Kirkus Reviews QR Code
NIXON'S VIETNAM WAR by Jeffrey Kimball

NIXON'S VIETNAM WAR

By Jeffrey Kimball

Pub Date: Nov. 26th, 1998
ISBN: 0-7006-0924-5
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kansas

A convincing, devastating deconstruction of Richard Nixon’s and Henry Kissinger’s Vietnam War policies that attempts to explode the “peace-with-honor” myth. Nixon spent a great deal of time after his resignation as president making a case for his foreign policy achievements. So, too, has former national security adviser Henry Kissinger. In many books, articles, and speeches, they have argued that they performed heroically in the Vietnam War. They claim they spent four years battling the duplicitous North Vietnamese, our intransigent South Vietnamese allies, a weak-willed, liberal Congress, a biased press, and a self-serving—if not communist-inspired—domestic antiwar movement to forge a peace with honor in January 1973. That peace, Nixon and Kissinger contend, was subverted by North Vietnamese treachery and Congress’s failure to support South Vietnam after the American troop pullout. Kimball (History/Univ. of Miami) delves deeply into Nixon’s and Kissinger’s interpretations of their decisions on Vietnam, compares them to many primary sources, and finds the Nixon and Kissinger arguments “incomplete, disingenuous and self-serving.” Kimball backs up his highly critical judgement in great detail in this heavily documented account, which concentrates on the diplomatic aspects of Nixon’s and Kissinger’s Vietnam policies. Kimball also looks at both men’s psychological makeup—describing Nixon as “antisocial, paranoid, narcissistic, [and] passive-aggressive”—and concludes that Nixon’s oft-proclaimed “peace with honor” was a myth manufactured by administration spin doctors. Nixon’s plan to end the war, Kimball says, was far from the well-organized, “proactive” strategy that the late president claimed. Nixon and Kissinger’s four years of war-making, in Kimball’s view, “unnecessarily prolonged the war, with all of the baneful consequences of death, destruction and division for Vietnam and America that this brought about.” Kimball puts Nixon’s and Kissinger’s Vietnam War maneuverings under a microscope and discovers a malignant cancer on the presidency. (History Book Club selection)