The Best Book on the Subject of Nixon’s Vietnam Exit Strategy

Saturday 20 June, 2009 at 3:47 pm Ken 0

It’s this puppy:

The Vietnam War Files: Uncovering the Secret History of Nixon-Era Strategy by Jeffrey Kimball. 

Among those of us who study Richard Nixon’s “decent interval” exit strategy for Vietnam, Jeffrey Kimball is The Guy. 

Let me guess: You’ve never heard of him.

In a just world, you would have read a review of this book in the The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Time, Newsweek and every other publication that prides itself on informing its readers about books that shatters historical myths, books that not only address questions that come up repeatedly in discussions of current of events, but actually answer them. Books that expose the fraud perpetrated on the American people by ruthless politicians who put their ambitions over the lives of American soldiers. 

The reviews would have praised Kimball for his careful examination of the Nixon White House tapes and foreign policy documents that had been released in the years prior to its publication. They would have noted that the evidence showed that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger did indeed adopt a “decent interval” exit strategy, one that allowed them to falsely claim in public that they had succeeded in rendering South Vietnam capable of defending and governing itself even as they privately acknowledged that their policies would just delay Communist military victory for a year or two after Nixon withdrew the last American troops. 

It’s not like the book got bad reviews in the newspapers. It got no reviews in the newspapers. 

Kimball’s previous book on the subject, Nixon’s Vietnam War, did get a favorable review in the Washington Post

Kimball’s invaluable diplomatic history . . . details Nixon’s failure to get the results he wanted from the North Vietnamese — people with a few myths of their own — at the negotiating table, in spite of his adherence to the “madman” theory, a poker player’s view of international relations in which one allows opponents to believe one is erratic, crazy and ideologically driven enough to actually use maximum, even nuclear, force, even at the risk of self-destruction, in order to scare them into line. But Nixon’s solipsism was so great that he was willing to bomb Vietnam to fit his own vision. And he was willing to drop bombs in order to distract from his failures, a trait apparently shared by more than one president. . . . what makes this study particularly credible is the thoughtful and comprehensive use of wide-ranging sources: academic, military, historical, political, journalistic and personal, and particularly the inclusion of many Vietnamese sources, so that the reader gets a global picture of the subject.

All the good things Wayne Karlin wrote in this January 10, 1999, review are even more true of The Vietnam War Files, which benefits from the avalanche of Nixon White House tapes and foreign policy documents that were released after Nixon’s Vietnam War. 

The ultra-sharp reporter will try to have a copy of this next to her computer for ease of reference as she writes up the release of the January and February 1973 Nixon tapes on June 23, 2009. 


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