Assuming Robert Kennedy was going to bring our boys home from Vietnam, how many additional men did S… by Tony Garcia
Answer by Tony Garcia:
Initially, Robert F. Kennedy was not committed to ending the United States’ role in the Vietnam War.
On May 15, 1967, CBS broadcast Town Meeting of the World, a program in which Robert Kennedy and Governor Ronald Reagan of California answered questions posed by the moderator, Charles Collingwood; students from the United States; and international students in Great Britain (via satellite). Although the subject of the program was “The Image of America and the Youth of the World,” questions focused primarily on America’s involvement in Vietnam.
After the broadcast, John F. Bayliss, a member of the English Department at Indiana State University and founder and editor of the African American Review, wrote to Senator Kennedy to clarify statements Kennedy had made during the broadcast. Kennedy responded with a letter dated September 15, 1967. In that letter Kennedy declares his belief that the United States had to provide the resources the American soldiers required in Vietnam as well as support the democratic rights of the South Vietnamese people [emphasis mine]. He also expressed his conviction that there could be no simple answers to the complex problems facing the nation:
“The strength and honor of our country permits and requires us to be forthright – and the complexity of our problems precludes simple answers. . . . The people of our country have a right to expect not easy answers but candid evaluation of our conduct and our position in the world.”
Later that year, though, then-Senator Kennedy (D-New York) proposed a three-point plan to help end the Vietnam War. The plan included suspension of the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, and the gradual withdrawal of U.S. and North Vietnamese troops from South Vietnam with replacement by an international force. He called for inclusion of the alienated North Vietnamese National Liberation Front as a part of a political process and end what was, in his view, a civil war.
Secretary of State Dean Rusk rejected Kennedy’s proposal because he believed that the North Vietnamese would never agree to withdraw their troops.
Here you have an idea of the opposition Robert Kennedy faced to end the war in Vietnam. Remember, until 1967, Robert Kennedy supported U.S. efforts in Vietnam, including the bombing of North Vietnam. It was the intensification of domestic racial strife and opposition to the war that eventually changed his mind.
Let us also remember that, even before Robert Kennedy was assassinated, their had been numerous proposals for peace talks initiated by the United States, North Vietnam and by other nations acting as mediators. Proposals for ceasefires and peace deals flowed back and forth regularly, even when fighting was at its worst. Some of this negotiation was conducted publicly, some in secret through diplomatic communications or through “back channels.” The period from 1964 to 1972 saw at least five different peace proposals of any significance, along with numerous third party offers that were either disregarded or rebuffed.
One significant problem was that the United States and North Vietnam approached peace talks with different objectives. For the Americans the peace process was a way of extricating themselves from Vietnam, while avoiding the humiliation of defeat. For the North Vietnamese, whose ultimate goal was national reunification, peace talks were another military tactic, a device to obtain breathing space while denying and frustrating the enemy. There was a method in this frustrating madness: if peace negotiations failed or broke down, this could be attributed to the belligerence or pigheadedness of the other side.
Given all this, with consideration to the possiblity that Robert Kennedy were alive, I feel that there is no certainty that any proposal would have been accepted prior to the January 27, 1973, Paris Peace Agreement that ended the Vietnam War.