Nixon survives, what happens to South Vietnam?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Edward IX, Feb 21, 2018.

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  1. Edward IX Member Banned

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    Basically, if Nixon completed his term until 1976. What would have happened to South Vietnam? Nixon had threatened to reintroduce bombing of North Vietnam at the minimum. From what I have read the North Vietnamese leadership were quite afraid of Nixon and believed he was dangerous.

    So if Nixon had stayed in office, what happens to South Vietnam? Does it fall on schedule or survive in some form?
     
  2. Seandineen Member

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    I think It survives. The aggressive bombing campaigns undertaken in 72, provide a precedent and the additional scandal of a broken treaty restores credibility.
    If a democrat is elected in 76, not of the scoop Jackson variety all bets are off. Also If Ky and Thieu can reconcile their differences, greater unity takes place within the republic.
     
  3. Edward IX Member Banned

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    I guess my question would be would the North have even attempted to attack the South? Because I don't think that the political situation was there to put air power back in Country. You would have put back in support personal and ground troops to protect them. You could not cause enough "pain" to North Vietnam from carriers.

    I think you would have continued the same tactical situation of '72 (the mining of harbour's, unrestricted bombing etc) to keep South Vietnamese going. I have no clue who would have won in 1976 if Nixon stays in power, not Carter for sure. I have no clue who Nixon goes to for VP if Watergate is not a issue.
     
  4. Seandineen Member

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    John Connelly.
     
  5. Historyman 14 Well-Known Member

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    It get to survive a year, or two at best before the North come marching in. More so with the likely hood of a Dem winning 1976 and cutting support off.

    South Vietnam was little more then a revolving door of military coups and countercoups by the end, the ARVN running out of fuel, ammunition and other supplies while the North was very well supplied by China and the Soviet Union.
     
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  6. interpoltomo please don't do coke in the bathroom

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    Survives thanks to a Nixon not in hot water likely negotiating continued air raids+ground troops there in return for ending the draft entirely.
     
  7. David T Well-Known Member

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    An old post of mine from soc.history.what-if:

    ***

    I was recently reading Larry Berman's *No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam* (New York: The Free Press 2001). Berman makes the point that neither Nixon nor Kissinger ever expected North Vietnam to obey the peace treaty signed in January 1973. They expected to respond to the anticipated violations with a vigorous bombing campaign. In short, the idea behind the peace treaty was not to make peace but to shift the war from a war involving U.S. ground troops to a war involving U.S. bombing.

    Since the U.S. could withdraw its ground troops and bomb North Vietnam without any peace treaty, the question is therefore why Nixon considered it so important to get such a treaty. The answer is that he thought that U.S. public opinion would sustain a bombing campaign *only if* there were a peace treaty and he could point to North Vietnam's violations of it as justification for the bombing. (Also, a peace treaty would enable the U.S. to get its POWs back--though, as will be seen, Nixon's policy, if implemented, would have created new ones.) The line taken by Nixon and Kissinger is that this would have worked--in the sense that it would have preserved a non-communist South Vietnam--if not for Watergate breaking as a major scandal in April 1973, which caused Nixon to abandon his plans to bomb North Vietnam again. Or as Kissinger wrote, "I think it's reasonable to assume that he [Nixon] would have bombed the hell out of them during April." (Actually, Kissinger wanted to bomb the North in March, but Nixon decided that he did not want to jeopardize the return of the final group of American POWs.)

    For now, I don't want to get into the question about whether bombing would by itself have preserved a non-communist South Vietnam. Rather, my question is, Is it true that U.S. public opinion would have supported such bombing if not for Watergate? Berman doubts that it would, even in the short run. Some interesting evidence in this regard is provided by a Gallup poll taken on the very day in January the agreement was signed. This, it must be remembered, was a pre-Watergate poll--not of course in the sense that the break-in hadn't already occurred, but in the sense that it was still a "third rate burglary"; it did not really become a major scandal until at least a couple of months later. As of January 1973, Nixon was still very popular.

    Anyway, the poll asked the following questions:

    (1) "When United States troops are withdrawn from Vietnam, do you think a strong enough government can be maintained in South Vietnam to withstand Communist political pressure, or not?" Fifty-four percent believed that the government in the South would not survive; 27 percent believed it would; 19 percent had no opinion.

    (2) "After United States troops are withdrawn from Vietnam, do you think North Vietnam in the next few years is likely to try to take over South Vietnam again, or not?" Seventy percent thought that the North would try to take over the South, 16 percent though no, and 14 percent had no opinion.

    (3) "Suppose when the United States troops are withdrawn, North Vietnam does try to take over South Vietnam again, do you think the United States should send war materials to South Vietnam, or not?" Fifty percent believed the U.S. should not send war materials, 38 percent said it should, and 12 percent had no opinion.

    (4) "If North Vietnam does try to take over South Vietnam again, do you think the United States should bomb North Vietnam again, or not?" Seventy-one percent said no to bombing, while 17 percent said yes, and 12 percent had no opinion.

    (5) "If North Vietnam does try to take over South Vietnam again, do you think the United States should send troops to help South Vietnam, or not?" Seventy-nine percent were opposed to sending troops, while 13 percent favored such an action, and 8 percent had no opinion. (Berman, p. 262)

    In short, even before Watergate broke as a major scandal, the public was almost as overwhelmingly opposed to resumed bombing (in the event of North Vietnamese violations which it fully expected) as it was to sending back U.S. troops (which I think everyone acknowledges would have been politically impossible, Watergate or no Watergate).

    You might say that the public might reply this way to a survey asking about hypotheticals, but that they would (if not for Watergate) support Nixon once he actually started the bombing. However, while it is true that the public does at first usually rally around the president when he orders the use of force abroad, this is different from most such cases--it is a case of a president re-starting a war which the public had assumed was (so far as the U.S. was concerned) over.

    Furthermore, the air war would not have been like America's air wars of 1991 to the present. It would involve substantial U.S. casualties. Much is made of the effectiveness of the U.S. bombing in "Linebacker II" (the December 1972 bombing which brought Hanoi back to the bargaining table). It did indeed inflict heavy damage. But there is another side (Berman, p. 216, quoting the JCS *History*):

    "But if the United States inflicted considerable damage in Linebacker II, it also received the same in terms of losses of aircraft and personnel. During the 12-day campaign (11 days, a day pause on Christmas, and another day of bombing), the enemy downed 13 U.S. tactical aircraft. More significantly, however, was the enemy destruction of B-52s. Heretofore, only one B-52 had been lost to enemy action in the Southeast Asian operations of November 1972, but during Linebacker II, enemy SAMs downed 15 of the strategic bombers. In addition, United States aircrew casualties during the expanded bombing of December amounted to 93 missing with 31 reported captured."

    Would U.S. public opinion--and, more immediately, Congress--be willing to accept those kinds of casualties once the peace treaty had been signed? I doubt it, Watergate or no Watergate. But let's say that Congress does back Nixon at least to the extent of refusing to cut off funds for the bombing. Would it still do so after the 1974 elections? You may say the Democrats wouldn't have gained heavily in Congress if not for Watergate. But consider the other factors working for the Democrats in 1974:

    (a) Even without Watergate, the administration wouldn't be scandal-free: after all, it isn't every day a vice-president is forced to resign...

    (b) The economy--the energy crisis (remember gas lines?), and eventually a major recession--certainly worked against the party controlling the White House.

    (c) Although Nixon's coattails in 1972 were unimpressive considering the size of his landslide, still he did manage to save some seats for the Republicans which would be in peril in a mid-term election.

    (d) The very fact that Americans (though only pilots, not ground troops) would still be fighting, in some cases being captured, in some cases dying, could by itself cause the Democrats to gain at least as many seats as Watergate did in OTL.

    So *even if* we assume that bombing could by itself preserve a non-communist South Vietnam, I am doubtful that the lack of Watergate could make such an outcome possible.

    (BTW, Berman rejects the "decent interval" theory, at least for Nixon, though he thinks Kissinger may have been more cynical, or if you prefer, realistic. Nixon really seems to have thought that he could continue the bombing right through 1976 [p. 261]).

    https://groups.google.com/d/msg/soc.history.what-if/ErzAk60askM/8JPbk0mPOIkJ
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2018
  8. Edward IX Member Banned

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    I hear that a lot, and I think that is who Nixon wanted. I am just not so sure it would have happened. However, that is a good (and really the most probable) answer. I have always had sort of a fascination with Nixon as I was born in September of 1972. My Father was a Vietnam vet and was there from '67 to '69, he ended up dying from cancer due to Agent Orange. So that whole time period means a lot to me.
     
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  9. RousseauX Well-Known Member

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    it falls a couple of years later in a different way

    bombings can deter big conventional offensives, it can't deter the kind of strategy that the Communists pursued before 1965: which was to undermine the RVN government village by village and province by province

    without a big conventional offensive the RVN would have lost control over the countryside and eventually enough of the country that some kind of morale collapse occurs in the ARVN, maybe Saigon holds out for a while but it falls too later on
     
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  10. marathag Well-Known Member

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    But after Tet, the increase in RF/PF village control and Phoenix whacking anyone thought to be a Communist, that plan just wasn't going to work again.
    Which is why the PAVN rolled into South Vietnam like it was May 1940 all over again, a Blitzkrieg
     
  11. RousseauX Well-Known Member

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    phoenix program wasn't enough: that undermines Vietcong party members in villages

    it doesn't solve the problem of entire NVA regiments camping out in South Vietnam

    After tet the NVA replaces the native, southern Communist party as the foot soldier in the fight vs the Saigon government in the south

    PAVN did it because they could, if they couldn't, they go back to the strategy of fighting South Vietnamese in smaller scale battles
     
  12. History Learner Well-Known Member

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    The Easter Offensive showed the ARVN, with American logistical and air support, could withstand NVA convention assaults while the Viet Cong had largely ended as a threat by 1970. Presuming Nixon stays in office, keeps aid going and does bombings as threatened if the '75 offensive materializes, then it gets shattered and the earliest North Vietnam can try again is around 1978-by which point China is an adversary as well, and thus Hanoi can no longer continue its efforts against Saigon lest the PRC attack them while they are distracted.
     
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  13. RousseauX Well-Known Member

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    the NVA could wage unconventional warfare in the south as well, just as the VC did
     
  14. History Learner Well-Known Member

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    The Tet Offensive shows how well that strategy works out in the long term, nevermind the fact the NVA wouldn't have the same advantages the native VC did, in that they had extensive knowledge of local terrain and familial connections.
     
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  15. RousseauX Well-Known Member

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    What are you talking about? The tet offensive -was- a big CONVENTIONAL offensive in the same way that Easter offensive of 1972 and the Spring offensive of 1975 were, and was one that Hanoi did not have to undertake.

    OTOH the NVA camping out in the south had more numbers, better equipment (real artillery pieces, and anti-aircraft weapons), logistics and training than the VC did. Sure, they don't have some of the advantages the VC have, but this is a force which could consistently beat the ARVN in battallion/regimental level combat if the ARVN don't have US troops/tactical air support backing them up.
     
  16. David T Well-Known Member

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    "Nixon survives" =/= "Nixon is so strong politically that he can do whatever he wants vis-à-vis Vietnam."
     
  17. History Learner Well-Known Member

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    Which is exactly my point; the VC could never win the conflict, nor could the NVA if they choose to fight unconventionally. It came down to, as it always does in such conflicts, tank columns doing the heavy work; this was true for the Eastern Front of WWII as well, for a rather equally famous example.

    They also don't have stable supply lines and with Nixon in office, the ARVN will have those advantages; 1975 also showed that even without that aid, the South could still score some localized successes.
     
  18. RousseauX Well-Known Member

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    By 1965 or so the Communists controlled 70% of the South Vietnamese countryside and was able to defeat ARVN battalion level units in battles like ap bac even when backed by US airpower/adivsors. The reason why there was a big escalation in 1965 was because the south Vietnamese government was on the verge of losing control over the country


    They had stable -enough- supply lines to maintain heavy equipment in the south even while Nixon was in office
     
  19. History Learner Well-Known Member

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    Indeed, but the strategic situation by the 1970s had long since then changed; new COIN strategies and the breaking of the VC in Tet had occurred.

    I find it unlikely NVA units, in the regimental sizes you are claiming, would have the same loadouts and supply situations as those operating conventionally. Further, you'll note the U.S. was able to do a large drawn down over the course of Nixon's time in office and the VC never emerged as a serious issue, it was always NVA conventional forces.
     
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  20. RousseauX Well-Known Member

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    Look, I feel like we are arguing in circles and this isn't really productive so I'm just gonna stop responding
     
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