We can have honest debate about whether we should have entered the war. We can have honest debate about the past conduct of the war. But the urgent question today is what to do now that we are there, not whether we should have entered on this course, but what is required of us today.
Against that background, let me discuss, first, what we have rejected, and second, what we are prepared to accept.
We have ruled out attempting to impose a purely military solution on the battlefield.
We have also ruled out either a one-sided withdrawal from South Vietnam or the acceptance in Paris of terms that would amount to a disguised defeat.
When we assumed the burden of helping South Vietnam, millions of South Vietnamese men, women, and children placed their trust in us. To abandon them now would risk a massacre that would shock and dismay everyone in the world who values human life.
Abandoning the South Vietnam people, however, would jeopardize more than lives in South Vietnam. It would threaten our longer term hopes for peace in the world. A great nation cannot renege on its pledges, A great nation must be worthy of trust.
When it comes to maintaining peace, "prestige" is not an empty word. I am not speaking of false pride or bravado - they should have no place in our policies. I speak rather of the respect that one nation has for another's integrity in defending its principles and meeting its obligations.
If we simply abandoned our efforts in South Vietnam, the cause of peace might not survive the damage that would be done to other nations' confidence in our reliability.
Another reason stems from debates within the communist world between those who argue for a policy of confrontation with the United States and those who argue against it. If Hanoi were to succeed in taking over South Vietnam by force- even after the power of the United States had been engaged - it would greatly strengthen those leaders who scorn negotiation, who advocate aggression, who minimize the risks of confrontation. It would bring peace now, but it would enormously increase the danger of a bigger war later.
If we are to move successfully from an era of confrontation to an era of negotiation, then we have to demonstrate - at the point at which confrontation is being tested - that confrontation with the United States is costly and unrewarding.
Almost without exception, the leaders of non-communist Asia have told me that they would consider a one-sided American withdrawal from South Vietnam to be a threat to the security of their own nations.
In determining what choices would be acceptable, we have to understand our essential objective: We seek the opportunity for the South Vietnam people to determine their own political future without outside interference.
Let me put is plainly: What the United States wants for South Vietnam is not the important thing. What North Vietnam wants for South Vietnam is not the important thing. What is important is what the people of South Vietnam want for themselves.
The United States has suffered over one million casualties in four wars in this century. Whatever faults we may have as a nation, we have asked nothing for ourselves in return for these sacrifices. We have been generous toward those who we have fought, helping former foes as well as friends in the task of reconstruction. We are proud of this record, and we bring the same attitude to our search for a settlement in South Vietnam.
In this spirit, let me be explicit about several points:
We seek not bases in South Vietnam.
We insist on no military ties.
We are willing to agree to neutrality if that is what the South Vietnam people freely choose.
We believe there should be an opportunity for full participation in the political life of South Vietnam by all political elements that are prepared to do so without the use of force or intimidation.
We are prepared to accept any government in South Vietnam that results from the free choice of the South Vietnam people themselves.
We have no intention of imposing any form of govt upon the people of South Vietnam, nor will we be a party to such coercion.
We have no objection to reunification, if that turns out to be what the people of South Vietnam and the people of North Vietnamese want; we ask only that the decision reflect the free choice of the people concerned.
In pursuing our limited objective, we insist on no rigid diplomatic formula. Peace could be achieved by a formal negotiated settlement. Peace could be achieved by an informal understanding, provided that the understanding is clear and that there were adequate assurance that it would be observed. Peace on paper is not as important as peace in fact.
This brings us, then, to the matter of negotiations.
We must recognize that peace in South Vietnam cannot be achieved overnight. A war which has raged for so many years will require detailed negotiations and cannot be settled at a single stroke.
What kind of settlement will permit the South Vietnam people to determine freely their own political future? Such a settlement will require the withdrawal of all non-South Vietnam forces from South Vietnam and procedures for political choice that give each significant group in South Vietnam a real opportunity to participate in the political life of the nation.
To implement these principles, I reaffirm now our willingness to withdraw our forces on a specified timetable. We ask only that North Vietnamese withdraw its forces from South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos into North Vietnam, also in accordance with a timetable.
We include Cambodia and Laos to ensure that these countries would not be used as bases for a renewed war. The Cambodian border is only 35 miles from Saigon; the Laotian border is only 25 miles from Hue.
Our offer provides for a simultaneous start on withdrawal by both sides; agreement on a mutually acceptable timetable; and for the withdrawal to be accomplished quickly.
If North Vietnamese wants to insist that it has no forces in South Vietnam, we will no longer debate the point - provided that its forces cease to be there and that we have reliable assurances that they will not return.
The North Vietnamese delegates have been saying in Paris that political issues should be discussed along with military issues and that there must be a political settlement in the south. We do not dispute this, but the military withdrawal involves outside forces and can therefore be properly negotiated by North Vietnamese and the United States, with the concurrence of its allies. The political settlement is an internal matter which ought to be decided among the South Vietnam people themselves and not imposed by outside powers. However, if our presence at these political negotiations would be helpful, and if the South Vietnam people concerned agreed, we would be willing to participate, along with the representatives of Hanoi if that were also desired.
Recent statement by President Thieu have gone far forward opening the way to a political settlement. He has publicly declared his govts willingness to discuss a political solution with the NLF and has offered free elections. This was dramatic step forward, a reasonable offer that could lead to a settlement. The South Vietnam govt has offered to talk without preconditions. I believe that the other side should also be willing to talk without preconditions.
The South Vietnam govt recognizes, as we do, that a settlement must permit all persons and groups that are prepared to renounce the use of force to participate freely in the political life of South Vietnam. To be effective, such a settlement would require two things: first, a process that would allow the South Vietnam people to express their choice; and second, a guarantee that this process would be a fair one.
We do not insist on a particular form of guarantee. The important thing is that the guarantees should have the confidence of the South Vietnam people and that they should be broad enough and strong enough to protect the interests of all major South Vietnam groups.
This, then, is the outline of the settlement that we seek to negotiate in Paris. Its basic terms are very simple: mutual withdrawal of non-South Vietnam forces from South Vietnam and free choice for the people of South Vietnam. I believe that the long-term interests of peace required that we insist on no less and that the realities of the situation require that we seek no more.
To make very concrete what I have said, I propose the following measures, which seem to me consistent with the principles of all parties. These proposals are made on the basis of full consultation with President Thieu.
As soon as agreement can be reached, all non-South Vietnam forces would begin withdrawals from South Vietnam.
Over a period of twelve months, by agreed-upon stages, the major portions of all United States Allied, and other non-South Vietnam forces would be withdrawn. At the end of this 12-month period, the remaining US, Allied, and other non-South Vietnam forces would move into designated base area and would not engage in combat operations.
The remaining United States and Allied forces would move to complete their withdrawals as the remaining North Vietnamese forces were withdrawn and returned to North Vietnam.
An international supervisory body, acceptable to both sides, would be created for the purpose agreed upon between the two sides.
This international body would begin operating in accordance with an agreed timetable and would participate in arranging supervised cease-fires.
As soon as possible after the international body was functioning, elections would be held under agreed procedures and under the supervision of the international body.
Arrangements would be made for the earliest possible release of prisoners of war on both sides.
All parties would agree to observe the GA of '54 regarding Vietnam and Cambodia, and the Laos accords of '62.
I believe this proposal for peace is realistic and takes account of the legitimate interests of all concerned. It is consistent with President Thieu's six points. It can accommodate the various programs put forth by the other side. We and the govt of South Vietnam are prepared to discuss its details with the other side. Secretary Rogers is now in Saigon and will be discussing with President Thieu how, together, we may put forward these proposed measures most usefully in Paris. He will, as well, be consulting with our other Asian allies on these measures while on his Asian trip. However, I would stress that these proposals are not offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. We are quite willing to consider other approaches consistent with our principles.
We are willing to talk about anybody's program - Hanoi's four points, the NLF's ten points - provided it can be made consistent with the few basic principles I have set forth here. Despite our disagreement with several of its points, we welcome the fact that the NLF has put forward its first comprehensive program. We are continuing to study it carefully. However, we cannot ignore the fact that immediately after the offer, the scale of enemy attacks stepped up and American casualties increased.
Let me make one point very clear. If the enemy wants peace with the United States, that is not the way to get it.
I have set forth a peace program tonight which is generous in its terms. I have indicated our willingness to consider other proposals. No greater mistake could be made than to confuse flexibility with weakness or being reasonable with lack of resolution. I must make clear, in all candor, that if the needless suffering continues, this will affect other decisions. Nobody has anything to gain by delay.
Reports from Hanoi indicate that the enemy has given up hope for a military victory in South Vietnam but is counting on a collapse of American will in the United States. They could make no greater error in judgment.
Let me be quite blunt. Our fighting men are not going to be worn down; our negotiators are not going to be talked down; our allies are not going to be let down.
In my campaign for the Presidency, I pledged to end this war in a way that would increase our chances to win true and lasting peace in South Vietnam, in the Pacific, and in the world. I am determined to keep that pledge. If I fail to do so, I expect the American people to hold me accountable for that failure.
President Nixon's Silent Majority Speech
Good evening, my fellow Americans:
Tonight I want to talk to you on a subject of deep concern to all Americans and to many people in all parts of the world--the war in Vietnam.
I believe that one of the reasons for the deep division about Vietnam is that many Americans have lost confidence in what their Government has told them about our policy. The American people cannot and should not be asked to support a policy which involves the overriding issues of war and peace unless they know the truth about that policy.
Tonight, therefore, I would like to answer some of the questions that I know are on the minds of many of you listening to me.
How and why did America get involved in Vietnam in the first place?
How has this administration changed the policy of the previous administration?
What has really happened in the negotiations in Paris and on the battlefront in Vietnam?
What choices do we have if we are to end the war?
What are the prospects for peace?
Now, let me begin by describing the situation I found when I was inaugurated on January 20:
The war had been going on for 4 years; 31,000 Americans had been killed in action; The training program for the South Vietnamese was behind schedule; 540,000 Americans were in Vietnam with no plans to reduce the number; No progress had been made at the negotiations in Paris and the United States had not put forth a comprehensive peace proposal; The war was causing deep division at home and criticism from many of our friends as well as our enemies abroad.
In view of these circumstances there were some who urged that I end the war at once by ordering the immediate withdrawal of all American forces.
From a political standpoint this would have been a popular and easy course to follow. After all, we became involved in the war while my predecessor was in office. I could blame the defeat which would be the result of my action on him and come out as the Peacemaker. Some put it to me quite bluntly: This was the only way to avoid allowing Johnsons war to become Nixon's war.
But I had a greater obligation than to think only of the years of my administration and of the next election. I had to think of the effect of my decision on the next generation and on the future of peace and freedom in America and in the world.
Let us all understand that the question before us is not whether some Americans are for peace and some Americans are against peace. The question at issue is not whether Johnson's war becomes Nixon's war.
The great question is: How can we win America's peace?
Well, let us turn now to the fundamental issue. Why and how did the United States become involved in Vietnam in the first place?
Fifteen years ago North Vietnam, with the logistical support of Communist China and the Soviet Union, launched a campaign to impose a Communist government on South Vietnam by instigating and supporting a revolution.
In response to the request of the Government of South Vietnam, President Eisenhower sent economic aid and military equipment to assist the people of South Vietnam in their efforts to prevent a Communist takeover. Seven years ago, President Kennedy sent 16,000 military personnel to Vietnam as combat advisers. Four years ago, President Johnson sent American combat forces to South Vietnam.
Now, many believe that President Johnsons decision to send American combat forces to South Vietnam was wrong. And many others-I among them-have been strongly critical of the way the war has been conducted.
But the question facing us today is: Now that we are in the war, what is the best way to end it?
In January I could only conclude that the precipitate withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam would be a disaster not only for South Vietnam but for the United States and for the cause of peace.
For the South Vietnamese, our precipitate withdrawal would inevitably allow the Communists to repeat the massacres which followed their takeover in the North 15 years before.
They then murdered more than 50,000 people and hundreds of thousands more died in slave labor camps.
We saw a prelude of what would happen in South Vietnam when the Communists entered the city of Hue last year. During their brief rule there, there was a bloody reign of terror in which 3,000 civilians were clubbed, shot to death, and buried in mass graves.
With the sudden collapse of our support, these atrocities of Hue would become the nightmare of the entire nation-and particularly for the million and a half Catholic refugees who fled to South Vietnam when the Communists took over in the North.
For the United States, this first defeat in our Nation's history would result in a collapse of confidence in American leadership, not only in Asia but throughout the world.
Three American Presidents have recognized the great stakes involved in Vietnam and understood what had to be done.
In 1963, President Kennedy, with his characteristic eloquence and clarity, said: ". . . we want to see a stable government there, carrying on a struggle to maintain its national independence.
"We believe strongly in that. We are not going to withdraw from that effort. In my opinion, for us to withdraw from that effort would mean a collapse not only of South Viet-Nam, but Southeast Asia. So we are going to stay there."
President Eisenhower and President Johnson expressed the same conclusion during their terms of office.
For the future of peace, precipitate withdrawal would thus be a disaster of immense magnitude.
A nation cannot remain great if it betrays its allies and lets down its friends.
Our defeat and humiliation in South Vietnam without question would promote recklessness in the councils of those great powers who have not yet abandoned their goals of world conquest.
This would spark violence wherever our commitments help maintain the peace-in the Middle East, in Berlin, eventually even in the Western Hemisphere.
Ultimately, this would cost more lives.
It would not bring peace; it would bring more war.
For these reasons, I rejected the recommendation that I should end the war by immediately withdrawing all of our forces. I chose instead to change American policy on both the negotiating front and battlefront.
In order to end a war fought on many fronts, I initiated a pursuit for peace on many fronts.
In a television speech on May 14, in a speech before the United Nations, and on a number of other occasions I set forth our peace proposals in great detail.
We have offered the complete withdrawal of all outside forces within 1 year.
We have proposed a cease-fire under international supervision.
We have offered free elections under international supervision with the Communists participating in the organization and conduct of the elections as an organized political force. And the Saigon Government has pledged to accept the result of the elections.
We have not put forth our proposals on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. We have indicated that we are willing to discuss the proposals that have been put forth by the other side. We have declared that anything is negotiable except the right of the people of South Vietnam to determine their own future. At the Paris peace conference, Ambassador Lodge has demonstrated our flexibility and good faith in 40 public meetings.
Hanoi has refused even to discuss our proposals. They demand our unconditional acceptance of their terms, which are that we withdraw all American forces immediately and unconditionally and that we overthrow the Government of South Vietnam as we leave.
We have not limited our peace initiatives to public forums and public statements. I recognized, in January, that a long and bitter war like this usually cannot be settled in a public forum. That is why in addition to the public statements and negotiations I have explored every possible private avenue that might lead to a settlement.
Tonight I am taking the unprecedented step of disclosing to you some of our other initiatives for peace-initiatives we undertook privately and secretly because we thought we thereby might open a door which publicly would be closed.
I did not wait for my inauguration to begin my quest for peace.
Soon after my election, through an individual who is directly in contact on a personal basis with the leaders of North Vietnam, I made two private offers for a rapid, comprehensive settlement. Hanoi's replies called in effect for our surrender before negotiations.
Since the Soviet Union furnishes most of the military equipment for North Vietnam, Secretary of State Rogers, my Assistant for National Security Affairs, Dr. Kissinger, Ambassador Lodge, and I, personally, have met on a number of occasions with representatives of the Soviet Government to enlist their assistance in getting meaningful negotiations started. In addition, we have had extended discussions directed toward that same end with representatives of other governments which have diplomatic relations with North Vietnam. None of these initiatives have to date produced results.
In mid-July, I became convinced that it was necessary to make a major move to break the deadlock in the Paris talks. I spoke directly in this office, where I am now sitting, with an individual who had known Ho Chi Minh [President, Democratic Republic of Vietnam] on a personal basis for 25 years. Through him I sent a letter to Ho Chi Minh.
I did this outside of the usual diplomatic channels with the hope that with the necessity of making statements for propaganda removed, there might be constructive progress toward bringing the war to an end. Let me read from that letter to you now.
"Dear Mr. President:
"I realize that it is difficult to communicate meaningfully across the gulf of four years of war. But precisely because of this gulf, I wanted to take this opportunity to reaffirm in all solemnity my desire to work for a just peace. I deeply believe that the war in Vietnam has gone on too long and delay in bringing it to an end can benefit no one-least of all the people of Vietnam. . . .
"The time has come to move forward at the conference table toward an early resolution of this tragic war. You will find us forthcoming and open-minded in a common effort to bring the blessings of peace to the brave people of Vietnam. Let history record that at this critical juncture, both sides turned their face toward peace rather than toward conflict and war."
I received Ho Chi Minhs reply on August 30, 3 days before his death. It simply reiterated the public position North Vietnam had taken at Paris and flatly rejected my initiative.
The full text of both letters is being released to the press.
In addition to the public meetings that I have referred to, Ambassador Lodge has met with Vietnam's chief negotiator in Paris in II private sessions.
We have taken other significant initiatives which must remain secret to keep open some channels of communication which may still prove to be productive.
But the effect of all the public, private, and secret negotiations which have been undertaken since the bombing halt a year ago and since this administration came into office on January 20, can be summed up in one sentence: No progress whatever has been made except agreement on the shape of the bargaining table.
Well now, who is at fault?
It has become clear that the obstacle in negotiating an end to the war is not the President of the United States. It is not the South Vietnamese Government.
The obstacle is the other side's absolute refusal to show the least willingness to join us in seeking a just peace. And it will not do so while it is convinced that all it has to do is to wait for our next concession, and our next concession after that one, until it gets everything it wants.
There can now be no longer any question that progress in negotiation depends only on Hanoi's deciding to negotiate, to negotiate seriously.
I realize that this report on our efforts on the diplomatic front is discouraging to the American people, but the American people are entitled to know the truth-the bad news as well as the good news where the lives of our young men are involved.
Now let me turn, however, to a more encouraging report on another front.
At the time we launched our search for peace I recognized we might not succeed in bringing an end to the war through negotiation. I, therefore, put into effect another plan to bring peace-a plan which will bring the war to an end regardless of what happens on the negotiating front.
It is in line with a major shift in U.S. foreign policy which I described in my press conference at Guam on July, 25. Let me briefly explain what has been described as the Nixon Doctrine-a policy which not only will help end the war in Vietnam, but which is an essential element of our program to prevent future Vietnams.
We Americans are a do-it-yourself people. We are an impatient people. Instead of teaching someone else to do a job, we like to do it ourselves. And this trait has been carried over into our foreign policy.
In Korea and again in Vietnam, the United States furnished most of the money, most of the arms, and most of the men to help the people of those countries defend their freedom against Communist aggression.
Before any American troops were committed to Vietnam, a leader of another Asian country expressed this opinion to me when I was traveling in Asia as a private citizen. He said: "When you are trying to assist another nation defend its freedom, U.S. policy should be to help them fight the war but not to fight the war for them."
Well, in accordance with this wise counsel, I laid down in Guam three principles as guidelines for future American policy toward Asia:
First, the United States will keep all of its treaty commitments.
Second, we shall provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation allied with us or of a nation whose survival we consider vital to our security.
Third, in cases involving other types of aggression, we shall furnish military and economic assistance when requested in accordance with our treaty commitments. But we shall look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for its defense.
After I announced this policy, I found that the leaders of the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, and other nations which might be threatened by Communist aggression, welcomed this new direction in American foreign policy.
The defense of freedom is everybody's business-not just Americas business. And it is particularly the responsibility of the people whose freedom is threatened. In the previous administration, we Americanized the war in Vietnam. In this administration, we are Vietnamizing the search for peace.
The policy of the previous administration not only resulted in our assuming the primary responsibility for fighting the war, but even more significantly did not adequately stress the goal of strengthening the South Vietnamese so that they could defend themselves when we left.
The Vietnamization plan was launched following Secretary Laird's visit to Vietnam in March. Under the plan, I ordered first a substantial increase in the training and equipment of South Vietnamese forces.
In July, on my visit to Vietnam, I changed General Abrams orders so that they were consistent with the objectives of our new policies. Under the new orders, the primary mission of our troops is to enable the South Vietnamese forces to assume the full responsibility for the security of South Vietnam.
Our air operations have been reduced by over 20 percent.
And now we have begun to see the results of this long overdue change in American policy in Vietnam: After 5 years of Americans going into Vietnam, we are finally bringing American men home. By December 15, over 60,000 men will have been withdrawn from South Vietnam-including 20 percent of all of our combat forces. The South Vietnamese have continued to gain in strength. As a result they have been able to take over combat responsibilities from our American troops.
Two other significant developments have occurred since this administration took office: Enemy infiltration, infiltration which is essential if they are to launch a major attack, over the last 3 months is less than 20 percent of what it was over the same period last year. Most important-United States casualties have declined during the last 2 months to the lowest point in 3 years.
Let me now turn to our program for the future.
We have adopted a plan which we have worked out in cooperation with the South Vietnamese for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. combat ground forces, and their replacement by South Vietnamese forces on an orderly scheduled timetable. This withdrawal will be made from strength and not from weakness. As South Vietnamese forces become stronger, the rate of American withdrawal can become greater.
I have not and do not intend to announce the timetable for our program. And there are obvious reasons for this decision which I am sure you will understand. As I have indicated on several occasions, the rate of withdrawal will depend on developments on three fronts.
One of these is the progress which can be or might be made in the Paris talks. An announcement of a fixed timetable for our withdrawal would completely remove any incentive for the enemy to negotiate an agreement. They would simply wait until our forces had withdrawn and then move in.
The other two factors on which we will base our withdrawal decisions are the level of enemy activity and the progress of the training programs of the South Vietnamese forces. And I am glad to be able to report tonight progress on both of these fronts has been greater than we anticipated when we started the program in June for withdrawal. As a result, our timetable for withdrawal is more optimistic now than when we made our first estimates in June. Now, this clearly demonstrates why it is not wise to be frozen in on a fixed timetable.
We must retain the flexibility to base each withdrawal decision on the situation as it is at that time rather than on estimates that are no longer valid.
Along with this optimistic estimate, I must-in all candor-leave one note of caution.
If the level of enemy activity significantly increases we might have to adjust our timetable accordingly.
However, I want the record to be completely clear on one point.
At the time of the bombing halt just a year ago, there was some confusion as to whether there was an understanding on the part of the enemy that if we stopped the bombing of North Vietnam they would stop the shelling of cities in South Vietnam. I want to be sure that there is no misunderstanding on the part of the enemy with regard to our withdrawal Program.
We have noted the reduced level of infiltration, the reduction of our casualties, and are basing our withdrawal decisions partially on those factors.
If the level of infiltration or our casualties increase while we are trying to scale down the fighting, it will be the result of a conscious decision by the enemy.
Hanoi could make no greater mistake than to assume that an increase in violence will be to its advantage. If I conclude that increased enemy action jeopardizes our remaining forces in Vietnam, I shall not hesitate to take strong and effective measures to deal with that situation.
This is not a threat. This is a statement of policy, which as Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, I am making in meeting my responsibility for the protection of American fighting men wherever they may be.
My fellow Americans, I am sure you can recognize from what I have said that we really only have two choices open to us if we want to end this war: I can order an immediate, precipitate withdrawal of all Americans from Vietnam without regard to the effects of that action. Or we can persist in our search for a just peace through a negotiated settlement if possible, or through continued implementation of our plan for Vietnamization if necessary-a plan in which we will withdraw all of our forces from Vietnam on a schedule in accordance with our program, as the South Vietnamese become strong enough to defend their own freedom.
I have chosen this second course.
It is not the easy way.
It is the right way.
It is a plan which will end the war and serve the cause of peace-not just in Vietnam but in the Pacific and in the world.
In speaking of the consequences of a precipitate withdrawal, I mentioned that our allies would lose confidence in America.
Far more dangerous, we would lose confidence in ourselves. Oh, the immediate reaction would be a sense of relief that our men were coming home. But as we saw the consequences of what we had done, inevitable remorse and divisive recrimination would scar our spirit as a people.
We have faced other crisis in our history and have become stronger by rejecting the easy way out and taking the right way in meeting our challenges. Our greatness as a nation has been our capacity to do what had to be done when we knew our course was right.
I recognize that some of my fellow citizens disagree with the plan for peace I have chosen. Honest and patriotic Americans have reached different conclusions as to how peace should be achieved.
In San Francisco a few weeks ago, I saw demonstrators carrying signs reading: "Lose in Vietnam, bring the boys home."
Well, one of the strengths of our free society is that any American has a right to reach that conclusion and to advocate that point of view. But as President of the United States, I would be untrue to my oath of office if I allowed the policy of this Nation to be dictated by the minority who hold that point of view and who try to impose it on the Nation by mounting demonstrations in the street.
For almost 200 years, the policy of this Nation has been made under our Constitution by those leaders in the Congress and the White House elected by all of the people. If a vocal minority, however fervent its cause, prevails over reason and the will of the majority, this Nation has no future as a free society.
And now I would like to address a word, if I may, to the young people of this Nation who are particularly concerned, and I understand why they are concerned, about this war.
I respect your idealism.
I share your concern for peace.
I want peace as much as you do.
There are powerful personal reasons I want to end this war. This week I will have to sign 83 letters to mothers, fathers, wives, and loved ones of men who have given their lives for America in Vietnam. It is very little satisfaction to me that this is only one-third as many letters as I signed the first week in office. There is nothing I want more than to see the day come when I do not have to write any of those letters.
I want to end the war to save the lives of those brave young men in Vietnam. But I want to end it in a way which will increase the chance that their younger brothers and their sons will not have to fight in some future Vietnam someplace in the world. And I want to end the war for another reason. I want to end it so that the energy and dedication of you, our young people, now too often directed into bitter hatred against those responsible for the war, can be turned to the great challenges of peace, a better life for all Americans, a better life for all people on this earth.
I have chosen a plan for peace. I believe it will succeed.
If it does succeed, what the critics say now won't matter. If it does not succeed, anything I say then won't matter.
I know it may not be fashionable to speak of patriotism or national destiny these days. But I feel it is appropriate to do so on this occasion
Two hundred years ago this Nation was weak and poor. But even then, America was the hope of millions in the world. Today we have become the strongest and richest nation in the world. And the wheel of destiny has turned so that any hope the world has for the survival of peace and freedom will be determined by whether the American people have the moral stamina and the courage to meet the challenge of free world leadership.
Let historians not record that when America was the most powerful nation in the world we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hopes for peace and freedom of millions of people to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism.
And so tonight-to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans. I ask for your support.
I pledged in my campaign for the Presidency to end the war in a way that we could win the peace. I have initiated a plan of action which will enable me to keep that pledge.
The more support I can have from the American people, the sooner that pledge can be redeemed; for the more divided we are at home, the less likely, the enemy is to negotiate at Paris.
Let us be united for peace. Let us also be united against defeat. Because let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.
Fifty years ago, in this room and at this very desk, President Woodrow Wilson spoke words which caught the imagination of a war-weary world. He said: "This is the war to end war." His dream for peace after World War I was shattered on the hard realities of great power politics and Woodrow Wilson died a broken man.
Tonight I do not tell you that the war in Vietnam is the war to end wars. But I do say this: I have initiated a plan which Will end this war in a way that will bring us closer to that great goal to which Woodrow Wilson and every American President in our history has been dedicated-the goal of a just and lasting peace.
As President I hold the responsibility for choosing the best path to that goal and then leading the Nation along it.
I pledge to you tonight that I shall meet this responsibility with all of the strength and wisdom I can command in accordance with your hopes, mindful of your concerns, sustained by your prayers.
Thank you and goodnight.
President Richard M. Nixon - November 3, 1969
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