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Foreign Policy, Vietnam War, and Watergate, Nixon and Vietnam
American troop strength, Antiwar protests, American withdrawal, secret talks, ground troops
Under Nixon, American troop strength in Vietnam contracted but the war effort expanded. Nixon began a program of Vietnamization, which meant decreasing the number of U.S. troops, offering only advice and assistance, and turning the war effort over to the South Vietnamese. U.S. ground troops gradually returned from Vietnam, but the United States increased its bombing of North Vietnam. Nixon also extended the war into Cambodia and Laos, where he secretly authorized bombing to block enemy supply routes on Vietnamís border. Finally, Nixon sought a diplomatic escape from war. He visited China and the USSR and sent Henry Kissinger, his national security adviser, to secret talks in Paris with the North Vietnamese. Antiwar protests, meanwhile, continued. In May 1970 Ohio National Guard troops killed four Kent State University students during an antiwar protest, spurring widespread outrage.
In 1973, as Nixon began a second term, the United States and North Vietnam signed a peace treaty in Paris, which provided for a cease-fire. The terms of the cease-fire included: American withdrawal of all remaining forces from Vietnam, Vietnamese return of American prisoners captured during war, and the end of all foreign military operations in Laos and Cambodia. American troops left Vietnam, but the war between North Vietnam and South Vietnam continued. South Vietnam finally fell in April 1975, as North Vietnamese forces entered Saigon. More than 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam, and over 300,000 were wounded. Even after the warís end, Americans continued to debate its purpose and the meaning of its failure.
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