Since my paper deals a lot with Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia and the response this generated from the American public, I wanted to spend part of my paper discussing the Nixon Administration’s policies in general.
I found a useful article by Jeffrey Kimball that outlines Nixon’s foreign policy in Southeast Asia during this time. The article focuses mainly on what is called the Nixon Doctrine, which was basically the idea that the United States would continue to honor its commitments in Southeast Asia and protect those countries from external threats while at the same time avoiding another situation like Vietnam (70). The Doctrine was created during a press conference in Guam in July of 1969. While answering reporters’ questions, Nixon found himself having to both assure Western allies that the US was not going to get involved in another Vietnam-type situation, while at the same time reassuring other Southeast Asian countries that America was not going to renege on their other commitments in those countries. This idea had grown out of the de-Amercanizing aspect of Vietnamization. The comments that Nixon made in Guam were unofficial and unplanned. He did not mean them to turn into a legitimate doctrine for how his administration conducted itself in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, the Nixon Doctrine became a very popular idea worldwide.
Nixon soon found that he could not live up to the Nixon Doctrine on every occasion. He was already being hypocritical in the way he was presenting his views of the Vietnam War to the American public. He won the election partly because he had appeared to promise to withdraw troops from Vietnam. However, his intention was never to just get out of Vietnam, but to win it. Kimball remarks that “vietnamization…would primarily serve the political purpose of buying time on the home front for the other elements of their strategy to take effect” (67). These other elements included escalation in order to squeeze the enemy into negotiations. This escalation policy eventually led to the invasion of Cambodia, which sparked the Kent State protests.
Kimball, Jeffrey. “The Nixon Doctrine: A Saga of Misunderstanding”. Presidential Studies Quarterly , Vol. 36, No. 1, Presidential Doctrines (Mar., 2006), 59-74.