What if Nixon Won in 1960?
A question was posed to me a couple of days ago, “What if Nixon won the 1960 election? Would the US have had a bigger part in the Vietnam War?”
I can answer this, but I have enlisted the help of my scholarly professorship-bound son, Tim.
This is a hard question to answer, since Nixon’s presidency was so complicated. If, on the oft chance that something went terribly wrong and Richard Nixon became the 35th President of the United States, and he somehow got us through the Cuban Missile Crisis without getting us all killed, the way the Vietnam War was fought would have been changed forever.
Some theories surfaced that the reason JFK was assassinated was because of his unwillingness to keep the war machine, or Military Industrial Complex (MIC) going. Picking up on Eisenhower’s lead, Kennedy was ready to slow down the war and eventually limit the U.S.’s involvement in it. When Johnson took over, he did just the opposite and built the war up into a money making industry.
During his presidency, Nixon secretly expanded the war in Vietnam, but also maintained negotiations with the major communist powers inorder to try to end the war. He improved relations with China which caused the Soviets to improve relations with the United States.
Nixon secretly bombed Cambodia in order to strike at targets along the Ho Chi Minh trail that were beyond the borders of Vietnam. This widened the war and made it far more complex, while Nixon kept it all quiet within his administration. When word got out of his secret attacks in Cambodia, he was viewed as a hypocrite.
Nixon did try to make peace. He met with Chinese officials and communist leaders. He also had a plan to withdraw American troops. This plan, called "The Nixon Doctrine” was a similar plan to what we did in Iraq. The plan trained the South Vietnamese troops to take over the defense of their own nation. While they became more efficiently trained, we would slowly withdraw our troops. Nixon also stated that the old "Truman Doctrine" was no longer the way of the United States, saying that we would not come to the aid of any nation, in a military fashion in order to fight communism. Nixon's idea of relations with the communist was more peaceful to the public(even though it was the opposite in some cases behind the curtain). I don't remember the exact quote, but Nixon said something to the effect of, “we live on the same planet as the communists and they are not going anywhere, so we might as well coexist.”
In my opinion, had Nixon won in 1960, I think that there is a good chance that we would not have had a massive troop buildup and a large scale war. I think that the war would have been covert and it would have been fought with special forces and secret strikes. We would have also continued sending aid to the South Vietnamese and anti-communist forces like we had been doing since the French fought the first Vietnam War in the 1950s. In 1952, 80% of the war in Vietnam was being paid for by the United States while the French did the fighting. In 1953, we were paying 383 million dollars to help the French fight the war and the French still lost in 1954. I think that if that sort of fighting would have continued on, the U.S. would have used others to fight a covert war and maintained its "neutrality". But then it could have delayed the inevitable and we would have had a bigger war with the next president.
When you get into the realm of asking the “What If’s” about History, you are opening a massive vault of speculation and wonder. Then you begin to think and ask yourself more “What If’s?”
What if there were no Tuskegee Airmen? What if the Roman Empire never rose to such heights that it did? What if Presidents were not limited to 2 terms of office?
What if, while trying to answer these questions, you blew your mind?
©2011 By Del Banks and Timothy Banks