The protests preceding the shootings at Kent State were sparked primarily by the U.S. decision to invade Cambodia. This invasion revived several of the antiwar movements throughout the nation, and led to remarkably negative response from the American public. Because of the importance of the reaction to this decision I decided to research the reasons behind the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.
Nixon issued an address to the nation on April 30, 1970 explaining his reasoning for sending troops into Cambodia. In it he claims that the North Vietnamese had been using Cambodia as a base for operations for years, and it was reaching the point in which the North Vietnamese presence in Cambodia was becoming a threat to the American troops. Therefore, the invasion was necessary in order to adequately protect the Americans. He also claimed that the North Vietnamese presence in Cambodia gave them a strategic advantage since they would be able to move men and supplies more easily. Nixon states that, if the North Vietnamese were to succeed in occupying Cambodia entirely, then “North Vietnamese men and supplies could then be poured into that country, jeopardizing not only the lives of our own men but the people of South Vietnam as well” (Nixon). Preventing North Vietnamese occupation in Cambodia therefore became a necessary facet of the war.
Nixon realized that this action was not going to be popular and admits that there was a lot of debate and disagreement among his advisors. In the speech he specifically acknowledges a Republican senator that remarked that the decision to invade Cambodia ensured that Nixon had “lost all chance of winning the November elections” (Nixon). However, Nixon maintains that he made this decision despite the political ramifications. He believed that invading Cambodia was essential in order to win the war and bring the American troops home. He said, “The action I have taken tonight is indispensable for the continuing success of that withdrawal program” (Nixon). Invading Cambodia would greatly hinder the North Vietnamese, and therefore strengthen America’s position and ability to win the war.
Nixon, Richard. “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Southeast Asia”. 30 April 1970.