Nixon, Ford and the American Crisis
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Buoyed by his reputation in foreign policy, Nixon could look forward with confidence to the realisation of his overseas goals. He declaimed in his Second Inaugural in January 1973: ‘1972 will be remembered as the year of the greatest progress since the end of World War II toward a lasting peace in the world.’ It was a record he believed he could build upon. But before anything could be attempted on the wider canvas of relations with Moscow and Beijing, the war in South-east Asia had to be ended, or at least America’s direct involvement in it. Not that it was much of an American war any more, since Nixon’s rolling policy of troop withdrawal had progressively brought military strength to some 69,000 by the spring of 1972. On 29 August, he announced a further reduction to 27,000. Even so, American air power was still formidably deployed in support of the South Vietnamese forces. In March 1972, the North Vietnamese army began a sustained offensive in the South. Nixon’s response was to assemble a major force of B-52 bombers and aircraft carriers to attack targets in North Vietnam. Then, on 8 May, he announced the mining of all North Vietnamese ports and attacks on their communications network.
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