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Robert Jervis poses the question as of why the Nixon administration did not make more forceful use of the crucial concession of allowing North Vietnamese forces to stay in South Vietnam in order to placate the domestic critics of the war. This is indeed a puzzle, and a puzzle I am currently working on as a graduate student in my thesis on the relationship between the Nixon administration and the Thieu regime. In addition to the points that have already been made, I would like to add some reasons why it would probably not have been a good idea to publicize the concession in the period between May 31, 1971, and the summer of 1972. Let me first note that although the administration did not push the fact that they had given in on the question of mutual withdrawal, the change in negotiation positions should have been evident to all careful observers, at least after Nixon's speech of January 25, 1972. The proposal of October 7, 1970, contained provisions for a "cease-fire-in-place", which in it self signaled that the administration was moving away from the concept of mutual withdrawal; Nixon did not mention the withdrawal of North Vietnamese forces in his televised address of April 7, 1971; in the American press spokesman's briefing to the press after the Paris session of May 6, 1971, the spokesman answered affirmatively when asked if he could "foresee any kind of circumstances in which all American forces will be withdrawn from South Vietnam and some North Vietnamese will still be there?" The NSC aide Richard Smyser was amazed the press did not follow up on the exchange, nor in general pushed the U.S. about the inconsistencies of the Nixon-administration's negotiating positions.(1) The provisions of the proposal of January 25 are furthermore so clear that I am a little puzzled by the fact that anyone could miss the concession. The question is therefore why the Nixon administration chose not to emphasize the concession in their public posture. In the records I have analyzed there are no signs of the Nixon administration actually considering such a strategy. (I studied the Files for the National Security Council in the Nixon Presidential Materials Project at NARA, College Park in February-April 2002). It is therefore possible that the thought of applying the strategy simply did not occur to the principal decision makers. If they had looked seriously into pursuing a strategy of using the concession to rally domestic support at least three major obstacles would, however, have surfaced. The first is that, at least before January 1972, Thieu would probably have been deeply upset to hear the administration state publicly that they would be prepared to let the NVA stay in South Vietnam, as they had not discussed this concession thoroughly even with him at that time. The second is the impact such statements would have had on Thieu's hawkish critics in Saigon, which would have been especially devastating had they been made in the fall of 1971 when the Presidential "election" in South Vietnam already caused Thieu enough problems. The third is that by publicly stressing that the administration had dropped the demand for mutual withdrawal they would have made it obvious to the anti-war critics that the only thing standing in the way of a negotiated peace was the administration's refusal to overthrow Thieu. Although Thieu on balance was kept reasonably well informed of the substance and timing of most of the secret meetings, this was not the case with the talks on May 31, 1971. Rather it seems like Kissinger in this instance set out to deliberately misinform Thieu.(2) It is possible that Nixon/Kissinger wanted to wait with informing Thieu until it could be done directly at a planned Midway-meeting between the two Presidents. The Midway-meeting was, however, cancelled, and instead Kissinger traveled to Saigon in July 1971 where he among other things briefed Thieu on his talks with the North Vietnamese. But neither in the meeting of July 4,(3) nor in subsequent meetings between Thieu and key American decision makers was the question of the status of the NVA discussed in a thorough and frank manner. Thieu's apparent lack of concern for the disappearance of the demand for mutual withdrawal, may indicate that he knew that the U.S. had abandoned this goal, and when reviewing the records of this period one does get the impression that both Thieu and the American officials were interested in glazing over this possible cause of conflict between the allies. If the administration were to push the concession in public they would have had to coordinate a lot better with Thieu, possibly risking a public fall-out like the one Johnson experienced after the announcement of the bombing halt. If one is to judge by the flurry of cables between the American Embassy in Saigon and the White House prior to Nixon making the secret talks public on January 25, 1972, and the crisis in the relationship between Saigon and Washington that occurred after the October 1972-agreement, close, frank and thorough coordination with Thieu was not always easy. The internal political situation in South Vietnam would also have made the Nixon administration apprehensive about the possible drawbacks of publicizing the concession too much. Apart from the war-weary critics of Thieu's government, there were also important segments that thought Thieu and the Americans did not do enough to win the war against the communists. The fear that the U.S. would abandon its South Vietnamese ally, would probably had flourished in the wake of a clear-cut statement about the NVA's right to stay in the south after a peace agreement. This would undoubtedly have weakened Thieu: if Thieu had gone along with the proposal he could have faced criticism for selling out the GVN, if he had protested the initiative he would have risked severing the ties to Washington or the appearance thereof. As part of Thieu's internal power base was the support the U.S. was giving his regime the mere semblance of a break with the Nixon administration could have had grave adverse effects on his standing in Saigon. Even in politically favorable periods in Saigon, focusing on a concession of this magnitude would have been risky. Doing so in the fall of 1971-early 1972 could have been devastating, as the period was so turbulent that Kissinger felt it necessary to instruct Bunker "that any encouragement in the direction of possible coup either direct or indirect be scrupulously avoided."(4) It was not even given that the strategy of pressing the solution to the military issue in public would have had the desired effect on the administration's anti-war critics. This is speculation on my part, but it seems to me that if had Nixon removed the military issue from the American political agenda altogether, there is a strong possibility that the focus could have shifted to the political issue without necessarily alleviating the pressures to end the war. This could in turn have led the "doves" to actually demand that Nixon ouster Thieu, severely limiting Washington's chances to leave Thieu with at least a fighting chance after a negotiated peace. All of this is of course terribly counter-factual, as all discussions over courses not even considered tends to be. Yet, I do think that the above goes some way in trying to illuminate why pressing the concession in public would not have been a quick fix. Although the Nixon administration could have taken steps to make the strategy work, the risks were too great at least before they had gotten an agreement with the communists. Lars Julin Graduate Student University of Oslo, Norway (1) The quote and Smyser's comments are found in: Memorandum, Richard Smyser to Kissinger, 1971-05-07, Sensitive Camp David Vol 7, Box 853, For the President's Files Lord Vietnam Negotiations, NSC Series, Files for the National Security Council, Nixon Presidential Papers, NACP (2) See for example: Cable, Kissinger to Bunker, 1971-05-71, Midway Trip -- June 8 1971, Box 103, Country Files Far East Vietnam, HAK Series, Files for the National Security Council, Nixon Presidential Papers, NACP (3) Memorandum of Conversation, Thieu, Kissinger, Bunker, Lord, 1971-07-04, MemCon Kissinger Amb. Bunker Pres. Thieu July 4 1971, Box 1025, PresidentialHak MemCons, NSC Series, Files for the National Security Council, Nixon Presidential Papers, NACP (4) Cable, Kissinger to Bunker, 1971-09-14, Bunker Exercise, Box 103, Country Files Far East Vietnam, HAK Series, Files for the National Security Council, Nixon Presidential Papers, NACP