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The Great Silent Majority-Richard Milhous Nixon
04-04-2014, 01:28 PM
Post: #1
The Great Silent Majority-Richard Milhous Nixon

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Richard M. Nixon
The Great Silent Majority

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
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.
How and why did America get involved in Vietnam in the first place?
How has this administration changed the policy of the previous
What has really happened in the negotiations in Paris and on the
battlefront in Vietnam?
What choices do we have if we are to end the war?
What are the prospects for peace?
Now let me begin by describing the situation I found when I was
inaugurated on January 20: The war had been going on for four years.
Thirty-one thousand Americans had been killed in action. The training
program for the South Vietnamese was beyond [behind] schedule. Five
hundred and forty-thousand Americans were in Vietnam with no plans to
reduce the number. No progress had been made at the negotiations in
Paris and the United States had not put forth a comprehensive peace
The war was causing 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. From a political standpoint, this would have been a popular and
easy course to follow. After all, we became involved in the war while my
predecessor was in office. I could blame the defeat, which would be the
result of my action, on him -- and come out as the peacemaker. Some
put it to me quite bluntly: This was the only way to avoid allowing
Johnson’s war to become Nixon’s war.

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 at issue is not whether Johnson’s war becomes Nixon’s
war. The great question is: How can we win America’s peace?
Well, let us turn now to the fundamental issue: Why and how did the
United States become involved in Vietnam in the first place? Fifteen
years ago North Vietnam, with the logistical support of Communist
China and the Soviet Union, launched a campaign to impose a
Communist government on South Vietnam by instigating and supporting
a revolution.
In response to the request of the Government of South Vietnam,
President Eisenhower sent economic aid and military equipment to
assist the people of South Vietnam in their efforts to prevent a
Communist takeover. Seven years ago, President Kennedy sent 16,000
military personnel to Vietnam as combat advisers. Four years ago,
President Johnson sent American combat forces to South Vietnam.
Now many believe that President Johnson’s decision to send American
combat forces to South Vietnam was wrong. And many others, I among
them, have been strongly critical of the way the war has been
But the question facing us today is: Now that we are in the war, what is
the best way to end it?
In January I could only conclude that the precipitate withdrawal of all
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. They then murdered more than
50,000 people and hundreds of thousands more died in slave labor
We saw a prelude of what would happen in South Vietnam when the
Communists entered the city of Hue last year. During their brief rule
there, there was a bloody reign of terror in which 3,000 civilians were
clubbed, shot to death, and buried in mass graves.
With the sudden collapse of our support, these atrocities at Hue 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
throughout the world.
Three American Presidents have recognized the great stakes involved in
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Vietnam and understood what had to be done.
In 1963 President Kennedy with his characteristic eloquence and clarity
"We want to see a stable Government there," carrying on
the [a] struggle to maintain its national independence." We
believe strongly in that. We are not going to withdraw from
that effort. In my opinion, for us to withdraw from that
effort would mean a collapse not only of South Vietnam but
Southeast Asia. So we’re going to stay there."1
President Eisenhower and President Johnson expressed the same
conclusion during their terms of office.
For the future of peace, precipitate withdrawal would 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 worlds
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 the battle
front in order to end the war fought on many fronts. I initiated a pursuit
for peace on many fronts. In a television speech on May 14, in a speech
before the United Nations, on a number of other occasions, I set forth
our peace proposals in great detail.
We have offered the complete withdrawal of all outside forces within one
year. We have proposed a cease fire under international supervision.
We have offered free elections under international supervision with the
Communists participating in the organization and conduct of the
elections as an organized political force. And the Saigon government has
pledged to accept the result of the election.
We have not put forth our proposals on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. We
have indicated that we’re willing to discuss the proposals that have been
put forth by the other side. We have declared that anything is
negotiable, except the right of the people of South Vietnam to
determine their own future.
At the Paris peace conference Ambassador Lodge has demonstrated our
flexibility and good faith in 40 public meetings. Hanoi has refused even
to discuss our proposals. They demand our unconditional acceptance of
their terms which are that we withdraw all American forces immediately
and unconditionally and that we overthrow the government of South
Vietnam as we leave.
We have not limited our peace initiatives to public forums and public
statements. I recognized in January that a long and bitter war like this
usually cannot be settled in a public forum. That is why in addition to
the public statements and negotiations, I have explored every possible
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private avenue that might lead to a settlement.
Tonight, I am taking the unprecedented step of disclosing to you some
of our other initiatives for peace, initiatives we undertook privately and
secretly because we thought we thereby might open a door which
publicly would be closed.
I did not wait for my inauguration to begin my quest for peace. Soon
after my election, through an individual who was directly in contact on a
personal basis with the leaders of North Vietnam, I made two private
offers for a rapid, comprehensive settlement. Hanoi’s replies called in
effect for our surrender before negotiations. Since the Soviet Union
furnishes most of the military equipment for North Vietnam, Secretary
of State Rogers, my assistant for national security affairs, Dr. Kissinger,
Ambassador Lodge and I personally have met on a number of occasions
with representatives of the Soviet Government to enlist their assistance
in getting meaningful negotiations started. In addition, we have had
extended discussions directed toward that same end with
representatives of other governments which have diplomatic relations
with North Vietnam.
None of these initiatives have to date produced results. In mid-July I
became convinced that it was necessary to make a major move to break
the deadlock in the Paris talks. I spoke directly in this office, where I’m
now sitting, with an individual who had known Ho Chi Minh on a
personal basis for 25 years. Through him I sent a letter to Ho Chi Minh.
I did this outside of the usual diplomatic channels with the hope that
with the necessity of making statements for propaganda removed, there
might be constructive progress toward bringing the war to an end.
Let me read from that letter to you now:
“Dear Mr. President:
I realize that it is difficult to communicate meaningfully
across the gulf of four years of war. But precisely because of
this gulf I wanted to take this opportunity to reaffirm in all
solemnity my desire to work for a just peace. I deeply
believe that the war in Vietnam has gone on too long and
delay in bringing it to an end can benefit no one, least of all
the people of Vietnam. The time has come to move forward
at the conference table toward an early resolution of this
tragic war. You will find us forthcoming and open-minded in
a common effort to bring the blessings of peace to the brave
people of Vietnam. Let history record that at this critical
juncture both sides turned their face toward peace rather
than toward conflict and war."
I received Ho Chi Minh’s reply on August 30, three days before his
death. It simply reiterated the public position North Vietnam had taken
at Paris and flatly rejected my initiative. The full text of both letters is
being released to the press.
In addition to the public meetings that I have referred to, Ambassador
Lodge has met with Vietnam’s chief negotiator in Paris in 11 private
sessions. And we have taken other significant initiatives which must
remain secret to keep open some channels of communications which
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may still prove to be productive.
But the effect of all the public, private, and secret negotiations which
have been undertaken since the bombing halt a year ago, and since this
Administration came into office on January 20th, can be summed up in
one sentence: No progress whatever has been made except agreement
on the shape of the bargaining table.
Well, now, who’s at fault? It’s become clear that the obstacle in
negotiating an end to the war is not the President of the United
States. It is not the South Vietnamese Government. The obstacle is the
other side’s absolute refusal to show the least willingness to join us in
seeking a just peace. And it will not do so while it is convinced that all it
has to do is to wait for our next concession, and our next concession
after that one, until it gets everything it wants.
There can now be no longer any question that progress in negotiation
depends only on Hanoi ’s deciding to negotiate -- to negotiate seriously.
I realize that this report on our efforts on the diplomatic front is
discouraging to the American people, but the American people are
entitled to know the truth -- the bad news as well as the good news --
where the lives of our young men are involved.
Now let me turn, however, to a more encouraging report on another
front. At the time we launched our search for peace, I recognized we
might not succeed in bringing an end to the war through negotiations. I
therefore put into effect another plan to bring peace -- a plan which will
bring the war to an end regardless of what happens on the negotiating
front. It is in line with the major shift in U. S. foreign policy which I
described in my press conference at Guam on July 25. Let me briefly
explain what has been described as the Nixon Doctrine -- a policy which
not only will help end the war in Vietnam but which is an essential
element of our program to prevent future Vietnams.
We Americans are a do-it-yourself people -- we’re an impatient
people. Instead of teaching someone else to do a job, we like to do it
ourselves. And this trait has been carried over into our foreign policy. In
Korea, and again in Vietnam, the United States furnished most of the
money, most of the arms, and most of the men to help the people of
those countries defend their freedom against Communist aggression.
Before any American troops were committed to Vietnam, a leader of
another Asian country expressed this opinion to me when I was
traveling in Asia as a private citizen. He said: “When you are trying to
assist another nation defend its freedom, U.S. policy should be to help
them fight the war, but not to fight the war for them.”
Well in accordance with this wise counsel, I laid down in Guam three
principles as guidelines for future American policy toward Asia. First, the
United States will keep all of its treaty commitments. Second, we shall
provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation
allied with us, or of a nation whose survival we consider vital to our
security. Third, in cases involving other types of aggression we shall
furnish military and economic assistance when requested in accordance
with our treaty commitments. But we shall look to the nation directly
threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the
manpower for its defense.

After I announced this policy, I found that the leaders of the Philippines,
Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, other nations which might be
threatened by Communist aggression, welcomed this new direction in
American foreign policy.
The defense of freedom is everybody’s business -- not just America’s
business. And it is particularly the responsibility of the people whose
freedom is threatened. In the previous Administration, we Americanized
the war in Vietnam. In this Administration, we are Vietnamizing the
search for peace.
The policy of the previous Administration not only resulted in our
assuming the primary responsibility for fighting the war, but even more
significant did not adequately stress the goal of strengthening the South
Vietnamese so that they could defend themselves when we left.
The Vietnamization 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. In July, on
my visit to Vietnam, I changed General Abrams’s orders, so that they
were consistent with the objectives of our new policies. Under the new
orders, the primary mission of our troops is to enable the South
Vietnamese forces to assume the full responsibility for the security of
South Vietnam. Our air operations have been reduced by over 20 per
And now we have begun to see the results of this long-overdue change
in American policy in Vietnam. After five years of Americans going into
Vietnam we are finally bringing American 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've 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 three
months, is less than 20 percent of what it was over the same period last
year. And most important, United States casualties have declined during
the last two months to the lowest point in three 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’m sure
you will understand. As I’ve indicated on several occasions, the rate of
withdrawal will depend on developments on three fronts. One of these
is the progress which can be, or might be, made in the Paris talks. 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.
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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 that 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
However, I want the record to be completely clear on one point. At the
time of the bombing halt just a year ago there was some confusion as to
whether there was an understanding on the part of the enemy that if we
stopped the bombing of North Vietnam, they would stop the shelling of
cities in South Vietnam.
I want to be sure that there is no misunderstanding on the part of the
enemy with regard to our withdrawal program. We have noted the
reduced level of infiltration, the reduction of our casualties and are
basing our withdrawal decisions partially on those factors. If the level of
infiltration or our casualties increase while we are trying to scale down
the fighting, it will be the result of a conscious decision by the enemy.
Hanoi could make no greater mistake than to assume that an increase
in violence will be to its advantage.
If I conclude that increased enemy action jeopardizes our remaining
forces in Vietnam, I shall not hesitate to take strong and effective
measures to deal with that situation. This is not a threat. This is a
statement of policy which as Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces I
am making and meeting my responsibility for the protection of American
fighting men wherever they may be.
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 of
our forces from Vietnam on a schedule in accordance with our program
as the South Vietnamese become strong enough to defend their own
I have chosen this second course. 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 precipitous 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
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as we saw the consequences of what we had done, inevitable remorse
and divisive recrimination would scar our spirit as a people.
We have faced other crises in our history and we have become stronger
by rejecting the easy way out and taking the right way in meeting our
challenges. Our greatness as a nation has been our capacity to do what
has to be done when we knew our course was right. 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. In San Francisco a few
weeks ago, I saw demonstrators carrying signs reading, “Lose in
Vietnam, bring the boys home.” Well, one of the strengths of our free
society is that any American has a right to reach that conclusion and to
advocate that point of view.
But as President of the United States, I would be untrue to my oath of
office if I allowed the policy of this nation to be dictated by the minority
who hold that point of view and who try to impose it on the nation by
mounting demonstrations in the street. For almost 200 years, the policy
of this nation has been made under our Constitution by those leaders in
the Congress and the White House elected by all the people. 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. There are
powerful personal reasons I want to end this war. This week I will have
to sign 83 letters to mothers, fathers, wives, and loved ones of men
who have given their lives for America in Vietnam. It's very little
satisfaction to me that this is only one-third as many letters as I signed
the first week in office. There is nothing I want more than to see the
day come when I do not have to write any of those letters.
I want to end the war to save the lives of those brave young men in
Vietnam. 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 some place in the world.
And I want to end the war for another reason. I want to end it so that
the energy and dedication of you, our young people, now too often
directed into bitter hatred against those responsible for the war, can be
turned to the great challenges of peace, a better life for all Americans, a
better life for all people on this earth.
I have chosen a plan for peace. I believe it will succeed. If it does not
succeed, what the critics say now won’t matter. Or if it does succeed,
what the critics say now won’t matter. If it does not succeed, anything I
say then won’t matter.
I know it may not be fashionable to speak of patriotism or national
destiny these days, but I feel it is appropriate to do so on this occasion.
Two hundred years ago this nation was weak and poor. But even then,
America was the hope of millions in the world. Today we have become
the strongest and richest nation in the world, and the wheel of destiny
has turned so that any hope the world has for the survival of peace and
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freedom will be determined by whether the American people have the
moral stamina and the courage to meet the challenge of free-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.
So tonight, to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans, I
ask for your support. I pledged in my campaign for the Presidency to
end the war in a way that we could win the peace. I have initiated a
plan of action which will enable me to keep that pledge. The more
support I can have from the American people, the sooner that pledge
can be redeemed. For the more divided we are at home, the less likely
the enemy is to negotiate at Paris.
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.
Fifty years ago, in this room, and at this very desk, President Woodrow
Wilson spoke words which caught the imagination of a war-weary
world. He said: “This is the war to end wars.” His dream for peace after
World War I was shattered on the hard reality of great power
politics. And Woodrow Wilson died a broken man.
Tonight, I do not tell you that the war in Vietnam is the war to end
wars, but I do say this: I have initiated a plan which will end this war in
a way that will bring us closer to that great goal to which -- to which
Woodrow Wilson and every American President in our history has been
dedicated -- the goal of a just and lasting peace.
As President I hold the responsibility for choosing the best path for 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 good night.
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