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tv   The Presidency  CSPAN  April 25, 2015 2:10pm-4:01pm EDT

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partnership. david is responsible for 12 billion documents. some 43 million pages of wish he left at the nixon library in california. which is his facility. and we have the people who created the documents. if you're old enough to remember warned beatty -- warren beatty in the movie "shampoo," he has the hair and we have the documents. we have done over 30 of these. and i've helped produce of them. since my experience on nixon's staff was on the domestic side and that did not include foreign affairs. we stumbled upon a brilliant and helpful counterpart at it is my pleasure to introduce. that is kt mcfarland. you know kt as a fox analyst. everybody has to start somewhere. kathy troia started as a typist on the graveyard shift when she
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was a sophomore at george washington university. kt: i was a freshman. geoffrey: my facts are wrong. she grew in stature and importance under nixon. under president reagan, she was a contributing member of the national security council. she has kindly conceded to moderate. and in that particular series, this is a third wind. -- this is the third one. and it is very happy to introduce kt. thank you. kt: thank you. i want to add thanks to all of us from the nixon-kissinger community, the importance of doing this. the documents are one thing but to hear from the people who made history is a great addition not only to the nation's knowledge
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but the next generation of americans who will have to grapple. sometimes with the very same issues. as geoff pointed out, this the third in a series. we covered -- to cover so far have been the reorganization in structure and sudden diplomacy and china. five years of the nixon administration were a fruitful time in foreign policy, many called in the golden age of diplomacy. this one is going to focus on the vietnam war, negotiations and the paris peace accords. it was one of the biggest and most intractable problems that nixon faced when he walked in the door and took office. it is difficult today in 2014 to comprehend the vietnam war. the country had already -- was already on the edge because of the kennedy and martin luther
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king assassinations. the vietnam war exacerbated those tensions. and the draft meant every family was affected. we had over half a million american troops halfway around the world in a war we cannot seem to win but we do not know how to end. there were demonstrations across the nation. young man burned their draft cards. risking prison. some fled to canada to avoid going to war. as the war dragged on, the antiwar sentiment crept across the country. dividing family and friends. lyndon johnson, who was the president, had no choice but to withdraw for reelection. as vice president hubert humphrey read in his dead -- ran in his stead. in november 1968, richard nixon became president and inherited a full-scale war in southeast asia. the war went on to become one of the seminal events of the 20th century. ultimately, 50,000 americans
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lost their lives. it shaped military leaders and leaders. joining us today are the men who made history. they helped end the vietnam war and they helped hammer out the paris peace accords. i want to introduce william smyser. he served in germany with u.s. forces. including as a witness to the berlin crisis in 1961, the beginning of the cold war. he was an advisor in 1969 and became a senior member of kissinger's national security council. he was responsible for vietnam affairs. and was involved in the historic opening to china. after leaving in 1971, he served as political advisor and became deputy high commissioner for refugees and he is now a professor at georgetown university. next is winston lord.
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he was one of kissinger's closest advisers. he worked on every aspect of foreign policy including the opening to china, arms control negotiations, peace talks. winston went on to become president of the council of foreign relations and assistant secretary of state and u.s. ambassador to china in which he helped develop a diplomat relations. john negroponte was an officer in saigon in the late 1960's before joining the delegation. he was at the first paris peace talks. he went on to work on the -- nsc, and accompanied them on a trip to the soviet union. he later served as ambassador to honduras, mexico, and iraq. he was also an assistant
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secretary of state and secretary and most famously known as the first director of national intelligence after the september 11 attacks. i want to turn to the effectiveness of the national security staff. kissinger established one of the most successful steps in history. that was very small by today's standards. in the kissinger era, there were probably 35 members and equal number of support staff. compare that today to about 1700. the kissinger staff, they went on to dominate a generation of american diplomacy. as i mentioned, these men went on to other positions. i want to get back to the beginning and get the personal
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story from each of you. how did henry kissinger who was looking for the most brilliant people, how did he find you? professor smyser: i am not sure i was brilliant but i got to know him and i was doing graduate studies at harvard. later when he came to washington to work on the national security, he knew i was there and so he asked me to join him. kt: had you been in vietnam before? professor smyser: i had been with kissinger in vietnam when he went to vietnam at the request of lbj to see what the situation was. i was the control officer. controlling henry kissinger was -- [laughter] >> an oxymoron. professor smyser: oxymoron. i didn't and tried to give the best possible introduction to
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vietnam including -- [indiscernible] and others. the point was that was where i first met him on vietnam. kt: the two of you were in vietnam before kissinger came in before next was elected and -- before nixon was elected and that's when you met him. >> that is correct. we were in saigon. i was recording officer and i carried a particular area and when henry came out, i was assigned the task of taking get to the northern part which is called in -- that is how i got to know henry and then i went to the paris peace talks as you mentioned and i was recruited.
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kt: i do not know if it destroyed not but there's a story when kissinger was in saigon, you had some incidents. john: indeed. he was there as an advisor. on one of his last days there was november 1, the anniversary, there was a big parade and site -- in saigon and my apartment overlooks the parade route. i had champagne breakfast. and when henry came, dick brought him up to my apartment. when he got up there, he realized he lost his wallet. he lost his white house pass. [laughter] professor smyser: we took him to a cabaret. kt: is this a story we can say? is it a pg story? professor smyser: of course.
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the idea was he wanted to meet some characters that were not in political office. we took him there and he got up to the bar and a young lady of uncertain background came up to meet him. and rather clutched him tightly. and he turned to me and said i think i have been discovered. [laughter] professor smyser: that was a pretty thorough briefing. kt: i do not know how you will top that one. winston: i was working in the pentagon in 1968. the first person kissinger asked to join him in 1969 was him to
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help rearrange the system which we talked about in another form of. moore asked him. i was interviewed by henry for half an hour and it went pretty well. i started out with moore doing 2 things. one was, putting it under the nes system. we would put together the agenda is, the briefings, and the implementation and decisions after the meetings. the other was a mini policy planning staff for we sent him memos looking to the future and ring -- ticket. -- playing devils advocate. the idea i was doing that the first year on the staff in 1969, i sent henry several memos some which were critical. this is the point that henry does like yes men or yes women. i caught his attention to these memos.
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in february of 1970, i was very fortunate because i did not have expertise like these guys on the vietnam, others on china, others on the middle east. he wanted one person with him at all times with these developments so we could have a global perspective. the impact with relations on china and russia and on. i got to participate in all of these initiatives. and i was with the real experts. professor smyser: henry said he has the fastest anpen in the west. kt: let us state the stage for history. when nixon took off we were in war. what was the context?
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why were we in vietnam? professor smyser: the french wanted us to be in there and we did not want to be as involved as they wanted to. they asked us to drop an atomic bomb when it was surrounded by vietnamese troops. eisenhower refused to do that. he said we are not going to get involved with the war. we were very cautious, particularly under eisenhower, about anything that had to do with indochina. then john kennedy became president. kennedy felt even though he didn't want to drop a bomb either, he was more ready to practice what they called warfare. counterinsurgency. one of his ideas was vietnam was the place to practice.
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to practice what he thought was going to be the new american doctrine, which would win these wars and counterinsurgency was the thing. kt: where were we when president johnson was in office? what happened? professor smyser: by the late 1960's, it became clear that counterinsurgency could not win the war. the north vietnamese kept sending troops in and counterinsurgency couldn't defeat them because we didn't have the means to do that. so we had to send in american truce. kt: you were in saigon at the time. john: i was there from 1968-1969. what you had was hanoi decided in 1964, maybe late 1963 to overthrow. they couldn't win the war just by political means alone and they had to ratchet up the level of violence.
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let's have no doubt about it, it was to reunify the country. they introduced north vietnamese troops. by the time we left, the administration from johnson to nixon, we had 510,000 troops. winston: it was more than that. about 550,000. john: there was something like 10 regular divisions in vietnam. this insurgency in 1969 evolved. large-scale escalation. kt: that's mission creep. it started as a small scale counterinsurgency. professor smyser: i would call it mission escalation. john: it is also a demonstration. the north vietnamese, poor as
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they were, we are prepared to go to just about any less to achieve their objectives. kt: what was happening in the united states at the time? 1969 he comes into office, what was nixon thinking when he took the oath of office about vietnam? winston: there was some foreshadowing in an article he wrote that suggested opening in china and also asia generally and after vietnam. no matter how it came out, we were going to look like we lost or one or in between. during the campaign he gave suggestions of a strategy, no actual secret plan, which people seem to think happened. he didn't say that. when he got into office, it was the most urgent issue he had to face.
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it was clear that he was up between this tremendous domestic turmoil and this escalating threat and american involvement in southeast asia. he was caught in between his desire to get out and the intransigence in the military power of north vietnam. yet a real dilemma. you got to the context he inherited in judging how well he and kissinger did. it was a very tough challenge. the first thing they did was to reissue a memorandum to all of the agencies, gathering every conceivable type of information that we could from the state department, the cia, the pentagon, the military development -- every conceivable aspect we could collect information. i was in charge of helping to collect at this. i was orchestrating it.
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one of the people i worked with went on -- he went on to become a real job or not. -- he was a hawk at the time, he went on to be a dove later. we assembled that in order to have nixon and kissinger make up their minds on what kind of strategy they wanted to pursue. they probably had ideas before the study. all of the information helped to shape it. one option they had, look, the democrats did this. kennedy and johnson, it's not our fault. we are just going to get our prisoners back and get the hell out. nixon rejected that because our position in the world of sacrifice and credibility of america and its allies and what it would do to our world position. the other was incredible escalation trying to force north vietnam to be more reasonable. i think nixon and kissinger felt domestic support for the war would not be under those
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circumstances. they chose a middle passage which they felt was a way to get an honorable and into the war. it consisted of two main elements into supporting elements. one was to successfully turn over to the south vietnamese this would take several years, training and supplies and would have them take in the u.s. would be able to withdraw successes segments. they had to realize they had a sense of urgency. above all, it would maintain support and the united states of continuing involvement. people can see the proverbial light at end of the tunnel. second main element was negotiations.
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we stayed aside and had to be done secretly in order to be possible success. there's no other way to get others involved, propaganda exercises so had to be a secret. supporting elements was china and russia. the 2 major patrons. to improve relations with them to isolate psychologically hanoi. at least the urge hanoi to be reasonable. at that use military pressure when required especially with north vietnamese provocation. and the one flaw in this and nixon and kissinger understood there was a certain tension between gradual u.s. resolve.
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unilateral withdrawal. and negotiations. because you could argue that the north vietnamese knew we were getting out anyway and they might be strong enough to take on the south of themselves. they would sit back and wait another negotiate seriously. kt: leverage he might've had was not there? winston: it was not any better off than -- without an endless involvement. secondly, we planted hope to get the vietnamization to get the training to tackle the north vietnamese and the vietcong and hanoi would be forced to negotiate and we were forthcoming go that and they can see over time. kt: you were there?
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john: can i mention two points. one with regard to the position. dr. kissinger's book on the via vietnam negotiations dedicated among others to general abrams. there is an important point. in 1964 when lbj had to choose the next commander, the next american commander, he had to choose between 2. regrettably, he chose moreland. moreland took emphasis on the americans doing the fighting. he stuck to that right to the end of his command. as abrams came in and his view of how to fight this war, it was nicely with that henry and kissinger approach of training the south vietnamese troops to fight.
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the reason i think vietnamization is so important is a principal that is and others in the future. what we did in afghanistan and what we are doing in iraq. the second point although winston was not there and dick there were secret negotiations. and they never got very far. they did get so far as to achieve a halt at the end of 1968, in october of 1968 and they ended up getting a seat at the table with the vietcong and the south vietnamese. prior to that, we had been conducting these talks unilaterally. kt: we are talking about north vietnamese as south vietnamese who are the other groups?
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professor smyser: they were all controlled by the same group. the chinese communist party which had been developed before world war ii and at one point, had cut ties with the u.s. they were groups that wanted to fight against the west in order to make it truly independent. and so they were people who would normally been our friends but because the french were also allies, we could very well work with the vietnamese to make vietnam independence, because that would be a loss against the french. working with allies in europe and working with countries that actually wanted to be our friends in asia.
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it was a very difficult situation. in the best thing to do was just to work with our friends in europe and tried to help our friends in europe achieve some kind of peaceful settlement for their war with independent people are those seeking independence. it was never quite right and never worked quite a the way we wanted it to work. it was one of the problems. it was one of the real problems that we faced because we were stuck between people who wanted to be our friends and whole we wanted as friends but two were fighting each other. one of the most difficult situations in national politics and input a bunch of people underscore me. it is worthwhile to look at this as a situation of equitably -- incredible difficulty for the
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management of foreign affairs. john: to underline his point the north vietnamese always acted out the charade and had no troops, it was all vietcong and a civil war. their rationale was we undermined elections which have been agreed upon. they had a right to challenge on this front. the fact is that in this was not a civil war primarily. it was more vietnamese invasion and the vietcong were in alarm of that invasion. -- an arm of that invasion. kt: will you talk about another part of the decision nixon made was to have negotiations? you were already negotiating publicly in geneva. in paris and that was going nowhere? john: we were negotiating publicly and privately and we had some secret talks. and we reached an agreement that just on the eve of the presidential election in 1968, a
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pattern that repeats itself for years later. the greatest pressure to reach some kind of agreement was before our election on a bombing halt exchange and we would stop bombing in exchange for them lowering the intensity of their attacks on south vietnamese cities. we also agreed the south vietnamese parties which represented at the peace talks which is what led to what for many people was an absurd discussion for many people on the shape of the table? how to shape the negotiating table in order to reflect the 2 opposite views? we felt of the viacom should not be viewed as a separate party and the south vietnamese government wanted to be separate from us. how do you achieve that in the shape of a negotiation? we had an oval table with 2
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small tables that do not quite touch they oval table. >> is sounds of a work of art. john: it was like a contest. we got so much mail from people around the world suggesting different shapes of tables. [laughter] professor smyser: an interesting thing. this was the ambassador -- and at the johnson administration. he tried very hard. he knew very well nothing could ever be done in public so he tried very hard to get the south vietnamese to join us for secret talks. the idea was to have breaks and during the breaks he would hook his arm and take him aside and said don't you want to have a
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little coffee break or a little tea? but first, the north vietnamese resistant. they wouldn't play that game because they wouldn't want to do something with what the russians and chinese would wonder what is going on. john: i had been responsible for finding the safe house we would be in along with the cia. he give me 200 francs out of his pocket to buy caviar. we are going to serve caviar during the breaks. i told the governor, enemies do the vietnamese don't like caviar, they light sweet things. they like cake. so we got to the tea break and there was all this caviar. no one in the via mini's
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delegation ate the caviar, they all went for the suites. -- in these the amenities of the vehement the annan they all went for the sweet. kt: how did the nixon administration deal with this? winston: they knew the frustrations. there was an attempt to see when we could start secret talks with the vietnamese. only secret talks. in may, the president made his first speech which was how tough they were intimate progress and setting the stage what would be a difficult process and making clear the north vietnamese were tough to deal with. the next significant event was june of 1969. nixon on an asian trip. he thought about it in advance. it gets back to a point about how other issues and principles, namely he said out we are going to be world leaders.
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talking primarily about asia. it had global implications. we look to our friends and allies to take more of the burdens of the frontlines. we would always provide a nuclear umbrella and train and provide aid to other countries. but to the increasingly have to take on these responsibilities. this clearly was the theory of vietnamization. we developed that in to a more general into world policy. that was the next step. in august -- let's see, it was the first secret meeting with the north vietnamese. none of us were involved in this i believe before we took over.
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that's was rather fruitless. that leaves to the next major speech in november 1969. this the famous majority speech. the purpose of the speech was to rally american domestic support for continued efforts. part of that as we indicate about to the vietnamization process and he was beginning to announce incremental withdrawal as we turned over responsibility to the south vietnamese. to show american people it was not open ended up. and he turned the draft into a lottery as opposed to one of the other aspects which -- and they helped to ease the situation. the main point of the speech was very tough on the north vietnamese. and it designed to show how difficult they were. that is what happened in 1969. kt: what about the secret negotiations and how we able to have them and nobody noticed?
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winston: this is quite instructive on how we did this and the logistics. when we did secret negotiations, they picked up in february. we are working all week and i'm say the work week was between 80 and 100 hours a week, literally. we have a secret meeting coming up. only a few people know about. we started secretly doing our work week, prepared for the secret negotiations. this included a memo to the president laying out our strategy on the goals for the meeting including an exhaustive briefing on kissinger. probable north vietnamese positions, profiles of leaders.
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we go home from the nse, this was always done on weekends and holidays. kissinger's absence was not so glaring is a was over the weekend. if you did it during the week, you cannot get over it. we went home and everybody was exhausting. saturday morning, a white house car picks us up at our home. i do not remember how we got our classified materials on the plane. we join henry on air force 2 are one of the presidential planes. we then fly over the atlantic and into the center of france. a military airport in the middle of france because we have a cooperation of the french. john: or new orleans. winston: at one point -- on the way over -- kt: nobody noticed air force one
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was landing? winston: it was not air force one. our cover was it was a training mission. john: it actually was. winston: in some ways it was. all the way over for eight hours, we are redoing the briefing. we got into the center of france, the special assistant to the president, he became prime minister. he led us to a small french airplane. we take that plane to an obscure airport on the outside where we are met by general walters. he went on to be ambassador for the u.n. he was fluent in french and loved the "james bond" aspect for he rented a car.
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he checked code names. we had to encounter a safe house. the cleaning lady and we do now want her to know who we were. we go to the apartment at this time it's about midnight paris time. it is about late afternoon in washington. we have trouble getting to sleep. it is late afternoon our time. in my case, i was finally getting to sleep. about an hour or two before we had to get up which was 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. paris time. we then go into a meeting. it was 6-8 hours. verbatim notes. we finish in the meeting. [indiscernible] we finish the meeting and we go back to the airport. we take the plane back to the center of france and get on that plane and fly over. all the way, we'll providing a
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memo to the president of what happened. we are typing of the transcript. we get to washington, it was about 6:00 a.m. paris time. but midnight washington time. we go to sleep and go to the office on monday. it was like the whole weekend off. john: henry was general kirschbaum and winston was colonel landry and i the junior person was -- winston: you must've been s. john: i remember newman. professor smyser: i wondered if henry would give proper credit to -- he regarded that as a nonessential question. [laughter]
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kt: when you were preparing the briefing materials, 2 problems. we do not have the ability to pick up the phone to north vietnamese, how did we communicate with them? you are this staff of young guys and your sibling mountains of briefing paper, how did you do that without the state department or anybody know you were doing this? winston: like dealing with china or the russians, we had plenty of papers. also, continuing the public aspect of the war and so on and the paris peace talks. we had lots of background materials. these two guys knew a lot about vietnam. there was enough firepower for these memos. and the relation between nixon and kissinger. nixon had to decide on a key decision and strategy for each meeting but henry would give
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ways and go negotiate. kt: how did you contact the north vietnamese? you were not going to the state department which would've been -- professor smyser: we were going to embassies. that is a diplomatic channel and we do not want to use a diplomatic channel. we used -- which was an army edition. that is not formal state department. kt: 1969, really nothing, a majority speech, the talks were really going nowhere and in the fighting was escalating. and in 1970, what happened in 1970? winston: there were three meetings. they do not get anywhere. this led us -- first let me say we had ongoing secretly started in 1969 a bombing in cambodia
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along the border with vietnam. kt: that was part of the original nixon decision? winston: part of the decision. the problem of vietnam is they have sanctuaries in cambodia and laos which were untouchable. they would come across the border in go back over or go down the trail. it was a very tough fight. to have the sanctuaries made it harder. we bombed cambodia secretly only close to the border. it was secret. when this leaked out, there was outrage from the congress and media. the rationale of doing good and secretly was we want to hit on the border because they were coming for us is slaughtering americans and going over to cambodia. secondly, it had to be secret because -- do not like the north
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vietnamese in his country and cannot do a hell of a lot about it. he cannot tolerate. then he would admit he was letting americans a bomb his territory. he fully approved of it and it was done along the order. it became very controversial. and then it leaves us, we're getting nowhere to what we call the cambodian insurgent. kt: that was in the spring -- john: i am at stanford university at the time. an interesting perspective for having seen that. i was on sabbatical. it took place in april of so. i was at the hoover institution. for those of you, they have this big glass building next door. there was not much left of the
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glass. campus erupted. winston: let me explain the rationale. the nse and cabinet had to debate whether to go into the sanctuaries. or whether to do it at all. second, do you do with just south of vitamins troops are do you have american troops? and third, how do you do it? kt: how do you know you succeeded? winston: we had to do a because americans were being slaughtered. we were not extending into cambodia. we had an obligation to our troops and the south vietnamese troops to do something about it. we decided to go in there. and the south vietnamese and militarily wanted to be with them. thirdly, however, to show it was not an evasion. it was decided.
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and only a few miles going and that was the basic decision. the problem was that since it was limited because of reaction and scope, it was less effective militarily? and we had to announce we were going to headquarters and no such thing existed. there was some building we could capture. the headquarters was the leadership moving around. we never got to the headquarters. it was considered less than successful. it helps speed up the vietnamization and had military impact. counterbalanced against that was tremendous domestic reaction. one other episode and just before the announcement, kissinger did not like it yes
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people. he wanted to hear different views. he had five staff members who he knew was opposed and i will not get to all of the names and i was one of them. but, i was somewhat dovish in terms -- as result of this meeting we had a very stormy meeting. after the meeting, three of those and a couple of others outside of the meeting over cambodia. two whole resigned were going to resign anyway. they moved it up in order to make a statement on cambodia. they were about to leave anyway.
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i did not resign. the other person who did not resign was an analyst. my reasoning was not that i was against it for moral and ethical reasons. i thought it was entirely moral and ethical. it was hot pursuit, they were killing american troops, we had a right to go after them. and we had legal right to do so. i didn't not argue like some of the others. all felt we were extending the war. the vietnamese extended the war. i thought it was a trade-off between the military impact and the duration and scope limited war domestically and support of the war was not worth it. i argued but i do not resign because i do not think it was a moral or ethical but a practical problem.
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ironically i was asked to write a report on the success of this. i handed kissinger the penultimate draft. we had 48 hours to go. he comes in, 48 hours before it was going to be published. he took the draft and throws it on the ground and said it is useless which did not help my morale. i had one night to redo the holding of thing -- to redo the whole damn thing. it couldn't have got that much better that soon. john: one upshot of this is a direct segue are there are five resignations and so henry started casting about looking for replacement to those people. that is how i got recruited initially to be a sort of planning staff for the nse in 1970 and later on took over from dick who was running the indochina.
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professor smyser: can i say something general? when i look around the faces in this room and i see many faces that were not in washington alive and kicking in the 1970's. the mood of this country is so difficult to describe to anybody in that group because we were not fighting only the vietnamese, we were fighting the americans. "the new york times" would write lengthy editorials criticizing whatever negotiating position we took. other newspapers would do the same. not all, some were quite positive. nonetheless, the campuses were literally hotbeds of resistance.
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i went to harvard after having been in the kissinger staff for a while and faculty told me they would never mention to anybody that i had been on the nse because i would be kicked off the campus. and so, it was that kind of mood that was absolutely poisonous and made a very, very difficult because no matter what we did there was always somebody who would criticize. and what you do when you are fighting a war and every move you make is criticized? not by your opponents but by your friends? this was a very difficult decision. kt: i was a student at george washington university and in 1971, my university could house the students coming all of the
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country to participate in the demonstrations. we didn't go to class. winston: henry and nixon were better because the critics were the johnson kennedy administration who got us in the first place and then they turned. and turned on people on kissinger. and trying to end and disagree. john: and kennedy administration -- the johnson administration had not withdrawn one single troop from vietnam. in spite of the talks starting in may. they were never prepared to step up. winston: and that made all of us bitter. and it got us up to 550,000 troops.
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particularly since next and could have said we inherited this mess, we are getting out. the other mention that was painful or the secret talks, nobody knew we were negotiating seriously. it was what the people and the "new york times" was calling for. and all of my friends and everybody said why are you not negotiate seriously? all the could see was the public top again exchange. i knew secretly we were making every effort. the north vietnamese were being unreasonable. it was very painful. to the extent that we saw anybody, they were beating us up for working on this war without trying to negotiate an end. i'd came from paris trying to do the same thing. kt: whose decision was it to make these talks secretly?
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so you can advance born negotiations? who had the courage to do it? winston: we thought you had to do a secretly. that was are feeling. the north vietnamese probably weren't that interested in negotiating -- except to where is out and to see if we go make this deal they could live with. they didn't want to be accused of being overly soft. they would just as soon have it secret. what do you think, john? john: winston and i might differ slightly. i think it's important to have secret negotiations because they accompany almost any negotiation about a serious issue. i think henry had a somewhat expansive view of that which included keeping a secret from our bureaucracy. winston: that's a different issue. i meant the public. john: i understand that. it means you are not -- keeping
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that means not that means not telling the department or the pentagon. keeping somebody in the dark. kt: on one hand, you were negotiating. everything you seem to try wasn't working. and people were demonstrating and calling you "baby killers," it was a terrible time. you were keeping -- president nixon had the courage take it. he thought it was the most effective way to negotiate an end to the war. talk to me about why was it kept secret from the rest of the government. was that essential? professor smyser: because everything leaks in washington. winston: that is the quick answer. nixon and kissinger in particular. henry, for good and ill, was very possessive of our national security -- there is not been anybody since henry kissinger was had as much authority or power over our national security.
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no one individual. kt: and the state department or any job? professor smyser: anywhere. incredibly difficult. you have to see the mood of the country. it was incredibly difficult to keep a secret. kt: because the passions? professor smyser: "passions" is a moderate word. winston: when these secret talks became known and we had semi-secret talks in 1972 which we were not announced in advance where having talks. we would go over and have them. afterwards, we end the north vietnamese would brief the press on what happened. they were secret in a sense that nobody knew what was having on but a sanitized briefing. kt: escalation, negotiations nothing seems to happen. when did the breakthrough come?
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middle 1971, kissinger made a secret trip to china. did that change everything? winston: we had the laos incursion. we can talk on that. the basic point is they had these sanctuaries, in this case coming down the ho chi minh trail. the quick answer is, it was the south vietnamese expedition with our support because other restrictions of congress and was not really effective. and then, what happened though very significant and that's what went to stop for a moment. in may 1971, we had a secret meeting in which we set forth with nixon's full approval which became the agreement a year and a half later. essentially was the following --
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military and agreement. the north vietnamese position for the beginning to what will get to was not only are we supposed to withdraw unilaterally but as we leave it no we are supposed to overthrow the governments. professor smyser: and not force them to leave. winston: yes, unilaterally. that was their position. nixon prepared was -- nixon was prepared to have a military-only solution but he was not prepared to overthrow an ally. this is very important for history. a lot saying we could have a final agreement a lot earlier. we could not because of the break which will get to in 1972, north vietnam insisted on replacing the two governments. in may of we put a seven-point 1971 plan forward. it consisted of the following --
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unilateral withdrawal, but no further infiltration. neutral had been our point of to that point. cease-fire, get our prisoners back and independence as cease-fire in laos and cambodia and international supervision. that's what the final paris accords look like. and for the first time the north vietnamese began to take us. there was something to negotiate. they continued to hang on to the political settlement dimension and so we could not strike a deal. they said to us it was dishonorable. they would not budge on that. and so promising negotiations of
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the seven points, we agreed on five and a half, but we could not get the 7th point which was the political future of south vietnam was to be determined by the vietnamese themselves. it does not mean overthrowing the government. we then ran into an impasse, even though we had some hopes. the secret trip was in july of 1971. coming back, dick was on the trip with me. as we came back from the secret china it was a public trip , generally, including a stop in paris. i will let dick gives some of the color of how we managed to pull that secret negotiation off in paris on our way back, before the president announced >> we stopped off in paris publicly. you might explain how we managed to have a secret negotiation in paris. >> we had dinner with an attractive young lady who was a
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correspondent. that provided a cover for our business. since he was having dinner with this woman, nobody suspected he would also be having a negotiation with the vietnamese. >> he was criticized for that. why is henry seeing this woman who was a reporter for the "new york times" or one of these newspapers, why was henry seeing this woman? this was a kind of mood that existed at the time, and it was crazy. it later became moved. henry said we would do a unilateral withdrawal.
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it was the first time we went into the negotiating session with the vietnamese that they had tables for us to negotiate. up until that time we had sat in chairs like this in the vietnamese did not think that was a real negotiation. once we said we are prepared to withdraw unilaterally, i thought, we will not have a table. -- we will now have a table. it is these little things again. diplomacy is a funny game. you look for little things that tell you a great deal about what is behind the thinking of people who are not ready to articulate it. it is kind of tricky, but on the other hand it is absolutely essential. >> the pentagon papers were leaked out, and they were just a review of the vietnam situation
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during the johnson and kennedy eras. it wasn't any embarrassment to nixon, but he got hammered for opposing the leak of these papers as if he was trying to cover things up. it was making his predecessors look bad. he felt it was an important principle. he and kissinger were particularly upset. he was june 1971 -- it was june 1970 one, and we are in the vietnamese. they were doing this on behalf of their successors. also, the timing was atrocious. professor smyser: are you going to talk about china?
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kt: in the fall of 1971, gearing up for another offensive. let's go to 1972. that was a momentous year for a lot of reasons, as professor snyder pointed out. the watergate break-in occurred. john: went to moscow at the end of may. right. the watergate break-in occurred at the same time, and there was a landslide reelection of richard nixon. john: we've got to circle back to the spring of 1971, when the north vietnamese unleashed a major offensive in spring of 1972. kt: they were gearing up to it by the end of 1971. january of 1972 nixon goes public with the secret talks. winston: in the preceding months, despite the promise over the summer with the seven point plan, the north the enemies
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began to back away. we would continue to get hammered by our domestic audiences about negotiating. decided we had to finally go public with the fact we have a negotiating for two or three years. he laid out a seven-point plan with some elaboration to make it clear and to put pressure on hanoi. it did rally american public opinion a great deal for a while. kt: that's january. winston: the north vietnamese did not respond. they launched this offensive. we had one last chance in a secret trip to moscow. john: let me pick up before that. that's critical. i believe it's march 30 of 1972 that they launched the offensive. it was easter. there are a lot of catholics in vietnam.
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it was called the easter offensive. it was major and it was right across the dmz. they came up against a pretty good division. we threw everything we had at this offensive. over a period of time, succeeded in turning it around. it was not a bad test of vietnamization. but it required a lot of air support. it was a major effort and a precursor of ultimately what happened in vietnam. the north vietnamese were now willing to send conventional forces across the border. kt: invade south vietnam. let's go back one month. in 1972, february trip nixon , went to china. what impact did that have on vietnam? >> we know the chinese weighed in with the vietnamese, but not in a way that would be overly pressuring them.
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it was in their self interest to have our relationship with china not complicated by the vietnam war with america troops on their border. they wanted us to balance the soviet union. they knew that if we were preoccupied with vietnam, we would not the as an effective global balance with soviets. the chinese had an interest in having us and this war. we tried to make clear to them that we are willing to get our prisons back and cease-fire. were not willing to overthrow the chu government. it is not in china lost interest to have the u.s. look like an unreliable ally because you want us to help out the soviets. we do think the chinese -- we know they took trips to hanoi -- did weigh in to say make a reasonable settlement. wait until the americans are out. don't insist on humiliation. in a few years, saigon will fall in your laps.
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we had also with the russians a secret trip in april to set up a may summit with the russians another isolation of hanoi. we tried to get them to get the vietnamese to meet with us. already the offensive was taking place. we had one may 2 meeting. they were terribly arrogant because they were on the offensive. we decided to bomb hanoi. kt: this is an important point. the chronology is nixon goes in february, the north vietnamese invade south vietnam a month later. you are already negotiating with a planned trip to moscow to have nixon visit moscow for the moscow summit. the north vietnamese look like they are winning. they threw everything. what went around the thinking of nixon's decision to escalate?
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john: it was very important. he did it on the eighth of may. in the preceding days had some meetings. i remember general haig calling me in on a friday afternoon. said, you better stick around. it is a certainty the president is going to bomb hanoi. we will spend the weekend here doing staff work and we will have an nsc meeting on monday. he asked me to write a justification for doing this. kt: what was a background in mining the largest harbor in vietnam? john: it is the kind of escalation we had avoided previously but i thought that mr. nixon felt -- he felt he could not go to moscow on the
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-- he had to take some firm action. we had an nsc meeting on monday morning, and then the action was undertaken. kt: talk about those five or six days. president nixon decided we were going to bomb hanoi, mine the harbor, knowing that may be the moscow summit hung in the balance. did kissinger talk to you? what did he say to you? john: i will pass this act to that back to winston. that saturday we had a meeting with all of henry's closest staff. winston: i think most people in favor, they understood nixon's of you that you don't go to russia looking weak while your american soldiers are getting killed by russian weapons. as i recall it,'s almost everybody thought this would mean the end of the moscow summit.
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that the russians would not read nixon one of their ships got hit by accident, which did not help. i distinctly remember nixon saying, the russians have too much at stake with us and they will go ahead despite this. others felt, you should do this, we're going to lose the arms control agreement, berlin agreement, all the other things we worked out with the russians. i remember going in a helicopter with henry up to camp david to help write the speech announcing hanoi. i'm sure john contributed to the speeches. kt: in a couple of days?
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winston: yes. henry and i were depressed that all our russian work would go down the tubes. nixon was right. we were wrong. we went ahead with the summit, even though all of this was happening. john: we have slightly different recollections of the saturday meeting. i thought there were more opinions expressed to the fact that the summit is not likely to be canceled, including from the european director, and john aldrich, who was the asia man. be that as it may, i also attended and nsc meeting and i remember henry saying he felt there was a 50/50 chance -- kt: kissinger talked about -- the small inner circle, said this is what the president has decided, what do you think? john: basically. winston: he also consulted us before. but then he was also getting a view of what the impact would be. kt: nixon never wavered then
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heard winston: he was willing to risk the moscow summit. in his mind, he was not missing -- was not risking it that much. kt: when people go back and say was a kissinger, was it nixon -- winston: this was nixon. professor smyser: it's hard to distinguish the two. on china when kissinger went to china on the secret trip, he took me. it was rather surprising. nonetheless when henry asked you , to do something, you do it. and so i went. the interesting thing about it to me was that at a certain point, we began talking about vietnam and he mentioned a couple of key points. afterwards, kissinger asked me
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is there anything in his key points which deviates in the substantial way from what the vietnamese are saying? i said, no. he is taking exactly the same line. to me that meant we could not count on the chinese to pull our irons out of the fire. i think that was the key point. winston: i would add a little more nuanced to that. joe and i had to send his transcript to hanoi. i do think, and it was shown they were not going to pull our irons out of the fire. they could get us out of vietnam and away from their borders in a way that would not undercut our world credibility and balancing of the soviet union.
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i think they did argue to hanoi, you will get your prize in the long run. professor smyser: that was an important modification. i appreciate that. kt: that was talking about vietnam with the chinese several months or a year before. that would you -- then when you went to moscow, did you talk to them? nixon called the bluff, the trip was on, the soviet union did not object. now you are in moscow. john: we have one seminal meeting on vietnam. with their national security advisor and interpreter. kt: and the two of you were in that meeting. john: winston and myself. we had a four-hour thing where they basically vented about vietnam. i think the longer they spoke,
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the clearer it was -- the question of sending the transcript to hanoi -- they were doing this for the record in hanoi. bob winston may want to talk about the one detail. winston: one of the worst moments of my life up to then was that lord missed the motorcade for this meeting. it was a big signing ceremony for a space agreement. we were with the briefing books for the meeting. the motorcade was posted go half an hour later. he says to henry, let's go out early. the motorcade takes off and would have left behind. henry is a great guy, but he can get upset when things don't go well.
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nixon not having his briefing books and missing the motorcade, even though it was not our fault -- that is totally irrelevant, right? . we were agonizing. we went to the kgb and said, please let us go out. they said, you can't go out. we were an hour and a half behind and as we went out, we were contemplating suicide. [laughter] i don't know about you. he took nixon out on a boat, so we did not miss anything. it was a vicious meeting. nixon just of there. this is important, the fact the russians had nixon while we were bombing hanoi must have sent a important message to hanoi about how reliable the patron was.
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after this meeting, a very vicious atmosphere, we go upstairs, the entire mood changes, they break out the vodka and we sit around and get semi-drunk and have a great time. at the end of that, nixon leaves, kissinger goes off. i don't think he was drunk. it was a very good agreement. professor smyser: henry used to say, the problem with my staff is they are all incompetent. [laughter] kt: let history know that in the audience are several key members of henry kissinger's staff. they were chuckling when winston lord and john negroponte talked about contemplating suicide because henry kissinger would have been disappointed. john: >> henry, like nixon, was very magnanimous. -- winston: henry, like nixon was very magnanimous. kt: we have gotten through the negotiations, arms control agreements, opening to china the vietnam war is still raging, college campuses are on fire
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smyser is at harvard incognito and not letting anybody know who you had worked for, and october 1972, breakthrough. winston: we got the enemy's attention with hanoi and blunting their offensive. when you are tough with hanoi, you do get their attention. when you are nice to them, you don't get their attention, unfortunately. late september we resume talks with the north vietnamese secret and we began to get a few more inklings of they might be a little more flexible. the tone was totally different because we just bombed the hell out of them. we had a forthcoming proposal still on the table. to make a long story short, the breakthrough came on october 8 1972, and why did it come.
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we go to another secret talk and they present a proposal, elaborating our own seven points. for the first time in the history of negotiations, they drop their --if in 1969 we said give us our presence back and we will get out, that would not have worked -- prisoners back and we will get out, that would not have worked. the eight points basically said unilateral u.s. withdrawal and once they've done those two things, we will begin to discuss prisoners. that was their position. in october, what happened? u.s. presidential election happened. george mcgovern was the opponent to nixon.
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he was ready to give to the vietnamese everything they wanted. as long as they thought mcgovern might win, they were going to wait. they were going to wait to see if he could give them what they wanted without this madman. when they saw by october that nixon was going to win, they said, we're going to have this madman in office for more years. four he doesn't have to worry about getting reelected, he just bombed the hell out of us, we had better make a deal now. that turned the tide. wrongly, that thought nixon would be eager to have a peace agreement before the election because therefore he might be more flexible. nixon was just the opposite. he was damned if you would have an agreement just for the reelection. he was a man of principle. you did not needed for the
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election. john: the october date is an interesting coincidence compared to the four years forward. one of the things i've learned from the vietnam negotiations is if you could avoid it, don't negotiate something critical to the united states national security one month before a presidential election. winston: that's right. critics could say we rushed it. john may want to comment on that as we get further along in -- further along. we spent three exhausting days rushing out our counter bozo. john and i were at the embassy. henry said, take their proposal and redo it. john and i stayed up until 3:00 a.m. henry woke us up. he was generous that night. he did not wake us until about 7:00 a.m. he wakes us up and says this is too tough. that is probably negroponte's fault. we read it, and we had three or
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four more exhausting days, and we finally settled on basics of an agreement and some details. henry was asked to go to hanoi to complete it. he was contemplating that. we were keeping nixon and the president informed. we're rounding off some of the edges not to scare anybody. and so we went back to the agreement, i stayed behind for a day with a translator and i negotiated with the vietnamese on a lot of details, made about 65, 70 technical changes. i went to bed and i was woken up by phone call the next morning. they said you have to go back to be enemies and get a few more points. i flew back on a commercial airline. you've got to remember the emotions of this time. i went into the restroom on the plane and sat down and cried both out of exhaustion and out
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of joy. but then we got back to washington, and we decided we had better go tell him what the agreement is all about. i will let john pick it up from there. john: we went to saigon, i think it was a 17th of october, and the scenario that henry had in mind was we would go to saigon for a couple of days and we would go to hanoi, initial the agreement, than the cease-fire would go into effect on the second of november. several days before the elections. when we got to saigon -- unfortunately we did not have a fully completed vietnamese text, but -- i was not at the meeting with him. maybe you were. winston: on the way out there we had discussions on the plane about how he was going to react. henry and i, partly wishful
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thinking, thought he would not like the agreement that would accept it because we got rid of the political conditioning. he would still be in office. the year before, we hit one by saying that it's months after the agreement we would have elections and that he would resign a month before the election. we would leave the implication that he would still run the election heard he was willing than to say, i won't run in the election. that's going too far. he was very forthcoming. for that reason we thought he might buy this agreement. but as i say there were many , other reassurances of continuing aid. john was much more precedent. kt: you think you got a deal after decades of vietnam war and then you go to vietnam. winston: there is not much more to the story.
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choose says we won't do it. the north vietnamese reveal the fact that henry cancels history to hanoi. -- cancels his trip to hanoi. a story's headline in "newsweek," a deal with hanoi, a decides that he could not go ahead and sign this agreement in october of 1972. it would look like we were in a very ungracious way dumping and ally we fought side-by-side with all these years. we decided to go back to washington. henry had a press conference on the 26th of october. and said, peace is at hand which was misinterpreted by many of the critics is henry trying to convince the american people,
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to try to deceive them. but he was really trying to do is send a message reassuring hanoi and a message to saigon to say, we've had this pickup, but we are going to be back to sort this out after the election. kt: nixon is reelected or you don't have a deal. what does nixon do? winston: we go back with more talks in november and the talks in paris go nowhere. when it blew up with hanoi, we said we told you all along we can't do this deal unless south vietnam is on board. they are not. we have to make a few changes. we're going to stick with this. we go back and nothing happens in november. john: although all along, we
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have now decided to really ramp up the supply of the south vietnamese army to bolster their sense of security for any future agreement we might go into. winston: that's right. we were telling them we were going to back them up. nixon decides the only way to get the north vietnamese's attention is military pressure. you had the famous christmas bombing, really took place around christmas time since the november talks got nowhere. you could argue that this is a not nice thing to do. within two days, the north vietnamese sent us a conciliatory note saying they wanted to talk again. we got their attention. furthermore we really did limit civilian casualties. you hear horror stories about all these billion casualties. i'm sure there was collateral damage, but we did our best to minimize it and when we went to hanoi later a couple months
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, later, we could see there was no damage. the craters were up in areas that were not near the population. that got their attention, and we went back to negotiations. they did make some changes. not enough, but we got the deal. kt: two days after the christmas bombing, you got a deal. winston: we have a picture of the initialing ceremony that took lace january 23, 1972. do you want to add something? kt: so this is the initialing ceremony. where is this taking place? john: in paris. then there's the international conference center. there's a picture later on of henry and others coming out onto the streets. winston: i will explain who is in the picture.
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on the left-hand side, sullivan who is negotiating along with legal advisors and state department. john: george aldrich. winston: they were discussing protocols in indochina. you have sullivan, kissinger, aldrich, than myself,, john negroponte who was less happy with the agreement than i was. to his right is wrong tweet. he was number five their politburo. we knew they were serious. if there were just a vice minister of foreign affairs, we knew it would not be serious. that is who is on the other side. john: in a conversation i recall one thing henry asked later which i thought was quite revealing. he said, do you decide this issues in the public bureau by
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consensus or by vote? i was sure he was going to say by consensus. that is sort of the way the communists work. at least, that is my perception. said no, by vote, which i thought was pretty interesting. i think they had genuinely been divided in the weeks preceding about whether or not to go forward with the agreement because they felt they had been doublecrossed by us bailing out on the original scenario. there might've been some dissension in the public bureau about whether or not to go forward, which is why he just before christmas said he had to go back. i think the reason he introduced -- he introduced a whole bunch of changes, nine or 10 changes in the agreement just before we finish the november-december talks, and i think it was to buy himself time to go back for consultation. i do not think he realized he was also going to buy the
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christmas bombing. kathleen mcfarland: the deal is signed january 1973 per what happens next? winston: kissinger goes to hanoi. we went with him. john: i decline to go. winston: i went with him. for several purposes. try to urge implementation 1, 2 faithfully by hanoi of the agreement, and reassure them about implementation. secondly, to get as much information on prisoners of war as we could. in the agreement, we insisted -- this was crucial, the prisoner situation. we insisted we had to have them all back and they had to come back while we were still in the country. the agreement had incremental u.s. withdrawals and incremental return of u.s. prisoners. we got them all back on schedule. they did live up to that. the problem is a list of
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prisoners they gave us in was shorter than we thought it should have been. it was very weak on laos and cambodia prisoners. one of the purposes of this trip was to get more information. we even brought photos of those we thought should be in the prison camps but they had not returned. it was very unproductive trip unfortunately, foreshadowing what was coming. the question remains for many years, did they hold prisoners back? my view is they were brutal enough to do this, but they did not do it because if you call them back and you don't tell anybody you've got them, it gives no leverage. if they tell the world they help -- held these people back, there is world outrage. my guess is those we thought should have been on the list probably died in captivity under torture or starvation or whatever it is and they did not want to reveal that fact. i think we got everyone back who they actually had at that point. kt: prisoners are back, the deal is signed.
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we are all relieved that we've actually ended the vietnam war with honor and integrity but then it all falls apart. winston: i think john was less relieved than i was. kt: when the deal was done -- john: i did not like the deal. i foresaw in that agreement the seats -- seeds of what happened next. i think it was a withdrawal agreement. sometimes you use euphemistic terms for what you done. if you look at the agreement, it is the agreement to restore peace, to end the war and restore peace in vietnam. it wasn't really that. it turned out to be a withdrawal agreement. the interval ended up not being quite as decent as we would have liked it to be. there's all kinds of discussion afterwards, did it unravel because of the agreement or did
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it unravel because the presidency was so weakened in subsequent years that it the private president nixon of his ability to react and respond in a forceful way? we can debate the what if's forever. winston: let me explain what nixon and kissinger's views were. first, we felt that we had for 10 years sacrificed blood and money on behalf of south vietnam. we have done so much to help and we tried to prepare them with vietnamization. we pay our price. we felt it was the best deal we could possibly get. it was better than most people predicted in most editorials and pieces. people were saying, coalition government, get rid of tito. we thought there would be a chance for him to survive.
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we were not naïve. we did not trust hanoi. if they nibbled at the agreement and had cease-fire violations, we felt that the south vietnamese with our supplies would be able to handle that they got to the point they can handle low-level violations. if there was massive attrition and invasion, which did happen, we thought that the american people -- they did not want to we did not want to go back in on the ground. but to uphold an agreement after all the sacrifices incredible power, at least resume our bombing. we thought the military decision -- military situation could be manageable. there was an aid program, they
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wanted to call it reparations. we had eight programs for laos cambodia, and south vietnam. that was an incentive. i think it was $2.5 billion. if the implant the agreement they get all this aid for reconstruction. fourthly, we thought the chinese and russians would weigh in on implementation, wanting to to humiliate us in having their own stakes in the bilateral relationship. each of those assumptions did not really pan out. the south vietnamese were not as capable as we hoped. the congress, to its eternal shame cut off economic and , military aid to the south vietnamese so the practical and psychological impact of our alley's -- of our allies tried to fight off a north vietnamese invasion when we would not give the military aid. we couldn't do air power. kt: when did congress cut off aid? winston: it got more and more incremental about cutting off
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bombs, cutting off aid. kt: this was 1973. winston: it started in 1972 and 1973 and kept going. kissinger's book is the most comprehensive account of everything we have talked about and more. this came out in 2003. ending the vietnam war. winston: that too is a -- john: that too is a euphemism. winston: that's why we think it could have worked but it did not work as some of these assumptions proved to be wrong. the way we got choo to go around was the kind of rationale i told you. we could not back up. he objected not only to the fact
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there were north vietnamese in his country, but he felt he had been misled about where we were. he reacted two months later. we thought it could work, we thought we would not get a battle deal, and it did not work out in the way we hope. we did buy some time. southeast asia had time to assemble itself and not fall as dominoes, but it was purchased at a very tough price. kt: by april 1975, north vietnam moved into saigon and we evacuated the american embassy at saigon. winston: right. kt: are there any final thoughts about all of this? professor smyser: final thoughts? kt: what did we learn from vietnam? over the successes, what were the failures? what you take away as the lessons you learned?
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professor smyser: i think the main lesson is, don't get involved in things where you cannot count on your public being fully committed. our problems were not only in vietnam. our problems were in the united states. for some odd reason, and may be some not so odd reason, we were unable to convince the american people that there was a genuine american stake in this conflict. while we were not able to convince them, what that meant to them and how we could have done this is one of the great questions of the century, and i suspect your book does not fully answer. i'm not sure that anybody can fully answer. i teach a course in diplomacy at georgetown university. one of the things i go into is the question of how does one
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handle the problem of public opinion in a democracy when you are dealing with a diplomatic situation. and you are dealing with people who are smart and as dedicated as a north vietnamese turned out to be, you have a genuine problem. you cannot solve it by glib memos and taking a lot of trips. you have to solve it by convincing people what at stake is genuinely in the national interest. there were times when we were able to do that, and times we were not able to do that. that is the real question that the americans face in the coming years, and in the coming century. we have a very difficult situation in terms of projecting
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power across the world in a very complex environments. that is what we have to learn to do. there is anything against me out of this sketch and, i think john and winston have handled it brilliantly. you asked the right question and -- question. the real issue is how does one manage public opinion in a democracy in such a way that does not cheat people. don't think for a moment that you can cheat people. you can't. you have to do it honorably. you also have to do it right. it is one of the questions i address with students, how can you sometimes do this? i hate to say that even though , of course it's an excellent and brilliant course by wonderful professor -- we don't have the answer. [laughter] i not sure that anybody does.
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am it's ancient history to them, but they can be introduced to the elements and difficulty that we had. it is a difficult to do, particularly when you are dealing with someone as clever and as motivated as the vietnamese were and still perhaps are. now we have a different problem with the chinese. it is something that needs total commitment of american thought and conscience, how we continue this. the world is not going to get simpler. kt: well said. john? john: first of all, that was more or less the beginning of my career, not the end of it.
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i ended up dealing with situations like iraq and afghanistan. i was in a lot of different conflicting situations. i carry my recollections of vietnam with me wherever i went. i suppose one of the most important thing was vietnamization and the guam doctrine, building local capacity. can we be the policeman of the world, or do we need to have friends in this endeavor? i have always emphasized this aspect. i remember sitting in my office as ambassador to the united nations with george tenet when he was head of the cia and we had just got into afghanistan and i told him, we've got to build up the afghan army. he shrugged it off and we did not try to do that for another six or seven years.
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i think is really unfortunate. i hope we don't have to keep relearning this lesson when we try to help other countries in difficult situations. obviously what ensued from this -- we need to be fair to mr. nixon and mr. kissinger even though they are the ones who ended it. they don't really get responsibility. you can't tag them with responsibility for every that went before. i think there strategy was quite billions and would have been better if we had applied it even sooner -- quite brilliant and would have been better if we had applied it even sooner. the sino-soviet split, nixon and henry did very thoroughly. lastly, on a happy note, despite
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the loss of vietnam to the north, despite all the human tragedy that ensued for boat people, vietnamese who migrated here, i thought it interest in when i went back as deputy secretary of state, first time i've been back to vietnam in 35 years the signing of the agreement, and saw the incredible enthusiasm that existed in the democratic republic of vietnam. good relations with the united states. i think it's mutual. i remember leaving hanoi and i gave a press conference. a vietnamese journalist asked me, mr. ambassador, if an american oil rig was attacked by the chinese, vietnamese controlled waters, with the united states come to our assistance? -- would the united states come to our assistance? that such a question was even
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conceivable back 40 years ago we have come a long way. i find it heartening that we have come back to having a healthy relation with the democratic vietnam. -- with the democratic republic of vietnam. winston: i think tyler randall said that you don't have permanent friends or permanent enemies, you have permanent interest. we have come full circle again. a few years after the paris peace agreements, the chinese invaded vietnam and they had real conflict over cambodia and all kinds of things. all of us were pretty young then. when i was assistant secretary under clinton in the early 1990's, we were consumed with the mia's. who is still missing, getting
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remains back. the deputy pointed me and the culture of a presidential commission took several trips to hanoi. you can imagine the memories i had, to try to find out more about the missing and get the remains. we made a lot of progress and one of the most emotional moments of my life was to stand in the hanoi airport and it was out of our efforts to see the coffins going back to the united states with remains of people who did not know where their loved ones were for 15 or 20 years. we decided we would move ahead to try to normalize relations with vietnam. for me, it was holding my nose. his guys had broken the agreement and all the sacrifices we had made, but i felt more importantly and more importantly the administration health that was the best way to get information on the mia's. it would help to balance china which was growing as a geopolitical competitor.
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vietnam by then was not a great friend of china. thirdly, we would have more influence in southeast asia. with the help of people like senator mccain and senator kerry and head of the foreign relations committee and senator bob kerrey and our congressman they protected clinton's flank to go ahead with normalization. clinton was wonderful. four euros and prisoners of war stood up for normalization to normalize relations in 1990's. john: the lead the way. winston: clinton had to go ahead. so we normalize and now we have a situation where vietnam is not going to become our ally, but they do see the need for reassuring american presidents in the region. as to all the other countries of the region and -- region.
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kt: if i could add my final thoughts. i have one, the debates you have two. you could have today about -- we are still talking about a lot of the same issues, public support or what is an increasingly unpopular war. do you go back and bomb somebody who does not abide by the agreement? what happens to safe havens across borders? those are issues we are facing today. the other thing i must conclude with as i listen to the three of you, talking about with enormous depth and dealing and concern and integrity and no naïveté and the way you helped conduct foreign policy during a period of enormous crisis in the united states, and dealing with one of the most intractable problems, i really must say it was an honor to serve such great men.
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thank you very much for sharing your perspective with all of us and for putting it down for us. people can learn a lot from what you've done for your nation. thank you very much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> she was considered modern or her time. called mrs. president by her detractors. outspoken about her views on slavery and women's rights. she provides a unique window into colonial america and her personal life. abigail adams. sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's original series "first ladies: influence an image." examining the public and private life of women who filled the
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presidency. as a complement to the series, c-span's new book is new available. on the lives of 45 iconic woman providing stories of these fascinating women, creating an entertaining and inspiring read. it is available as hardcover or in e-book through your favorite bookstore or online bookseller. >> history bookshelf features popular american history writers and airs on american history tv each week and at this time. priscilla buckley talks about her 43 years working at the national review as a reporter and editor. founded i her brother, william f a clean junior -- william f oakley junior,-- buckley jr.
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this program is about 45 minutes. it is a pleasure for us to put on this event the heritage foundation each month. the purpose of the event is to highlight the most outstanding conservative women in america. it gives me great pleasure today to introduce one of these outstanding women priscilla buckley whose new book is titled living it up with "national review", a memoir. it's a wonderful book. i read it this weekend. and i really enjoy


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