Rand in Southeast Asia: A History of the Vietnam War Era

By Mai Elliott | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
The End of the War

A year before the Pentagon Papers affair erupted, another controversy embroiled RAND in a heated public debate about an issue often referred to as the “bloodbath theory.” To stave off critics who were urging faster or unilateral withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Vietnam and to rally support for his policy, President Nixon repeatedly warned that precipitous disengagement would lead to communist massacres of South Vietnamese. As Robert J. Donovan of the Los Angeles Times wrote in his column, “Bloodbath— Fantasy or Realistic Fear?” on Sunday, June 28, 1970, which recapped the debate, this question was fraught with emotion. It asked, in essence, “whether an early pull-out of U.S. troops would condemn America’s allies and friends in South Vietnam to extensive massacre by the Communists.” The basic assumption was that the South Vietnamese government would collapse and that the communists would take over.

In a press conference at the White House on May 8, 1970, President Nixon declared, for example, “… if we withdraw from Vietnam and allow the enemy to come into Vietnam and massacre the civilians there by the millions, as they would—if we do that, let me say that America is finished insofar as the peacekeeper in the Asian world is concerned.”1 Donovan reported that shortly after the president made this assertion, Douglas Pike, considered one of the government’s leading experts on the Viet Cong, suggested that the communists “might murder perhaps 3 million people if they ‘should win decisively’ in South Vietnam.” The fundamental question of whether the communists would have the wherewithal to win a decisive victory was not discussed in this debate. On the other side of the debate were political leaders, such as former Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford and Senator William Fulbright, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who did not believe that the danger existed for a massacre.2 Also, various scholars and many critics with similar viewpoints maintained that Nixon was trying to frighten Americans into supporting his Vietnam policies by

1 Robert J. Donovan, “Bloodbath—Fantasy or Realistic Fear?” Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1970.

2 The former Defense Secretary had predicted instead, in a Life magazine article, “When it becomes apparent that the Americans are in fact leaving, all parties seeking power in South Vietnam will have a strong incentive to negotiate a compromise settlement.” Cited in Donovan, “Bloodbath,” 1970.

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Rand in Southeast Asia: A History of the Vietnam War Era
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Foreword iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents xiii
  • Photos xv
  • Maps xvii
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • Introduction - Rand- The Beginning 1
  • Chapter One - A Remote Corner of the World- The Beginning in Vietnam 7
  • Chapter Two - "What Makes the Viet Cong Tick?" 45
  • Chapter Three - Escalation and Airpower 91
  • Chapter Four - Controversy 149
  • Chapter Five - The Many Aspects of the War 205
  • Chapter Six - The Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands 249
  • Chapter Seven - The Tet Offensive 285
  • Chapter Eight - Pacification and Vietnamization 349
  • Chapter Nine - The Pentagon Papers 415
  • Chapter Ten - The End of the War 499
  • Chapter Eleven - Laos and Thailand- Sideshows 541
  • Epilogue - Diversification 615
  • Bibliography 627
  • Author Biography 653
  • Index 655
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