You bring what was to me a startling interpretation of the Nixon plan. The whole feeling that one gets from the media and the [inaudible] there and the guy that basically decided, you know, pull out slowly, the idea matches [inaudible]. How did you come across this? Was this something that you perceived afterwards, or was this something you perceived in the first year? That this was plainly the case, there was no other... How did you arrive at this deduction? That he was determined to win.
Just by what they were doing and what they were saying. I mean because it was clear that if what you wanted to do was simply to get out, get your prisoners back, and give the South Vietnamese a chance to survive on their own, without the certainty that they would survive on their own, that the way to do that was to announce publicly that all American troops would be withdrawn from Vietnam by a certain date, which could have been two years in the future, or three years in the future, or six months away.
And then simply to say, we will of course assume that our prisoners will be returned prior to the completion of the withdrawal, and of course American involvement cannot come to an end until the prisoners have been returned. That position was put to Kissinger, with a substantial amount of vigor, and was not accepted. And he was a sufficiently intelligent person that it was clear that he was not accepting it for reasons that had to do with the effect of that, which was to leave the South Vietnamese in a position where they might well lose, and it was clear to me that he was not, in fact, prepared to do that.
Therefore, the position that he was engaged, the policy that we were engaged in, which was to withdraw the troops without setting a deadline for a total withdrawal, without committing ourselves to a total withdrawal, and in effect, saying that there would be a residual force which we then talked about at 50,000, 60,000 that would remain indefinitely along with the bombing, that, inevitably the North Vietnamese would have to respond to this by an escalation of the fighting, because if they allowed it to happen, if they allowed the war to die down, the casualties to be reduced, while the United States still kept the residual force in the country, then they would be accepting the permanent division of Vietnam, which it was clear to me and I think clear to Kissinger that they would never do unless they, the price was much higher than it then
And, therefore, what you were inevitably inviting, was a stepping up of the war by the North Vietnamese, and a stepping up of the war which would lead to their military victory unless we respond to it, responded to it by military force. Kissinger was getting himself into a box, which was fully explained to him which he fully understood and yet which he and Kissinger, did nothing about and, therefore, if one assumed that they knew what they were doing, one had to assume that they had something very different in mind, which I did assume and then it was clear that everything they did was consistent with this alternative theory of what they were about, and, indeed, I published an article soon after I left the government laying this out.