Under Nixon, American troop strength in Vietnam contracted but the war effort expanded. Nixon began a program of Vietnamization, which meant decreasing the number of U.S. troops, offering only advice and assistance, and turning the war effort over to the South Vietnamese. U.S. ground troops gradually returned from Vietnam, but the United States increased its bombing of North Vietnam. Nixon also extended the war into Cambodia and Laos, where he secretly authorized bombing to block enemy supply routes on Vietnam’s border. Finally, Nixon sought a diplomatic escape from war. He visited China and the USSR and sent Henry Kissinger, his national security adviser, to secret talks in Paris with the North Vietnamese. Antiwar protests, meanwhile, continued. In May 1970 Ohio National Guard troops killed four Kent State University students during an antiwar protest, spurring widespread outrage.
In 1973, as Nixon began a second term, the United States and North Vietnam signed a peace treaty in Paris, which provided for a cease-fire. The terms of the cease-fire included: American withdrawal of all remaining forces from Vietnam, Vietnamese return of American prisoners captured during war, and the end of all foreign military operations in Laos and Cambodia. American troops left Vietnam, but the war between North Vietnam and South Vietnam continued. South Vietnam finally fell in April 1975, as North Vietnamese forces entered Saigon.
More than 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam, and over 300,000 were wounded. Even after the war’s end, Americans continued to debate its purpose and the meaning of its failure.
The Vietnam War affected the United States in many ways. Most immediately, it spurred policy changes. The United States ended the military draft and switched to an all-volunteer army. Congress passed the War Powers Resolution over Nixon’s veto in November 1973. The resolution limited the president’s ability to send troops into combat without congressional consent. Its passage reflected legislators’ desire to restrain presidential power and to prevent U.S. involvement in a war like that in Vietnam.
Beyond policy changes, the war in Vietnam changed the attitudes of a generation. First, the war increased caution about involvement in foreign affairs. After Vietnam, Americans more carefully weighed the risks of intruding in another nation’s problems. Second, defeat in the war diminished American confidence in U.S. superiority, both moral and military. Defeat in Vietnam was a humiliating national experience.
Finally, the war increased mistrust of government and its officials. A chain of events beginning in the 1960s—such as the way Johnson obtained the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, revelations of secret bombings of Cambodia under Nixon, and the Kent State tragedy—shattered a faith in the state that had prevailed since World War II. These events left citizens with a sense of cynicism: Government leaders were no longer credible. The abrupt end of Nixon’s presidency only confirmed this sentiment. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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