Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Can right-wing people read?

It's been nice to see my articles on Peter Hitchens being read. So much of the time we spend on the internet seems fruitless. One of the unfortunate side-effects of attracting the attention of a Mail columnist is that the comment section on your blog is soon a refuge for a new breed. Namely the people, who are unspeakably ignorant, but think they are more intelligent than you because they are right-wing. It wouldn't be so bad if they didn't turn up four by four. The kind of comments made on the Hitchens blog about my writing have been no more pithy, as you can see below.

Mike Barnes: Well I read his response. Might as well have been in Arabic or some lost tongue. These lefty are so comfortable. Unaware their grasp on power, can and will be wrenched from their wretched hands in a moment. All they have is a backward nature. The future would and does confound them. Egalitarianism didn't work in the French terror. And today its used against the mob, a kind of reversal of the French revolution. All they really want is to sit atop the pile. They care not if its a pile of corpses.

My response: It's funny how often the people of the Anglosphere seem to take pride in ignorance. Mr. Barnes says I might as well be writing in Arabic, as if that's some kind of put-down, it could just as well mean Mr. Barnes is a bit of a dullard. I'm writing in English and I do my best to articulate my ideas. As for the rest of the comment, I have no idea what he thinks constitutes a "comfortable lefty" and a "backward nature". After all, he's the one who can't read my writing.

Andrew Pitt: On conscience, Mr White says that moral values have "a necessary role". This sounds a bit relativist to me, as though other things have a role as well. He says, "I do not know of any leftist who embraces moral relativism". I find this statement inexplicable: no doubt we all claim to be moral, but in practice do the policies we advocate lead to the upholding of moral values, or do they undermine them? There is then a reference to personal circumstances and he says, "I don't expect the Mail to portray this side of so called 'dependency culture'....." Lumping Mr Hitchens in with "The Mail" is contrary to the point of Mr White's original article. Mr White says that he doesn't "romanticise" marriage, which implies that Mr Hitchens does. He then moves on to addiction: it's obviously a totemic issue for those on Left, with "addiction" having the status of a scientific fact.
I think it is the case that Mr White has rowed back a little from his original article.

My response: It would seem Mr. Pitt can't read either. The necessity of moral values in human life is a statement of realism. Moral relativism does not refer to 'other things', which may have a role, nor does it suggest moral values aren't important. In descriptive terms relativism is only the acknowledgement of differences of moral opinion, nothing outrageous there; but it's in the normative sense that it is really problematic. If you hold that the beliefs we have stand in relative terms to other beliefs then you can't make judgements in the first place. As everyone is right in context, then it's the context to which we must keep, and we can't infringe upon one another.

If Mr. Hitchens doesn't want to be lumped in with the Mail then he should write for another newspaper. He writes for the Mail because he does have an affinity with the paper's content, editorial policies and its offer of payment. So the criticism still stands of the prognosis taken by the Mail journalist.

Addiction is not a 'totemic issue' for those on the Left. As I said, the case for illegalisation/recriminalisation of drugs can be made without such a bafflingly stupid attempt to disprove the 'existence' of addiction. It's a clever maneouvre. Addicts certainly exist, but addiction is hardly tangible though it has physical symptoms.

As for the charge of 'rowing', it's just that the two articles have different purposes. The original piece made the case for a qualified respect for an opponent of the Left. The follow up articles (see here and here) were primarily written in response to the points made by Peter Hitchens.

John Vernau: "... he yearns for a return to halcyon days, and of course these days never existed. To be fair, I was referring more so to the reactionary press in general ..." ---J.T. White, 'accordingly' responding to PH.
Odd that Mr White should say that halcyon days never existed and say so on the 29th of December, which is in fact within the 14 day period of the traditional 'halcyon days'. I'm also much impressed by his use of "more so" in the above quote. It seems so much more literary than the common 'more' that most of us would use. I suppose he is one of those people so educated that they always say 'epicentre' when they mean 'centre'. Reading Mr White is diverting, in the way that crossword puzzles are, except that with those it becomes clear when the meaning has been deciphered.

My response: Turn of phrase, Mr. Vernau. Not everything is to be taken literally, I used 'halcyon days' in reference to the "golden age" nostalgia often misattributed to Peter Hitchens. It's nice of Mr. Vernau to say my writing style is 'much more literary'. I wouldn't consider myself 'so educated' in spite of the fact that I've been to university. Education is mostly about the numbing and stifling of independent thought. It seems Vernau makes two points: 1) I'm literary and therefore 'uncommon', 2) he can't understand my writing. I fail to see the threat of such dim observations.

Monday, 29 December 2014

One rejoinder to another.

1: He retreats from his nostalgia accusation, saying it was aimed at something called ‘the reactionary press in general’ (whatever that may be, such a construct would have been out of date in 1965, let alone now. Does he actually *read* the papers?). It looked pretty specific to me, but I’ll always take surrendered ground when offered, and not fuss too much about the face-saving words which the retreating person sometimes feels the need to say.

Well, the Murdoch press may peddle in soft-core porn but its political agenda has been to shift the discourse rightwards on welfare, immigration and economics. It’s a different sort of reaction to the variety found on the Hitchens blog. The desire to level the welfare state and return to the social squalor of a bygone age is the agenda of many reactionaries – particularly, Thatcherites. Not that I think this is the mission of the Hitchens blog.

To be fair, I did not mention nostalgia but I did say ‘turn the clock back’ in reference to Evelyn Waugh. It was a conflation, though it’s not necessarily in regard to nostalgia. A better metaphor might be GK Chesterton’s white post and the lick of paint.

2: But this was not my ‘main problem’ with what he wrote. It was his evasion of the problem of the left, that they cannot possibly have meant to foul up our society so completely, yet will never attribute any of the disasters they have caused to their own ideas.

It’s a somewhat weak point to dismiss my article as ‘evasive’. I did argue that the Hitchens prognosis is inaccurate. I think much of the social change since the 1960s largely came out of compromises. Overall, the picture looks ambiguous from where I’m sitting: in many ways progressive, in other ways regressive.

Multiculturalism is mostly a liberal compromise to manage newly settled communities. It conveniently presupposes culture as a self-enclosing entity, the truth is that it is neither the case nor should it be the case. Hybridity and immixing is far better than regulated forms of diversity.  Not only do I think monoculturalism isn’t preferable, I don’t think it’s possible. Even before non-white immigration, British culture was composed of a vast multiplicity of influences.

I don’t see the Left in the driving seat of such change for the most part. As Noel Ignatiev puts it, the momentum of neoliberalism “tends to reduce all human beings to abstract, undifferentiated, homogenous labour power”. None of the liberalising measures initiated since the 1960s threatens capital accumulation. On the contrary, this cultural revolution has been matched by Thatcher’s economic revolution. Capital can do without the old boundaries of sexuality, race, and gender, so it’s no problem to circumvent them.

I can’t accept the grammar of the question. For starters, I couldn’t really accept the presupposition of the Left’s role in this, or the claim that it is necessarily the case. Otherwise I would only be able to accept such points, either to affirm the aims or to denounce them. So I can only maintain an oppositional standpoint by giving the premise a good prod. Oh well, that’s adversarial politics for you!

3: After following the link, I still don’t think he addresses this. Perhaps he would care to.  I do very much recommend that he actually finds out what I think first. There are a number of books which he may read, starting with ‘The Abolition of Britain’, which may help. But he needs to grasp that I am not a Thatcherite or any kind of economic liberal,  and that I loathe the Tory Party, probably more than he does.

Maybe I’ll write a review of ‘The Abolition of Britain’, or ‘The War We Never Fought’. Right now, I’m more perplexed by what could only be a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of my views. In my first article, I clearly pointed out Hitchens takes issue with the Tory Party and Thatcher’s legacy.

I never suggested Mr. Hitchens was a Thatcherite; in fact, it speaks rather well of his writing that he’s not a market liberal. He’s not an unscrupulous phony like David Cameron. Nor does he face the problem of how to reconcile economic liberalism with social conservatism. It’s much more consistent, as I’ve already said, if you’re a traditionalist conservative, to see Thatcherism as just another problem and not a solution. This the Left has in common with Peter Hitchens.

Though I did imply that the line Hitchens takes on addiction comes across as more liberal than conservative, e.g. the view of the individual and their agency as prime. I don’t mean to suggest one has to be a determinist, but it’s evident that individuals don’t choose the circumstances under which they act. This extends as far to the culture they are born into and as deep as the genetic predispositions they inherit.

I don’t expect a reply to this post, Mr. Hitchens probably has a long list of enemies to engage with, and his patience must be wearing thin at this point. But I think the readers have enjoyed this back-and-forth.

This post was a response to a post by Peter Hitchens. Should anyone want to ask me a direct question, you can email me at:

Again, with the racist Christmas card.

The last time I was writing about the BNP and its Christmas cards it was 2013 and Nick Griffin was still the leader. Now not only has he lost his seat in the European Parliament, he has lost his role as leader, which he held for 15 years, and has actually been expelled from the party. He's since thrown his weight behind UKIP as the leading right-wing alternative to the Westminster consensus. The BNP haven't changed tactics drastically, they are still sending out fascist Christmas cards wishing us all a 'white' Christmas. The party is still wearing Nick's old jackboots.

What does this say about the BNP? Is this the Griffin legacy? Putting it succinctly, I would say 'yes' to the latter question, and refer back to my writing from last Christmas:

Under Griffin the BNP has been active in attempting to carve out a position of right-wing populism with its own self-sustaining momentum. To this end Griffin has set out to normalise the party as a modern cultural nationalist group standing up for the little guy. The enemy is defined as a coterie of multiculturalist liberals, radical leftist infiltrators and an assortment of foreigners. In plain speaking, the Left (and, of course, the Jews) have triumphed over Western civilization and mass-immigration is their tool in destroying the 'white race'.

Of course, the party is still completely enthralled by racial nationalism, just as its precursor the National Front used to campaign to "keep Britain white". The BNP, like all fascist parties, cannot abandon 'white' people, even as it can desist from talking about African, Jewish and South Asian Britons. The commitment to defending the 'white race' is its raison d'etre, and the hatred and oppression of non-whites is the only way it can further this agenda.

A response to Peter Hitchens.

Well, it was a pleasant surprise to find my short piece on Peter Hitchens has drawn a response from the man himself. You can read his article below, and I’ll now proceed to respond accordingly.

The main problem, as he sees it, with my observations is the implication that he yearns for a return to halcyon days, and of course these days never existed. To be fair, I was referring more so to the reactionary press in general when I wrote: ‘Fortunately, it is too late to turn back the clock on the progress achieved in our attitudes to sexuality, gender and race. The malaise of the reactionary press is really down to this harsh reality.’ In retrospect, I should’ve been sharper on this distinction and avoided the conflation.

On an ironic note, it was the socialist movement which emerged out of the despair of the loss of the non-industrial pre-capitalist world, and in that regard it was backward-looking, while at the same time pushing forwards to a better world. It’s perfectly clear to my side that it’s the future we’re fighting over, and that it requires historical perspective to see this era as transient.

I should make clear that the purpose of my article was to convey the reasons why Peter Hitchens stands out from the commentariat - a herd of independent minds if there ever was one. It wasn’t intending to rehash the standard critique of the Hitchens brand of traditionalist conservatism. He’s right on several key issues: the interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria; civil liberties and free-speech. But it’s also the case that he’s wrong in much of his prognosis.

As Mr. Hitchens emphasises, in my article I observe: ‘the way he frames left-wing politics really comes from the position he takes on cultural and socio-moral issues. “It is because the left's ideas – by their nature – undermine conscience, self-restraint, deferred gratification, lifelong marriage and strong, indivisible families headed by authoritative fathers.”

Mr. Hitchens writes: ‘But he doesn’t say whether he accepts or rejects this, or even what he actually thinks about conscience (can he be against it?) or the other things I list as virtues undermined by the strong modern state.’

On conscience, I think moral values have a necessary role in any human community, as I’m a moral realist; but I wouldn’t say this is inherently ‘conservative’. We can still debate what constitutes right and wrong, though I will say that I do not know of any leftist who embraces moral relativism. It would be completely inconsistent as moral relativism cannot be expected to uphold any values, and certainly not egalitarian values.

As for deferred gratification, it was the liberalisation of credit which inverted this ‘deferral’ and left many people to spend first and work off the debt later. Of course, this wouldn’t be the case if the wage share of GDP for the working-class hadn’t been squeezed for the last 40 years. So this is not a monopoly of the middle-classes, but it has been turned on its head in recent decades. The picture is much more complex.

A great many people living on benefits, particularly those trying to raise children on benefits, practice forms of deferred gratification by effectively fasting. I know this because I come from a single-parent household, and I knew many others in similar circumstances, very often the lone parent will eat less and less to save up for Christmas. I don’t expect the Mail to portray this side of so-called ‘dependency culture’, but it’s revealing that they are so blind to it.

When it comes to monogamy, my own view is that it will outlast its competitors (particularly the fad of polyamory) due to its simplicity and mutuality. I don’t romanticise the institution of marriage, its clear strong relationships and families will be formed whether it exists or not.  I was somewhat sceptical of marriage equality because it was clearly a highly conservative proposal. Civil partnerships were the progressive innovation and offered a secular alternative free of a morally bankrupt and increasingly repressive state.

Understandably, Mr. Hitchens found fault with my dismissive remark: ‘He’s wrong on almost all cultural and social issues’. As I hadn’t set out to critique every one of the positions he’s ever taken I didn’t feel the need to go into specifics. But I’ll be forthright and specific here.

A perfect example of where Hitchens goes wrong: addiction. The claim that there is no objective basis for addiction is simply untrue. As medical professionals will tell you, the liver physically changes in the course of prolonged alcohol consumption and this can run alongside a psychological dependency on the drug’s effects. The answer is abstinence and therapy, but there is a very high recidivism rate. The denial of addiction is not only wrong, it is an unnecessary point to make.

The cases for/against the legalisation of drugs can be made without such a point. Likewise, it is possible to question the prevailing culture of hedonism without the presupposition that it is all a matter of ‘free-choice’ (a manifestly liberal point in itself). The only sensible hedonism was advocated and practiced by Epicurus. As long as it remains almost taboo to turn down a drink it will be likely for functioning alcoholics, let alone non-functioning ones, to emerge. But I doubt this will be put right by silly bans and regressive taxes.

To conclude, it’s only possible to rail against conventional wisdom once it has become convention. Mr. Hitchens is sincere in his wish to reorder society, but if he were to succeed he would not only make his work defunct, he would also provide the basis for it to be torn down all over again. That being said, I don’t see anything ‘radical’ in extolling fashionable hedonism.

Should anyone want to ask me a direct question, you can email me at:

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Mr. Hitchens in 1969.

I just found this picture of a young Trot firebrand. Here's the relevant details from the blog of the hated Peter Hitchens:

"At some point in my teens a large part of the population of Britain went mad, me included. It was as if they had put something in the water which affected everyone between the age of about 15 and 29. Of course, it wasn’t really everyone, just a privileged layer of which I was a part. I can remember a lot of it all too clearly. I have done what I can to track down and destroy any photographic proof –but my clever colleague Nikki Sutherland has managed to find a picture of me from 1969 which I didn’t even know existed, and which has a story behind it that I’ll tell some other time. 

Funnily enough it seemed to me to be a pleasant time, if not a happy one. I enjoyed a lot of it, from the point of view of pure self-indulgence. I did pretty much what I wanted, though the great pity is that most of what I wanted wasn’t really worth having and many of the things I did led to actual harm, for me and others."

SOURCE: Nikki Sutherland/MailOnline

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Why I respect Peter Hitchens.

Adversarial politics

Believe it or not, there are honourable conservative voices out there. By 'honourable', I really mean those few figures with integrity. You don't have to agree with someone to respect their point of view. This is easy to forget in a political discourse lacking worthy opponents of the Left.

The fulminating columnist Peter Hitchens is one such case of the honourable rightist. The particular strain of conservatism, to which he adheres, may be summarised as traditional, cultural or socio-moral conservatism. His targets include the Westminster consensus, not only the Labour Party, but the Conservative Party as well. He sees the country threatened from a left-wing cultural putsch against the vestiges of an organic social order. Yet it's clear that he is no friend of the current flavour of right-wing politics.

On an ABC panel with Dan Savage and Germaine Greer, Hitchens was asked what he thinks of Tony Abbott. He immediately laid into the Australian Prime Minister deeming him a 'fake conservative' for his neoliberal economic agenda, pseudo-moralism, and connections with Rupert Murdoch. He has dismissed UKIP as a 'dad's army party', unlike many of his associates in the right-wing press, seeing the party only as a means of annihilating the Conservative Party.

"I also yearn for a truly radical party," he once confessed to the BBC. In the same segment, Hitchens made clear what he really opposes: namely, the centre-ground of the Third Way and 'compassionate' Conservatism. He sees both forces as two sides of the same coin (and he's not wrong) routinely flipped every four or five years. In short, he wants to abolish the fakery of personality politics and return to adversarial politics.

When it comes to the economy Peter Hitchens has said that he is for a robustly social democratic model, which would include a safety-net and universal health-care. It would include what he describes as strong employment rights and social housing. He opposes the right to buy scheme which has wiped out so many council houses and inflated the housing market. On top of this, Hitchens has routinely criticised privatisation and the legacy of Thatcherism.

Years ago on Question Time, Peter Hitchens savaged Iain Duncan Smith and called for the renationalisation of the railways. It's not the only case either. "I think there was a case for nationalising coal, made in the 1920s and accepted by many people for non-dogmatic reasons," he wrote in his column in October 2012. "I have always believed that the electric power grid should be nationalised. I think it should be renationalised  as a prelude to an enormous programme of nuclear power station building, without which we face an appalling energy crisis within 20 years."

In a Chat Politics interview Peter Hitchens was asked whether or not he thought it would be possible to build a right-wing alternative to the Conservative Party. He responded "Who says it'll be right-wing?" Of course, this kind of response is symptomatic of the very view he takes of the prime oscillation of UK politics between Labour and Conservative. He often eschews the label of 'right-wing' for himself, preferring the title of Burkean conservative. It's evident that he sees the left-to-right spectrum as a defunct measure of politics and yet he never strays away from bashing what he calls 'the Left'.

"The left's real interests are moral, cultural, sexual and social," he insists in one of his columns. "They lead to a powerful state. This not because they actively set out to achieve one." Not surprisingly, the way he frames left-wing politics really comes from the position he takes on cultural and socio-moral issues. "It is because the left's ideas – by their nature – undermine conscience, self-restraint, deferred gratification, lifelong marriage and strong, indivisible families headed by authoritative fathers."

As a former Trotskyite, Peter Hitchens remains within the bootprint of twentieth century leftism, bemoaning the cultural revolution of the 1960s, yearning for a revival of the traditions and social norms it killed. He's wrong on almost all cultural and social issues, but he's right that the problem, for people like him, isn't just the Left - it's Thatcherism too. Fortunately, it is too late to turn back the clock on the progress achieved in our attitudes to sexuality, gender and race. The malaise of the reactionary press is really down to this harsh reality.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

We must not apologise for rectal feeding.

It's always good to know the political class has all its marbles in line and its priorities straight. Liam Fox, the former war minister, and numpty neocon, felt the need to profess his Christian faith in time for Christmas. "It is, of course, a personal thing," he says. "But it is why, for example, I always choose a nativity scene for our Christmas cards — a reminder about what Christmas actually stands for." This was just days before the US Senate released its report on CIA torture.

"So for me it's not ‘Happy Holidays’, but wishing everyone of all religions and none a very happy and peaceful Christmas." Except if you're a Muslim, or you look like an Arab, then you can expect rectal feeding by American thugs. Undoubtedly, the British government played the role of lieutenant in the US torture programme. Either Liam Fox was fully involved in the programme, or he was too incompetent to even comprehend what was going on under his nose.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Vietnam, 50 Years on.

Kennedy – The Beginning
In 1961 the Kennedy administration came into office and inherited the Eisenhower policy of sending military advisors to South Vietnam in support of the Saigon government. The American presence in Vietnam had reached 800 by the close of the Eisenhower era and by 1963 President Kennedy would increase the number of military advisors to 16,000. The first strikes came in 1961 as the Kennedy administration sent war planes with South Vietnamese markings against rural targets where 80% of the population lived and the Viet Cong insurgency had taken root in South Vietnam. The war planes were manufactured in the United States.
When John F. Kennedy first took his seat in the Oval Office, the Viet Cong numbered 300,000. The insurgency was composed of a broad coalition united in opposition to the Saigon government. Its demands included the ouster of American military advisers and the reunification of Vietnam. The Diem regime had banned public assembly, political parties, and even public dancing; its demolition of pagodas and preferential treatment of Catholics had drawn the ire of the mostly Buddhist population. The US began bombing to defeat the resistance to President Diem as it seemed that the regime was not succeeding in defeating the Viet Cong.
By 1962 the US had begun to establish “strategic hamlets” in the country where peasants were held behind barbed-wire enclosures under the watch of South Vietnamese troops. By 1970 5 million Vietnamese peasants were displaced in this way. The pretext was to protect the peasants from the insurgents. At the same time the first use of the so-called rainbow herbicides - most infamously, Agent Orange - was initiated. The aims of the programme were to rapidly defoliate the forestry and kill crops with the hope of denying the Viet Cong cover and food.

Eventually the repressive rule of the Saigon government provoked protests from Buddhist monks. A catalytic moment came in May 1963 when South Vietnamese armed forces fired upon Buddhist protestors in the city of Hue on Phat Dan. The Buddhists had been protesting against the ban on their flag on a holy day. The armed forces opened fire on the crowd with live ammunition and killed nine people. Yet more demonstrations followed with President Diem denying his forces had any responsibility for the deaths.

The civil unrest would last until November 1963 at which point the generals of South Vietnam plotted a coup against the sitting government. Popular opposition grew over those six months. In one act of defiance Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc self-immolated to protest the brutality of the regime. He left a letter reading: “Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngo Dinh Diem to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organise in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism.”

The Kennedy administration understood that this situation was unsustainable and withdrew its aid to the Saigon government in a direct rebuff to President Diem. As the protests continued the US government began to encourage the coup plotters in the South Vietnamese military elite to take action. In November 1963 President Diem was arrested by the army, after an overnight siege of the presidential palace, before being shot and repeatedly stabbed by his bodyguards. His death signalled the end of the Diem government and gave way to direct military rule. The US role is confirmed by the Pentagon Papers: “We maintained clandestine contact with [the plotters] throughout the planning and execution of the coup and sought to review their operational plans and proposed new government”.
Johnson – Escalation

The end of the Diem regime did not signal the end of US commitments, in fact, according to the Pentagon Papers, “our complicity in his overthrow heightened our responsibilities”. Not long after this Kennedy was assassinated on November 22 1963. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the responsibilities of the presidency and would go on to strengthen the war effort even further. Before the shooting President Kennedy spoke at a breakfast held at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce:
We have increased the defence budget of the United States by over 20%; increased the programme of acquisition for Polaris submarines from 24 to 41; increased our Minutemen missile purchase programme by more than 75%; doubled the number of strategic bombers and missiles on alert; doubled the number of nuclear weapons available in the strategic alert forces; increased the tactical nuclear forces deployed in Western Europe by over 60%; added five combat ready divisions to the Army of the United States, and five tactical fighter wings to the Air Force of the United States; increased counter-insurgency forces which are engaged now in South Vietnam by 600%.

Less than a year later the Gulf of Tonkin incident took place. On August 2, 1964 the USS Maddox was on an intelligence mission along North Vietnam’s coastline. The vessel was allegedly fired upon and retaliated by firing on three North Vietnamese torpedo boats that had been talking it in the Gulf of Tonkin. There were no American casualties. The second incident came on August 4 in which the USS Maddox returned to the coastline and engaged in what were believed to be North Vietnamese torpedo boats. The crew had acted on the basis of sonar evidence that had picked up two vessels. But there was no wreckage or bodies found.

Even though it appeared that there had been no attack the Johnson administration quickly decided to retaliate. The bombing of North Vietnam began immediately and President Johnson began to raise the number of US ground troops. The Tonkin Resolution was fast-tracked and passed on August 7. It would signal a change in US policy as the Johnson administration initiated hostilities with North Vietnam to bypass the congressional restraints on the government. The US government now had free rein in its bombing of the North.

By 1965 South Vietnam had been so devastated that the war correspondent and military historian Bernard Fall claimed that the existence of Vietnam (in particular South Vietnam) was “threatened with extinction”. The US sent 200,000 US troops to South Vietnam that year and in 1966, 200,000 more were sent. By 1968 the US troop presence had exceeded 500,000 soldiers at a cost of $2 billion per month. Up until 1969 the military operations in Vietnam had been conducted by the Democratic administration. Originally President Kennedy had hoped that the US would be able to withdraw from Vietnam in 1965, provided that the war had been won; the change in government would lead to the war being extended further.
Nixon – Enter the Mad Man

By 1968 the Johnson administration was in negotiations with North Vietnam in Paris. Henry Kissinger was an adviser to the US negotiators. The negotiations came in election season. Lyndon B. Johnson had made clear he would not be seeking re-election, a shock to the public; instead his vice president Hubert Humphrey would seek the presidency. Richard Nixon had emerged as the Republican contender. He had pledged “peace with honour” in south east Asia, but secretly he feared that the Democratic government would reach a settlement in Paris and win the election.
Dr. Kissinger was in contact with negotiators as well as the Nixon campaign. He was expecting to work for whoever won the election and ingratiated himself with both campaigns. Henry Kissinger told the Nixon campaign that the US negotiators were close to securing a settlement. The prospect of peace would give Humphrey an advantage over Nixon. The Nixon campaign had opened a secret line with the South Vietnamese regime and persuaded them to withdraw from the negotiations thereby scuppering the possibility of a settlement. Richard Nixon had offered South Vietnam much more support than the Johnson administration and a better deal in the future.
The Nixon administration not only set out to extend the war in North Vietnam they intensified the bombing of Laos and launched an illegal bombing campaign against Cambodia. The Nixon administration claimed that the North Vietnamese were stationing their forces and supplies across the border in Cambodia and pursued the bombing on such grounds. By 1970 President Nixon was growing frustrated that the war showed no sign of coming to an end.

In 1972 Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger flew to China and met with Chairman Mao. The US government aimed to open up relations with China to secure its long-term strategic interests. The Sino-Soviet split had left Maoist China isolated on the world stage and if China aligned itself with the US (which it would eventually do) then the Vietnamese would have to choose the side of the Soviet Union over China. The original pretext of US involvement in Vietnam was to contain China and, as the Pentagon Papers confirm, the decision to bomb North Vietnam only made sense in the context of containing communist China.

As the election approached President Nixon began to look at the war effort as an electoral means once again. “I went them to hit everything,” Mr. Nixon told Henry Kissinger. Dr. Kissinger on the orders to General Alexander Haig: “[Nixon] wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn’t want to hear anything. It’s an order, it’s to be done. Anything that flies, on anything that moves.”

Immediately after re-election was secure the White House sanctioned the Christmas bombing campaign, spanning twelve days, targeting Hanoi and Haiphong. The campaign constituted the heaviest bombing campaign of the entire war and it provoked international outcry. Negotiations resumed soon after and by January 1973 Richard Nixon had announced the end of the war. The terms were settled along the lines that had been negotiated back in 1968. Even still, Henry Kissinger would win the Nobel peace Prize for his efforts and the fighting between North and South Vietnam wouldn’t reach a conclusion for two more years.

The Paris Peace Accords were signed not long after the announcement and the US military withdrew its ground forces in March. The North Vietnamese respected the ceasefire agreement as the US government pledged support to the South Vietnamese and further bombing if the North resumes its operations. The President and Dr. Kissinger were planning a resumption of bombing by April, but the orders for further bombing were rescinded as the Watergate scandal broke out. Richard Nixon could not fight the US Congress and Vietnam at the same time. He would become the first US President to be impeached and Gerald Ford succeeded him in August 1974.

The bombing of Cambodia had not ended with Operation Menu. The bombing continued throughout the early 1970s. This eventuated in the collapse of the delicate balance of social forces and classes in Cambodian society. First this led to the dictatorship of Lon Nol, who seized power in 1970, but this would later be swept aside by then the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. Not long after Phnom Penh fell to Pol Pot the North Vietnamese seized Saigon. The US withdrawal had left little force to resist the offensive and the South Vietnamese army were quickly overwhelmed.
By early 1976 Vietnam was officially reunified and declared a socialist republic. Its main ally was the Soviet Union as China had shifted its allegiance to the Khmer Rouge seeing Cambodia as a counterweight to Soviet influence in South-East Asia. This state of affairs would lead to two more wars in which Vietnam would overthrow Pol Pot and defend itself from Chinese retaliation.