On Thursday night President Bush will address the nation on the situation in Iraq. Turning necessity into a virtue he will announce that he plans to withdraw up to 30,000 troops from Iraq sometime next summer.
That would return troop levels to precisely where they were in November 2006 when voters sent a clear message that they wanted all our troops the hell out of Iraq, now. So, in terms of US blood, sweat and tears, we are right back where we started before Bush's January surge of – coincidentally, 30,000 additional troops was announced.
But you know all that already. What I want to do today is prepare you for Bush's Thursday night address to the nation. Sorry if history bores you. But somehow I find it increasingly informative in this regard. So, if you want a preview of Bush's speech, here it is:
President Nixon's Speech on Vietnamization, November 3, 1969.
Edited for Length — (Full version here)
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.
The war (has caused) 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.
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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 facing us today is: Now that we are in the war, what is the best way to end it?
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. ... With the sudden collapse of our support, these atrocities... 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 through-out the world... 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...The Vietnamization (Nixon's version of “when their troops stand up, our troops will stand down) 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.After 5 years of Americans going into Vietnam, we are finally bringing 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. ... 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 the 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.
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 our forces from Vietnam on a schedule in accordance with our program, as the South Vietnamese become strong enough to defend their own freedom.
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.
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. .. 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. ..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.
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. ... 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.
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.
The Vietnam war ended roughly six years later. In the end we did withdraw “precipitously,” as you can see by the photo on the right.
And what happened? The Vietnamese, North and South, figured things out their own way, and today Vietnam has the fastest growing economy in Asia and hosts some of the most luxurious beach side resorts in the world catering to Europeans and Americans.
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