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View Full Version : Watergate & the fall of South Vietnam (unintended consequences)



Ironduke
20 Jan 11,, 06:03
I would like to generate a discussion on the unintended consequences of the Watergate scandal with and the completion of the takeover of South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in and after 1975.

The United States and much of the world was transfixed by the news coverage of the Watergate scandal of 1974. With public and political attention firmly drawn to the scandal, how much of an impetus do you think this gave to North Vietnam to complete its takeovers?

Also, is anybody aware of any historical documents (Soviet, Chinese, North Vietnamese) that offer any proof to encouragement of North Vietnam's actions in and after 1975?

Bigfella
20 Jan 11,, 07:29
I would like to generate a discussion on the unintended consequences of the Watergate scandal with and the completion of the takeover of South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in and after 1975.

The United States and much of the world was transfixed by the news coverage of the Watergate scandal of 1974. With public and political attention firmly drawn to the scandal, how much of an impetus do you think this gave to North Vietnam to complete its takeovers?

Also, is anybody aware of any historical documents (Soviet, Chinese, North Vietnamese) that offer any proof to encouragement of North Vietnam's actions in and after 1975?

Ironduke,

Top of my head is that It didn't make much difference. A small amount, but not enough to change the outcome.

The DRV took about 3-4 years to rebuild after Tet & the same after the '72 Easter Offensive. Even before the ink was dry in Paris the PAVN was setting up infrastructure in the occupied parts of the RVN for the next big push. If I recall correctly the plan was to make a few smaller moves in late '74, grind the RVN down throughout '75 & finally seal the deal in '76.

The DRV leadership was certainly aware of the politically weakened state of the Nixon/Ford administation. Watergate & its linkages to Vietnam simply made an unpopular conflict positively toxic - to those who opposed the war & some who had been neutral or supportive it was further evidence that the war was a cancer on the US body politic. Watergate certainly made it harder for the US to support the RVN, but I've never been convinced that anything short of direct & sustained intervention would have saved the Sth. Had there been some sort 1972-style intervention from he air by the US in 1974-75 the whole thing would have been longer & more costly, but the DRV was prepared for a much more costly struggle than it got. The speed with which the RVN collapsed was as much a surprise in Hanoi as it was in Saigon & Washington.

I'll do some digging over the next few weeks & see if I can come up with some more concrete stuff. Documents would be interesting. I'm always a bit wary of accounts of Nth Vietnamese officers & politicians , especially ex post facto because they tend to misunderstand democracy & take particular glee in what they percive as American 'weakness', in contrast to their own 'resolve'.

Red Seven
20 Jan 11,, 22:10
I agree, I don't think Nixon's political troubles at home gave Hanoi much pause. Why? Because at the time US ground combat forces had already been withdrawn and America was in the process of trying to wash its hands of the entire mess. I don't think Hanoi could have mistaken our withdrawal as a feint...and therefore wasn't taking advantage of any domestic US political scandal in '74. As Bigfella has pointed out, the '72 Easter Offensive had taken some wind out of the NVA's sails and it took them some time to reorganize.

JAD_333
20 Jan 11,, 23:15
I doubt the question will ever be resolved to anyone's satisfaction because Nixon, who had pledged to intervene if the North invaded the South in violation of the Paris peace accords, was out of office when the North invaded. Some might argue that had Watergate not forced Nixon to resign, he might have kept his pledge. But it's not likely because by then other events would have made any intervention extremely unpopular here. By then, Americans were repulsed by the My Lai massacre, the leak of the Pentagon Papers, revelation of the secret bombing of Cambodia and a rush of other revelations. They simply had no stomach for sending troops to rescue the bumbling South Vietnamese army. On a personal note, I began opposing the war the moment it became obvious the US wasn't trying to win it, but I was embarrassed by our complete abandonment of the South Vietnamese despite our pledge to intervene. It was a dark day for the US.

Shek
21 Jan 11,, 04:09
Nixon and Kissinger's hands were already tied by Congress on Vietnam by the time Watergate rolled in. Congress was undoing the imperial presidency, and Watergate simply hastened that.