would highlight the personality of Richard Nixon as an unpredictable figure. He would further mention that Nixon might conduct war if North Vietnamese would interfere in peace talks and if they would hold any further military actions. Kissinger followed the similar theme with American press. Furthermore, Richard Nixon provided a number of examples to give credibility to Kissinger’s claims. For example bombing Cambodia and Hanoi, invading Cambodia etc.

Triangular Diplomacy:

When the situation got bit calm, Nixon pursued geopolitical approach to war. First, Nixon and his government believed that both China and Soviet Union were interested in easing the tensions of cold war. They further wanted to expand the trade relations. However, there were suspicions between Soviet Union and China which gave Nixon an opportunity to press Chinese and Soviets to do business with Americans. Moreover, Nixon government pressurizes both the countries to pursue North Vietnamese to settle down the war.

Actually, Nixon carefully formulated all his policies. He favored those strategies that not only brought domestic peace but that further participated in developing the positive attitude of America internationally. He also wanted to get out America from Vietnam War maintaining his political base as well. Actually his domestic impression could only help in reelection. 

The Silent Majority and the Politics of Polarization:

At the crucial moment of Vietnam event, President Nixon addressed the nation in a television speech from White House. Basically, this speech was designed to convince public on Vietnam War. Moreover, this speech further meant for polarization and to shamble the Democrats. In this speech, President Nixon traced all the history of American involvement in Vietnam. He further mentioned the efforts put forward by his administration since holding office. Nixon also highlighted his policy of Vietnamization. He placed the blame for war continuation on the government and administration of North Vietnam. In the speech he appealed for public support.

Some words of President Nixon from “Silent Majority Speech” are quoted here.

                And so tonight– to you, the great silent majority of my fellow
Americans– I ask for your support.  I pledged in my campaign for
the Presidency to end the war in a way that we could win the peace.
I have initiated a plan of action which will enable me to keep that pledge.
The more support I can have from the American people, the sooner that
pledge can be redeemed; for the more divided we are at home, the less
likely, the enemy is to negotiate at Paris.  Let us be united for peace. Let
us also be united against defeat. Because let us understand: North
Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only
Americans can do that


These statements proved great and worthy for American people. Public reaction to Nixon’s speech was favorable. Among those who were watching this address, 77% approved that Nixon and his administration were handling the war situation. Only 6% disapproved. So, with the help of these mind blowing words, President Nixon had increased his overall support among American public. 

Furthermore, “Silent Majority Speech” was once used to convince public and to increase support base at home. On the other hand this speech was also used as a tool to isolate opponents. One among these opponents was the media. As it was common practice at that time that media conducted various commentaries and analysis. So, Nixon was so frightened. It was his belief that his speech was a milestone and a turning point but still he was worried that biased and instant analysis might turned the opinions and views of people. So, he and his administration decided to take on the organizations for their distorted and biased analysis. The attacks on anti war movements would be expanded including all the networks. Vice President Agnew was leading all the way.

Vice President Agnew also complained about small band of commentators and analysts who subjected the speech of Nixon to quarrelsome criticism and analysis. Agnew further argued that,

Forty-million Americans receive each night is determined by a handful of men responsible to their corporate employers, and filtered through a handful of commentators who admit to their own set of biases.


Agnew further asked that media not only forward distorted news but it also manufactured its own news and biased analysis. He finally argued the power of media as a power in the hands of few unelected elites.

On 20th April, 1970, Nixon addressed the nation through television. In this speech he reviewed his policies in Vietnam and reviewed all the progress that had been made in this regard. He further announced the withdrawal of 150,000 American troops from Vietnam. Since Nixon took office, it was the third largest troop withdrawal. Anyways we can see that Nixon well publicized all his announcements. And this was just to gain political support at home.

After few days passed, Nixon announced another operation and started launching an invasion on Cambodia. At that time the main objective was to wash out sanctuaries within Cambodia. These sanctuaries were used by North Vietnamese infiltrating the south.

Again Nixon made a speech and emphasized the strategic value of this operation. He also emphasized the American credibility in his speech. The president argues,

If, when the chips are down, the world’s most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.

President Nixon further exaggerated his speech and explained the strategic importance of the operation to persuade public. He concluded his address with heart catching words and statements. He mentioned that,

I would rather be a one-term President and do what is right than to be a two-term President at the cost of seeing America become a second-rate power and to see this Nation accept the first defeat in its proud 190-year history.


Finally, the response of public to military action in Cambodia was peculiar. 50% public approved the way Nixon and his administration was handling the issue in Cambodia. However, only 25% public responded that troops must be sent to Cambodia. A public survey poll report mentioned that 59% people said that troops shouldn’t be sent.

The Cambodian decision triggered firestorm of protest among public. Most public protests were held at university places. These anti war protests turned into violent public demonstrations. About 450 colleges and universities went on total strike. Ronald Reagan who was Governor at that time closed the entire college and university system in California. 

On the other hand building trades and construction workers staged series and demonstrations in support of Richard Nixon. Furthermore, the remainder of 1970s was the continuation of Vietnamization policy. By the end of the following year, there were about 3 hundred thousand 35 thousand American troops left behind in Vietnam. Moreover, the casualty rate came down from 1200 per month to 344 per month.

Richard Nixon Rebounds Diplomacy, Wars and ReelectionAs already mentioned, the policy of Vietnamization continued in 1970s. By the end of 1971, Nixon announced that 100,000 troops would be withdrawn form Vietnam. In the beginning of 1972, another 45,000 troops would be withdrawn. Moreover, by the end of 1971, the number of causalities also decreased to 123 per month.

“Blockbuster” Policy Announcement by Nixon

Nixon and his administration also developed blockbuster policy announcement in 1971. On May 2o, he announced in a speech that Soviet Union and United States had reached to an agreement. Both of they would limit anti ballistic missiles and strategic arms. Moreover, on July 15, Nixon announced that government had made conclusions in secret meetings with People Republic of China.

Here are some illustrations that will further explore how the number of US troops reduced in Vietnam with the passage of time in Nixon’s government.



Further, the figure below demonstrates the monthly average reduction of American casualties in Vietnam.



In 1972, President Nixon also made a landmark trip to China. There he met with Mao Tse- Tung and conducted negotiations on different issues. This meeting was held to bring optimistic approach between two countries and to calm down the situation.

President Nixon then visited Soviet Union. There he signed historic SALTI treaty. So, the Russia and China initiatives boosted Richard Nixon’s public support. He was considered a strong position for 1972 reelection campaign. Actually some events of 1971 declined and bottom out Nixon’s support among masses like Cambodian Incursion. But 1972 peace agreements reversed this decline and placed his support on an upward direction. The illustration below described the public support for President Nixon among masses.



Finally, the negotiations brought considerable out put for Nixon and his administration. Nixon won the next presidential elections with 520 electoral votes. On the other hand, his opponent only got 17 electoral votes. So, Nixon strategies and policies brought considerable change which was positive for him and his administration. 


In the above mentioned policies, events and strategies, we may see that reconciliation was the primary goal of Nixon policies. During presidency, Richard Nixon succeeded in ending American fighting in Vietnam plus he also improved relations with China and USSR. Furthermore, there were several major events brought weight and credit for Richard Nixon. These generally include the 1969- Moon Landing, 1970- Postal Service Reorganized, 1973- Vietnam War Ends, 1972- New Economic Policy, 1972- Visit to China and 1972- Summit Conference.


George W. Bush was the 43rd president of US who served from 2001 to 2009. Bush president ship is considered most critical by many thinkers and political analysts because of the incident of 9/11. On September 11, 2001, more than one brutal terrorist attacks occurred. And this was the time when President Bush announced global War on Terrorism. Bush and his administration considered this issue as an important concern for the national security of America. Bush and his administration ordered an invasion in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to issues related to national security, Bush and his administration also promoted policies on health care, economy, social security and education.

In 2004, Bush successfully ran for reelection against John Kerry, a Democratic Senator. It is a fact that bush and his administration faced bitter criticism from liberals and conservatives on his various policies. Bush and his administration more focused on economy other than war on terror. This was just to preserve the financial system of United States. Bush popularity badly declined in his second term because of his war policies all around Muslim world. 

In this paper I am explaining all the policies and strategies of Bush government in detail. Moreover, his domestic, economic and foreign policies are also critically analyzed and explained. 

Presidential Campaigns:

In June 1999, bush announced his candidacy for president of US. At that time he was the Governor of Texas. So, Bush entered in the list of prominent and strong candidates of Republican Party.

Bush portrayed himself as sympathetic and concerned conservative in his early presidential campaigns. He ensured improved level of education, cutting taxes and aiding minorities if he would be elected as president. By early 2000, the race of president ship focused and centered on McCain and Bush. Bush continued his campaign across the country. At last Bush won the elections receiving 271 electoral votes against 266.

Bush campaigned in a proper way with proper and carefully devised strategies. Karl Rove designed the political strategy of Bush government. Bush and his Republican administration included strong commitments on Afghanistan and Iraq wars. These wars were strongly criticized by conservatives.

Bush held his office as a president on January 20, 2001. Although he originally outlined domestic agenda but the circumstances of 9/11 totally diverted his attention and intentions. So, his rating among public steadily declined throughout his presidency. Moreover, his disapproval number increased at great rate.

Domestic Policy:

Here I am briefly explaining the domestic policies, carried out by George Bush and his administration form January 20, 2001 to January 20, 2009. Moreover, public reaction, domestic pressures, limitations and handling of issues by Bush administration are also discussed here.

After the incident of September 11, 2001, Bush administration proposed a series of laws in prosecuting the “War on terror”. These laws were further approved by Congress. However, they were strongly condemned by civil interest groups. These civil interest groups criticized these new regulations and considered as hurdles for civil liberties.

In early 2001, President George W. Bush worked hardly with Republicans. He changed the way federal government funded and taxed non-profit religious organizations. According to new policy, the reporting requirements were removed as received by federal assistance in prior case. Now, the organization is required to separate its charitable functions from religious ones. Bush also created faith based and Community Initiative office. This office was created to assist such organizations. However, many critics and civil right interest groups mentioned that this initiative was just to create a separation of church and state.

President Bush had always been opposed of same sex marriages. He did Federal Marriage Amendments. According to these amendments, same sex couples were not allowed to gain any legal recognition. Bush expressed lots of support for this amendment. However, it was a fact that he even did not receive majority support in Senate. He totally ignored the issue in most of his public speeches and statements. 

During Bush presidency, African- Americans also increased at great rate. In his first term, he appointed Colin Powell as Secretary of State. Colin Powell was first African-American man who was serving this position. He was succeeded by Condoleezza Rice. She was also an African- American lady serving this position. So, President Bush placed a specific position in the hearts and minds of African-Americans living in United States. 

Bush government also did remarkable efforts for science and technology. He placed the base of National Science Foundation and doubled its overall budget. He further created new science and mathematics education initiatives at college and under graduate levels. Actually in initial stages, Bush government was strongly criticized that it was ignoring or suppressing scientific education. So, Bush showed great support for space exploration and oceanography. Moreover, he also supported sciences on pollution reduction. However, still Bush was strongly opposed on Biology and human reproduction. Yet, he further conducted research on stem cell research and space exploration. However, Bush government withdrew their support from Kyoto Protocol. This protocol was devised for global warming and climate change. Furthermore, Bush administration also passed the clear skies Act 2003. The main objective behind this act was the reduction of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions.

Foreign policy

Bush administration included strong economic and political support with Latin America in their foreign policy as mentioned in ‘The Foreign Policy of George W. Bush: values, strategy and loyalty by Alexander Moens. Bush and his administration further included the reduction of involvements in nation building and small scale military engagemnets. However, after September 11, 2001, the world scenerio completely changed and Bush administration launched War on terrorism. In this war United States military and an international Coalition worked together and invaded afghanistan. Moreover, in 2003, bush launched invasion in Iraq. This invasion was also described as war on terrorism. 

These invasions resulted in terrible and drastic results. Hundred thousands to over million innocent people were died in these invasions. Moreover, in Afghanistan, Taliban regime was toppled plus Saddam Hussain was also removed in Iraq. Ten of thousand civilians were also died in Afghanistan.

Still, Bush followed an aggressive policy and continued his War on Terror. He also began his second term in the same way improving relations with western and European nations. Muslims were badly treated in that era with imposition of wars one after the other in Muslim Nations.

In 2006, Bush also visited India to renew the ties of relations between two countries. His visit was focused on the areas related to nuclear energy and cooperation in counter terrorism. This attitude was quite contradictory when we compare it from Clinton’s attitude for India in 1998. Cliton brought about several sanctions for India in his regime. So, Bush tenure brought improved relations between India and united States. Furthermore, in second term, many critics observed that Bush had changed his policies towards oil rich countries.

9/11 A National Security Issue: Bush Policies and Presidency

The attacks of September 11, 2001 brought turning point in Bush administration, strategies and Presidency. In his address that evening, he clearly mentioned his nation that his administration would react in a strong way against attacks. He futher emphasized the need for nation to be unite in the hardship and comfort the families of victims. 

On september 14, while addressing an informal gathering, Bush mentioned in hard tone that,

I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.


In September 20, Bush finally condemned Osama Bin Laden for all the mishap and issued an ultimatum to Taliban Regime and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Bush ordered an attack on Afghanistan to throw off Taliban regime.

Furthermore, in 2002, American think tanks also mentioned some perceived threats. They mentioned ‘axis of evil’ including Iraq, Iran and North Korea as growing danger for world peace. So, Bush administration launched a preventive war against these countries. This war was just because of perceived threats. All this strategy is also known as ‘Bush Doctrine’ in more technical terms. So, we can say that Bush Doctrine was the mixture of War on Terror, allegations on ‘Axis of evil’ and preventive war strategy. However, this strategy weaken the levels of Bush support at domestic as well as International level. Many Muslim countries were also against and strongly condemned Bush policies especially regarding War on Terror. It was also concluded that Bush and his administration raged a war against Muslims. Some critics and analysts also concluded this war as ‘West vs Rest’ and Rest included all the prominent Muslim nations.

Bob Woodward has mentioned in his book ‘Plan of Attack’ that President Bush convinced all the groups for war against terrorism. He clearly mentioned the importance of war in cabinet meetings in the White House Situation Room and the Oval Office, and in private conversation; Dick Cheney, the focused and driven vice president; Colin Powell, the conflicted and cautious secretary of state; Donald Rumsfeld, the controlling war technocrat; George Tenet, the activist CIA director; Tommy Franks, the profane and demanding general; Condoleezza Rice, the ever-present referee and national security adviser; Karl Rove, the hands-on political strategist; other key members of the White House staff and congressional leadership; and foreign leaders ranging from British Prime Minister Blair to Russian President Putin.

Bush Policies in Afghanistan:

Bush and his administration had very hard policies regarding Afghanistan, Taliban and Al-Qaida. On October 7, 2001, United States and Australian forces initiated bombing campaigns on Afghanistan. Later on, Northern Alliance also became the part of this brutal act of continuous bomning campaigns. The main objective behind all this Bush activity was just to capture key AL-Qaidan leaders and to defeat Taliban in Afghanistan. In December 2001, White House reported that Taliban had been defeated.

However, it was the fact that Bush administration was failed in capturing al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden who had been escaped in mountains of Tora Bora. Actually Bush administration was failed to provide enough ground troops in that area. 

In 2006, Taliban insurgency appeared in fiercer, better organized and at larger scale. US forces attained only limited success in 2006. after that Bush administration formulated new policy against Talibans and commissioned additional troops in 2007.

Bush policies in Iraq:

As already mentioned, Bush administration labeled Iraq as a part of an ‘axis of evil’. Bush posed Iraq as a growing and great danger to United States interests. He alleged that Iraq was the possession of weapons that would be further used for mass destruction. Bush administration always manipulated as well as exaggerated the threats. This was the main point that became the major point of criticism for president and his administration at domestic as well as international level.

In the end of 2002 and in the beginning of 2003, Bush forced United Nations to force Iraqi disarmament. This precipitaed a diplomatic crisis. In November 2002, UN weapons inspectors went to Iraq. Howver, they were soon forced to depart the country because of expected US military invasion in Iraq. A UN Security Council Resolution authorized the use of force in Iraq. However, UN final approval was dropped because of Vigorous opposition from several other countries.

It was a fact that there was strong opposition against wasr in Iraq and it was not approved by UN as well. Still, more than 20 countries joined hand and formed the coalition of the willing. Finally, on March 20, 2003, US and allied forced took an invasion on Iraq. The Iraqi force was quickly defeated. The capital, Baghdad, was crushed down by American forces. On May 1, Bush and his administration declared an end to major operations. This initial success increased the popularity of Bush. However, US allied forces were continuously facing insurgency in Iraq by different groups. Bush’s well known speech ‘Mission Accomplished’ was also criticized at domestic as well as international level. Most of the people considered this speech quite immature. Later on, the conditions in Iraq were completely deteriorated. Bush policies were met with strong criticism all over the world. 

Domestically, it was demanded that Bush administration should highlight and set a proper time table or framework for troops withdraw from Iraq. Bush also admitted the fact that there were some strategic mistakes that caused deterioration and instability for long run. However, he also mentioned that he would never change the overall policy in Iraq.

On January 2001, Bush addressed nation form White House regarding all the prevailing situation in Iraq. In his speech he clearly announced that more troops would be required there. Domestically, it was strongly condemned but Bush insisted that US presence is crucial in Iraq. 

After 2008, stability got increased in Iraq. American forces withdraw at great rate. Moreover some new developments came forth because of stability. These included legislative achievements in Iraq, pension law, new budget, amnesty law and provincial power measures. Moreover, the death of American troops were also reached to lowest number. Bush further announced the withdrawal of more forces. This withdrawal was carried out after proper consensus between Pentagon and White House.


President’s survelliance program was devised by an executive order issued by Bush. According to this program NSA would monitor all the communications between suspected terrorists outside US. Bush also authorized CIA to use enhanced interrogation policies. Bush also considered North Korea as one among ‘axis of evil’ and mentioned that,

the United Staes of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.


Domestic and Foreign Perceptions of Bush Policies:

Bush began his presidency with 50% approval. After 9/11 he promised his nation that he would strongly respose against this attack. This had increased his overall ratings up to 85%. However, his further handling of economic, foreign and domestic issues steadily declined his approval rating internationally as well as domestically. For last three years, public support was greatly decreased and the credibility of Bush governmnet was badly tarnished. This credibilty dropped up to 19%. 

On the other hand the foreign perception of President Bush was also unfavorable. A global sampling in 2005 concluded that the president reelection had negative impact on security and peace. Many countries concluded Bush administration as negative for world peace and security. In Islamic countries, opinions about Bush and his administration were even stronger and comparatively higher. Some Muslim countries even rated 90% negative approach against President Bush.

The only countries favored Bush policies were those allied in war against Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, more than 50% people in India, Philippines and Israel favored Bush and his policies.


Finally, we can conclude that Bush policies gave a drastic turn to overall policies of the world. His political decisions really affected the whole Muslim world. Moreover, his own profile and rating decreased at great level in the end of his rule and this was just because of his inhuman acts and policies on various Islamic nations. His drastic decisions badly tarnished his credibility all over the world.


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