Trying to evaluate the foreign policy of the Nixon administration during its first term, one must, as always in foreign policy, distinguish between rhetoric and policy. Rhetoric and policy may by and large coincide, one reflecting the other, or a wide gap may separate the two. In the latter case, what governments do is more important than what they say they are doing or are going to do.
Given the war aims of the President, as pointed out on these pages many times before, the escalation of the war was inevitable; only its nature was in doubt. The President is still resolved that the Thieu government remain in power in South Vietnam. There was never a chance that Thieu could survive by his own efforts, and that estimate has now been proven correct by the failure of Vietnamization. Hence, the United States must fill the vacuum left by that failure and by the withdrawal of the main bulk of American combat troops.
It has become fashionable among scholars, retired public officials, and politicians to admit that our involvement in Vietnam has not been a success. It has also become fashionable to turn from this admission of failure to the post-Vietnam future without pausing to ask what accounts for that failure. It is more important, so it is argued, to end the war than to discover what led us into it. To bury the past and get ready for the future is taken as a manifestation of both positive and patriotic thinking.