Tuesday, May 23, 1972
A Touch Of Self-Respect... And Analysis
by William F. Buckley Jr.
The stock market, which must be the major poltroon of the western world, instantly dove for cover, for reasons unclear to the uninitiated: if we are going to have a world war, does it really matter whether our money is in or out of the market? As has happened in the past, the silent majority is speaking out, apparently in support of Richard Nixon, and disdaining the kind of hysteria which one day is going to get the editors of the New York Times committed, so help me.
One would hope that the people would not be disappointed. That, in the end, they would have got something more than the purely rhetorical satisfaction of hearing the commander-in-chief say to the enemy: you are not going to get away with it. Our navy and our air force will not permit it, will not permit and end to the Indochinese affair whose meaning for America is 50,000 dead soldiers and nothing accomplished. As regards standing behind Mr. Nixon, one does so full-heartedly. At times like this, he is our president.
But then, inevitably, analysis sets in...
1. We have drastically reduced our peace terms. We have said to the enemy that he need not withdraw to his own borders. He may stand where he is, his twelve divisions remaining where they are now situated in South Vietnamese territory, occupying one provincial capital, at the gates of two others. Indeed Mr. Nixon didn't even say that his terms lapse if they are not immediately accepted. They appear to be open-ended, so that there seems to be nothing to stand in the way of the North Vietnamese continuing their offensive until the opportune moment and then announcing that they will go for cease-fire.
2. We are then pledged (assuming they will give us back our 500 prisoners) within a period of four months to end totally our military role in all of Indochina. Pull out our troops, open up the harbors, stop aerial activity. During this period there would appear to be nothing to prevent the enemy from stocking up his military inventories, preparatory to launching an offensive sometime after the four months are up -though they might not even need to do that, at that demoralized moment.
3. At four months plus X, it would all appear to reduce to: the North Vietnamese, armed by the Soviet Union and the Chinese with the most advanced weapons in their armory, against the South Vietnamese deprived of an air force that can retaliate against the enemy, and of the use of the American air force. It is impossible to find anywhere in Mr. Nixon's speech or in any statement issuing out of the Pentagon anything at all that would suggest that the intervening four months would find the South Vietnamese military situation critically improved.
4. The Soviet Union is not gravely challenged. We have not imposed on it the humiliation of demanding that its ships be boarded or searched. They can putter about as they like, attempting, if they find it productive, to penetrate the harbor under escort of minesweepers. If one or two of them go down, the blame is impersonally visited on the mine, rather than on the captain of the United States warship, and the psychological impact is different. Meanwhile Soviet officials can permit Richard Nixon to come to Moscow under rhetorical cover of he para-blockade-confident in their strategic knowledge that four months from now the North Vietnamese will consummate their aggression against South Vietnam, and that the great American people, speaking through three presidents, with our vast army, navy and air force, who went to war to defend our allies, after seven years of ambiguity, were reduced to shouting our defiances into the television cameras, while we tucked ourselves back in between the big comforting oceans.
"A Touch of Self-Respect... And Analysis", by William F. Buckley Jr., published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes Tuesday, May 23, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.
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