Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Duck Hook

This story just came in off the AP and, forgive me if it's boring to you, I just find this so interesting . . . .


President Nixon, in his first year in office and eager to end an unpopular war that killed tens of thousands of U.S. troops, considered using nuclear weapons against the North Vietnamese, recently declassified documents show.

By mid-1969, Nixon and national security adviser Henry Kissinger had settled on a strategy using international diplomacy with threats of force against the communists ruling the north in an attempt to get them to buckle, according to an analysis of the papers by the National Security Archive. The private research group is headquartered at George Washington University.

Kissinger and his staff began developing contingency military plans under the code name of "Duck Hook." He also created a committee within the National Security Council to evaluate secret plans prepared by Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington and military planners in Saigon.

A pair of declassified documents raised the question of nuclear weapons use in connection with the military operation against the north, which was fighting to reunite with the democratic south, according to the archive.

The first is a Sept. 29, 1969, memo from two Kissinger aides--Roger Morris and Anthony Lake--to Capt. Rembrandt Robinsonn, who had a central role in preparing the Duck Hook plans. Robinson had prepared a paper for the NSC committee outlining the Joint Chiefs plans to attack North Vietnam.

But the archive says Morris and Lake, unhappy with the document, asked Robinson to rework it to present "clearly and fully all the implications of the (Duck Hook) action, should the president decide to do it."

They said the president needed to decide in advance "the fateful question of how far we will go. he cannot, for example, confront the issue of using tactical nuclear weapons in the midst of the exercise. He must be prepared to play out whatever string necessary in this case."

The second document is an Oct. 2, 1969, memo from Kissinger to Nixon, introducing an NSC staff report on the state of military planning for Duck Hook. The report said the basic objective of the operation would be to coerce Hanoi "to negotiate a compromise settlement through a series of military blows," which would walk the fine line between inflicting "unacceptable damage to their society" and causing the "total destruction of the country or the regime."

But Nixon abandoned Duck Hook shortly after Oct. 2. Both his secretaries of Defense and state, Melvin Laird and William Rogers, opposed the plan. Nixon apparently also began to doubt whether he could sustain public support for the three- to six-month period the plan might require. He also concluded that his military threats against the North Vietnamese had no effect.

U.S. troops remained in the country throughout Nixon's first term despite a gradual withdrawl of forces that he began in 1969. Nixon was re-elected in 1972 and secured a cease-fire agreement the following year, but it was never implemented.

Two years later, in 1975, North Vietnamese forces overran the South, reuniting the country under Communist rule.

I can imagine that the idea of dropping nukes on the North Vietnamese indeed looked good to Nixon, him having looked back at Truman's decision to nuke Hiroshima in 1945. I'm sure the nuclear option smelled like, well . . . victory.



Anonymous Matt said...

As a constant defender of Oliver Stone as a voracous researcher, I have to comment.

In NIXON, Oliver Stone was highly criticized for making Nixon contemplate the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Stone fought with many "scholars" on that point. And he always stood behind the statements in the scene. The scene was, on a yaht, while having dinner, Nixon says if things don't improve in Vietnam he would even be willing to "drop the big one". Now that this 'new' bit of Nixon news has been released, I'm sure all those "historical scholar" critics are lining up to apologise.

Stone was also criticized for making Nixon look like an alcoholic and a pill-popper.

1. In fact Nixon WAS taking pills after his stroke to deal with pain and thyroid condition (or something like that. Maybe not tyroid but a ligitiment medical reason). Bottom line, Nixon was taking pills towards the last part of his presidency.

2. Nixon was known as a occational drinker. And if you watch it again he is only drinking in about 4 or 5 scenes. Never in the oval office or while 'working'. He is usually relaxing or with his advisors. It may seem like he is drinking a lot because they keep going back to the same scene in the Lincoln room over and over again but that scene is just one night.

Just trying to set the record straight.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Doah said...

Matt, that was an excellent post and very good points. You know how much I loved Stone's NIXON movie and I'm glad you made the connection. Nixon was very socially awkward too and aparently that was magnified when he was having a cocktail. I heard one first-hand account from Alexander Butterfield wherein a group of folks came to visit. I think it was a choir or something and Nixon was really late to come in to meet them. Everyone in the group were wearing red jackets and the room they were in had green carpet. Nixon comes in and looks at them and looks at the floor and says, "Aw, Christmas colors" shakes their hands and leaves!

12:29 PM  

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