President Richard Nixon announces that henceforth the United States will expect its Asian allies to tend to their own military defense. The Nixon Doctrine, as the president’s statement came to be known, clearly indicated his determination to “Vietnamize” the Vietnam War.
When Richard Nixon took office in early 1969, the United States had been at war in Vietnam for nearly four years. The bloody conflict had already claimed the lives of more than 25,000 American troops and countless Vietnamese. Despite its best efforts, the United States was no closer to victory than before. At home, antiwar protesters were a constant presence in American cities and on college campuses. Nixon campaigned in 1968 with the promise of “peace with honor” in Vietnam. In July 1969, an important part of his plan for Vietnam became evident. During a stopover in Guam during a multination tour, the president issued a statement. It was time, he declared, for the United States to be “quite emphatic on two points” in dealing with its Asian allies. First, he assured America’s friends in Asia that “We will keep our treaty commitments.” However, “as far as the problems of military defense, except for the threat of a major power involving nuclear weapons,” the United States would be adopting a different stance. In relation to military defense, America would now “encourage and has a right to expect that this problem will be increasingly handled by, and the responsibility for it taken by, the Asian nations themselves.” He concluded that his recent talks with several Asian leaders indicated, “They are going to be willing to undertake this responsibility.”
The Nixon Doctrine marked the formal announcement of the president’s “Vietnamization” plan, whereby American troops would be slowly withdrawn from the conflict in Southeast Asia and be replaced by South Vietnamese troops. Over the course of his first term in office, Nixon held true to this doctrine by withdrawing a substantial portion of America’s fighting forces from Vietnam. In 1973, the United States and North Vietnam signed a peace treaty formally bringing the Vietnam War to a conclusion. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces crushed the South Vietnamese army and succeeded in reuniting the divided country under a communist regime.