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The price of peace
An in-depth look at the men and the details behind U.S. involvement in Vietnam

By Mark Feeney / Boston Globe


No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam
By Larry Berman
Free Press, $27.50
334 pages
(A good read)

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   Richard Nixon admired no statesman more than Charles de Gaulle. Henry Kissinger esteemed him nearly as much. Yet their admiration did not extend to emulation. De Gaulle's greatest act as French president was to recognize the futility of France's position in Algeria and end it.
   Nixon and Kissinger, who by no means failed to recognize the impossibility of the U.S. position in Vietnam, were unwilling to do the same. The subtitle of Larry Berman's book isn't really necessary for anyone much older than 40. "Peace with honor," which doubled as plea and policy statement, was the great mantra of Nixon's first term. (the mantra of his second term was "Who, me?")
   Thus a title like No Peace, No Honor all but inevitably summons up the names Nixon, Kissinger and Vietnam. And part of why the war remains such a wound for so many is because those names in turn summon up "betrayal" for almost all parties involved: Vietnamese and American, hawk and dove, victor and vanquished.
   It's not as though the signing of the Paris Peace Accords on Jan. 27, 1973, fooled anyone (other than the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which later that year conferred the Nobel Peace Prize on the agreement's two chief negotiators, Kissinger and North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho).
   Soon after the accords were signed, Nixon's chief domestic policy adviser, John Ehrlichman, asked Kissinger what South Vietnam's chances for survival were.
   "I think that if they're lucky they can hold out for a year and a half," Kissinger said. Ever conservative, he'd underestimated by eight months.
   Shortly before the war really did end, with the fall of Saigon in April 1975, President Gerald Ford was handed the text of a speech he was to deliver to a joint session of Congress. It included the sentence, "And after years of effort, we negotiated a settlement which made it possible for us to remove our forces with honor and bring home our prisoners." Ford deleted the words "with honor."
   Berman, the director of the University of California's Washington Center, has published two previous books on the war, Planning a Tragedy and Lyndon Johnson's War. He brings to No Peace, No Honor a sure command of his material, much of which is newly declassified and drawn from archives in Hanoi as well as Washington. He also brings to it a real, if measured, sense of outrage.

Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon's approaches to peace during the Vietnam War are examined in Larry Berman's book, "No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam."
   "Well rounded" might be as good a description as "measured." Berman's loathing for Nixon, Kissinger and the war is patent. But that makes him no admirer of the North Vietnamese or National Liberation Front. (As he makes plain, Hanoi treated the NLF with a high-handedness not unlike Washington's toward Saigon; and the almost-theatrical intransigence of its negotiating tactics can be seen as having served no end beyond ideological self-congratulation.)
   What Berman works to show is the inherent dishonesty of Nixon's Vietnam policy. This is no great challenge. Even before he was elected president, Nixon strove to undercut the possibility (admittedly slim) of the Johnson administration achieving any breakthrough in the Paris peace talks. That dishonesty continued, and to little purpose, in his and Kissinger's shared mania for secrecy in their negotiations with the North. And, finally as well as most important, there was his highly cynical view of the accords.
   "Nixon," Berman writes, "recognized that winning the peace, like the war, would be impossible to achieve, but he planned for indefinite stalemate by using the B-52s to prop up the government of South Vietnam until the end of his presidency. Just as the Tonkin Gulf Resolution provided a pretext for an American engagement in South Vietnam, the Paris Accords were intended to fulfill a similar role for remaining permanently engaged in Vietnam. Watergate derailed the plan."
   Berman hasn't discovered a smoking gun. Instead, he offers a deeper, more detailed description of what was generally known or assumed about Nixon's handling of the war and planned handling of the peace. Indeed, what's most impressive about No Peace, No Honor is the comprehensiveness with which it examines what Berman all too accurately terms "a massive historical shell game called 'peace with honor.' "









































































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