23. Editorial Note

The Nixon administration’s determination to “Vietnamize” the combat in Vietnam was balanced by President Nixon’s concern that a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam would lead to an isolationist reaction. In a conversation on May 12, 1969, with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew at the White House, Nixon expressed his concern:

“The President said that he is personally quite familiar with the high stakes in Asia. A pull-out of the American forces precipitously would be disastrous for Asia, including countries like Japan and India. Europe would be affected. But, the most serious effect would be in the [Page 81] United States. When a great power fails, it deeply affects the will of the people. While the public would welcome peace initially, they would soon be asking why we pulled out and this would in turn lead an attack on the leadership and establishment and the U.S. role in the war. Isolation could easily be the consequence.

“The President assured Lee that we are going to hold the line in Vietnam. We would make reasonable proposals for peace but never agree to a disguised defeat.” (Memorandum of conversation; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, B Series documents withheld in Box 7 from documents originally filed in folder 11 of Box 57)