What was Nixon's approach to the Vietnam War?
Nixon campaigned on getting us out of the Vietnam War. He recognized the way the political winds were blowing after the Tet Offensive and capitalized on our war weariness, among other things, to win the election. Vietnamization made sense to Americans, having the Vietnamese fight a war in their own country instead of us, much as is being argued in Iraq and Afghanistan today.
He also argued Peace with Honor. That is, he wanted to end the war, but he wanted to win it as well. He fought it arguably harder than LBJ did, dropping more tons of bombs during his Presidency than LBJ and widening the war to Laos and Cambodia. He also was more aggressive diplomatically through his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
All during the time period 1969 - 1973, Nixon continually drew down American forces from 569,000 to nothing, just as he had promised.
Nixon had a variety of approaches:
- Vietnamization -- the attempt to get the Vietnamese Army to take over the bulk of the fighting so that the US could leave.
- More aggressive prosecution of the war. It was Nixon who ordered the secret bombing of, and later invasion of, Cambodia that caused so much controversy in the US. He also greatly increased the amount of bombing of the North. So this general strategy was to be more aggressive.
- But at the same time, he was trying to talk peace. The aggression was, in a way, an attempt to force the North Vietnamese to talk peace more seriously.