One of the most enduring historiographical debates surrounding the American war in Vietnam is the question of whether Richard Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, hoped for merely a “decent interval” between the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and the collapse of the Saigon government or whether the two men hoped to continue a “permanent war” to prop up the Saigon regime indefinitely after the signing of a faulty peace agreement. The two arguments are best put forth in Jeffrey Kimball’s Nixon’s Vietnam War and Larry Berman’s No Peace, No Honor, respectively, as well as in the subsequent exchanges between the two authors in the pages of Passport, the newsletter of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. Kimball contends that from as early as 1970, Nixon and Kissinger’s goal was to build up the South Vietnamese military in the hope that Saigon’s anticommunist regime might survive at least long enough after a U.S. withdrawal to prevent blame being placed at Nixon and Kissinger’s feet. Berman, on the other hand, argues that Nixon and Kissinger anticipated the cease-fire would not hold and hoped to achieve a permanent stalemate by responding to future North Vietnamese offensives with American airpower and other forms of support for Nguyen Van Thieu’s
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The Powell Doctrine
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PERSPECTIVES ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS, 1992–2020
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