Dr. Henry Kissinger, seemly bitter about the defeat of South Vietnam in the Vietnam War 25 years ago, described the situation as a “tragedy” Wednesday morning during a State Department conference on the subject.
“I believe most of what went wrong in Vietnam we did to ourselves,” said Kissinger, speaking candidly about his Vietnam experience in front of a capacity audience, including the Vietnamese Embassy. Though he is pleased about the current state of relations between the socialist republic and the US, “I would have preferred another outcome,” he said.
Henry Kissinger, a special advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and National Security Advisor, and eventually also Secretary of State, to Nixon and Ford, explained that during the Vietnam War “the faith of Americans in each other became destroyed in the process” of America reaching the limits of its foreign policy.
This lack of faith, Dr. Kissinger stated, “transmuted into a moral issue” about “the moral adequacy of politics and America.”
Before taking the podium, Dr. Kissinger was introduced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who made the opening address of the conference “The American Experience in Southeast Asia.”
Ms. Clinton spoke briefly about her time in Vietnam and the compassion the country has shown toward recovering the remains of fallen American soldiers and about the need for progress between the two countries.
“The lessons of that era continue to inform the decisions we make,” said Clinton. We must “put the past behind us and move forward together.”
Dr. Kissinger, it seemed, wasn’t ready to move on, at least not for his speech.
“America wanted compromise, Hanoi wanted victory,” he stated.
According to Dr. Kissinger, lack of support at home ultimately lost the war for South Vietnam and the United States.
Though “maybe it was objectively never possible,” he explained, “fundamentally, when it was the combination of Watergate and other domestic divisions, which cut aid to Vietnam by two-thirds, while oil prices were rising,” the country split over continued support for the war.
“We cannot afford a divided country and go to war,” he concluded.