tv Conversation with Henry Kissinger CSPAN May 8, 2016 12:06am-1:24am EDT
the fight against terror, it is not something that is abstract anymore. it is something that across the country, you know, mean something. because this is not a big city in san bernardino that was attacked. this can happen anywhere. announcer: we will also speak with a city councilman about establishing a permanent memorial for the victims of the attack. >> well, it provides a sense of remembrance and highlights their lives and what they have contributed to our local community. and certainly, it always will be a near and year place -- dear place, a place of serenity. we are thinking of a serenity chapel of some sort in this area. announcer: we will learn about the family of wyatt earp, from a book that talks about their notoriety and the connection to san bernardino. havee connection that they
december and you know county goes back to 1852. on the father of wyatt earp, the most well-known of them, left histhe basically family temporarily. they were living in monmouth, illinois. he heard about the gold rush in northern california. before he went back to the midwest, he ventured down to southern california. and he passed through the san bernardino valley. and he vowed that he would one day come back. announcer: and on american history tv, we will visit the road museum and talk the 1918 santa fe depot. it contains many objects related to the railroad history. >> construction was completed in 1980. it replaced a wood instruction
that was approximately 100 yards east of here that burned in 1960. why it was built a lot larger than needed, they decided to house the division headquarters at this location at that time. announcer: watch the c-span city tour throughout the day on book tv. and sunday afternoon at 2:00 on american history tv on c-span3. the c-span city store to working with cable affiliate and visiting cities across the country. coming up next, a conversation with former secretary of state henry kissinger. after that, president obama gives the commencement address at howard university in washington, d.c. and later, look at political developments in north korea. former secretary of state henry kissinger was part of a recent that on the vietnam war included policymakers, vietnam veterans, and activist.
he talked about his role during the war and the events that led to the u.s. withdrawl, more than 40 years ago. this was at the lbj presidential library in austin, texas. it is about one hour and 15 minutes. [applause] >> dr. kissinger, welcome. it is a privilege to have you on this stage. one of the things i think smoltz people do not really -- most people do not realize is that you are not only the national security advisor and secretary of state to president nexen and secretary of state to president ford, but also a consultant to president kennedy and johnson, as tom johnson just a looted do. more than any living person, i
think you saw all of the principles of vietnam up close. can you talk about each of those men and what characterized their positions of war. dr. kissinger: first of all, let me say what an honor it is to be here. and to participate in a conference that is needed to heal wounds of the debate about vietnam. and so i want to congratulate the library for organizing this and providing the opportunity. i would like to say also it is sort of symbolic that secretary kerry is coming here tomorrow night. he was walking around outside the white house when i served there. [laughter]
and the point i want to make is, we have become good friends. and he came to my 90th birthday party and made a toast in which he said, he pointed out what his , and thatd been then it was a pity that we didn't have an opportunity to talk rather than confront each other in that period. in that spirit, he and i worked together when he was chairman of the foreign relations committee , and i greatly respect his efforts now. and it's very meaningful, too, that this conference would end with his speech by this distinguished leader of america now.
now, to answer your question. in the kennedy administration, was atnow was -- vietnam first a relatively peripheral issue. the dominant concern about indochina and the kennedy administration was the future of laos, because they in return had received the advice from president eisenhower, in the transition that the future of laos might determine the future of vietnam. then, as the administration went on, there was a document that the chinese produced by the
then successor to mao saying the whole world was going to be characterized by the destruction of the countryside against the cities. and the kennedy administration tended to interpret what was going on in indochina as part of that process. but in those days, we only had a few thousand advisers but that number was increased by about 50,000 in the kennedy administration. but it was not yet a central of event of american policy. then, lyndon johnson inherited a situation in which the government of vietnam had been overthrown. the north vietnamese had infiltrated regular divisions,
and not just guerilla forces and observe,what i could lyndon johnson saw he was carrying out the spirit of the policy that had been started by president kennedy, when he ordered the increase of our forces. thethen gradually, as administration went on, a president who, for all of his a presidenten concerned with domestic policy policy in a in a way that has lasted until this day. and i must say, he was an
anguished person, because he wanted peace. but his notions of peace were that you made a compromise. and that is the one thing that the north vietnamese were never prepared to do. i became involved, because the normal attempt to achieve negotiations had all been blocked. and i became involved in the following way. i was at that time a professor at harvard, with no standing in the hierarchy in washington. and i attended a scientific conference in europe and at that conference there were two individuals who talked to me
, because they knew i had been in vietnam for a few weeks earlier that year, at the invitation of the ambassador. well, one of these two people had been the host of ho chi minh when he lived in paris for a year, to negotiate peace and he offered to go to vietnam and call on his acquaintance on behalf of peace for the united states. i called up secretary macnamara to tell him about this. secretary macnamara discussed the matter with president johnson. and amazingly, president johnson
entrusted a professor at harvard, which was not the constituency which most favored him. [laughter] with being an intermediary to two frenchmen that no one ever heard of before. and there was a message from president johnson to ho chi minh, under the circumstances to which he wanted to make peace. and they were received by ho chi minh. and they came back with reply , which after six years of negotiations and various administrations we learned was a typical north vietnamese reply
, that basically rejected the proposal. but made it sound as if maybe there was something. so they brought back the reply and i won't go through all the details. but i was sent back with another message, and none of this effort did i ever see a vietnamese negotiator. i dealt with the two frenchmen. they dealt with the vietnamese. this went on for about three months. and then after a while, we realized that they were stalling. and i mention this only to show the dedication of president johnson to achieve a negotiated peace from the very beginning.
president nixon had the problem of how he inherited the war. already, 500-plus thousand troops in vietnam and he had the same issue as president johnson, how do you end this war? and how do you withdraw these troops without leaving it to a collapse of the whole structure in indochina? allies and the rest of south china were telling us, you can ask me questions about individual decisions. that were taken. and president ford was president
in the very last days of the war. i want to say at the very end when the war -- when it was obvious and we were talking only about the evacuation of the last batch of civilians that were stuck at the airport in sigeon aigon, and i called them and said we have to permit the evacuation of saigon and if you read that phone conversation between him and me, he realized that we had to leave. but he wanted to squeeze out another 12 hours, to see whether we could rescue a few more people. so, all the presidents were haunted in their way.
each of them were dedicated to finding a peaceful solution. each of them had the dilemma of how you relate american honor to the ending of the war and that was the dilemma. there was nobody who wanted war. there was nobody who wanted to escalate the war. they all wanted peace. but the question was, under what conditions can you do that without turning over the millions who in reliance on the word of previous presidents had committed themselves? >> doctor, so let me go back to john f. kennedy. there is widespread speculation had he not been assassinated, he would have reverse course and withdrawn troops from vietnam. despite any evidence to that
end, is there anything you saw from president kennedy that over time he would have withdrawn our support for the war in vietnam? i've never seen the slightest evidence of this. it is possible to say that he would have done this, but all the moves of the kennedy administration while kennedy was alive were in the direction of increasing our commitment and not diminishing it. all based on the belief that if it was a simpler problem than it turned out to be. i have never seen a piece of paper that would indicate this
. and all of the chief advisers of president kennedy, who were taken over by president johnson when he became president, were unanimous, in both presidencies , in supporting the cause that was adopted, until things got very difficult. and then, of course, divisions appeared. but i have never seen them -- i know of no evidence that president kennedy would have done this. >> yeah. lyndon johnson was a domestic policy sage. he knew how to get deals done , he knew instincttively what to do. there are many who think he was out of depth, in terms of foreign policy. what is your view of johnson in terms of a foreign policy president? president johnson
was saddled with the war, from the first day in office. so, you can't really judge what the foreign policy tendencies of the president who was swallowed up in a way by the war in vietnam. without any question, johnson was a master in knowing the nuances of domestic policy and he did not know the foreign leaders, as well as he did the domestic ones. so, it didn't come as naturally to him as domestic policy. on the foreign policy issues
, other than the war in vietnam, he had a very good relationship with our allies and our enemies, . he was very eager to come to some agreement with the soviet union. but everything was so overlaid by the war in vietnam, i thought president johnson was a formidable individual of, in some ways, it was a personal tragedy that he spent so much of his life to achieve that office ,, in order to be compelled to do things that had been his major focus. but i thought he was a strong figure, and i felt great respect and affection. long beent has
alleged that richard nixon's campaign in 1968 tampered with the peace process by sending an emissary to the south vietnamese to withhold negotiations because they felt they might get a better deal from a future president nixon. what is your view of that? i have noger: personal knowledge whether that contact actually took place, in the way it has been alleged, but assuming that the story is essentially correct, i do not believe that it had been -- that whatever nixon did had any of the consequences that have been alleged. you have to remember this aspect
of our relationship with the vietnamese. the vietnamese and vietnamese allies will were in desperate situations. they needed our help, as an essential component. so, when a peace process was going on, they had a tendency to agree to provisions we put forward, on the theory that the north vietnamese would reject it. so, in 1968, we experienced what nixon then experienced four years later, that when the point came actually to undertake the negotiations, that day would have to assume responsibility for the outcome.
and then, the south vietnamese leaders felt it necessary to demonstrate to their own people that they had been forced by the united states to do this. and so, it started a debate about something that i'm sure president johnson and i know president nixon in our period thought it had already been settled. so, one of the key issues was actually to sit down at the table. and then, of course, produce the necessity for the south vietnamese to sit down at the same table with the people who had been fighting to overthrow from the south of
vietnamese communist side and so issue arose as a consequence of the negotiation, the president started a debate about the way the negotiation could even start. we faced exactly the same thing, in a different way. made aars later, we with the agreement north vietnamese. and we thought the south vietnamese had agreed to each of the terms when we had discussed them. but then when they were actually put forward, we went through six weeks of controversy about nuances.
so, that was inherent. that would have happened whether nixon wrote his note or not. secondly, some delay between the announcement in the sitting down was, in my opinion, inevitable. and not because of the nexen letter. but there's one other thing to remember. it's often alleged that peace could have been made if somehow they had all sat at the same table. there was absolutely no chance of this whatsoever. because on november 3, two days after these announcements were made, the vietnamese made published conditions, which they never changed for the rest of the johnson administration and
the rest of the next administration, which were united states had to withdraw totally. and form a coalition government noted by communists before any negotiation could take place, about anything else. so, the johnson administration official position was, at that the position of the north vietnamese had to withdraw before any withdrawal of american troops could even take place. so, those conditions were maintained for the rest of the johnson administration. and they were the principal obstacle to the failure of the negotiations in the next administration, until the vietnamese were defeated in the sequel to the tet offensive,
where johnson mentioned, because the one thing that the next administration would not concede, it said that we would overthrow an allied governments that had supported the united states, in reliance on promises made by a other presidents. and as soon as the north vietnamese agreed that the existing government could stay, which was at the very end of the nixon administration, a settlement was achieved. and i mention it only because america should not torture itself on the view that it could have had a settlement earlier, if their president had been more willing. they could not have had
settlements except for just selling out, which no one would have unconditionally supported. mark: bob halderman, president nixon's chief of staff, said in a 1978 television interview that nixon had no intention of quickly pulling out of vietnam. he aimed to exploit the rivalry between china and the soviet union to improve relations. with the both of them. vietnam was an expedient where america's bona fide intentions and motives were being acted out. nixon believed that america had to negotiate from strength to prove its willingness to fight, vietnam became that place. how do you respond to that? does that characterize, in your view, nixon's position on the war? dr. kissinger: it characterizes
part of nixon's position on the war. this can be interpreted by professional critics of nixon to mean that he fought so that he could do some other things. that was not what he thought. he thought that if america is by abandoningself its commitments in vietnam, he could not do the bigger things that were needed in order to make the war in vietnam fit into a global perspective. and so, in the sense that he said this is not only about vietnam, but it's about trying to create a world order in which can no longer occur, in that sense, it is correct. mark: you say in your book, "ending the vietnam war," that
the dominoes theory was real. the domino effect would have played out. what would have been the consequences of not waging a fight in vietnam? in your opinion? kissinger: the problem of any foreign policy is that you have to make a commitment on the basis of assessment. you cannot prove true when you make them. they depend on a judgment, and you can always come up with a counterfactual argument. a person who has a great influence on our thinking, and i believe also to some extent, on president johnson's thinking was the prime minister from singapore. one of the great men that i have met.
he inherited a sandbar with a per capita income of $600. and turned it in 20 years to a significant country with a per capita income of $55,000, without any natural resources, based on the dedication and quality of its population. he was convinced, and so were many others, that if the amount -- that if vietnam collapsed, at the time that president kennedy and johnson made vacancies, that then the whole south asia would be engulfed, and that the same thing what then happened in indonesia, malaysia, and he maintained that opinion until his death.
and he was not a cold war in the abstract, he was a judge of what it took to keep his little country secure. mark: do you agree? dr. kissinger: i agree with that. so, i think that the presidents who made the major decisions had a reason for making them. mark: yeah. in his 2015 book, "the last of the president's men," bob woodward writes of january 1972 memo that you wrote to nixon updating him on the military situation in laos. president nixon wrote a handwritten note on that same memo, which read k, meaning kissinger, we have had 10 years of total control in the air in laos and vietnam. the result equals zilch.
there is something wrong with the strategy or the air force. in aet, the night before, cbs interview with dan rather, saying thent is bombing is effective. privately, he is saying -- to you he is saying that they have done zilch. dr. kissinger: he wasn't saying -- one of the curses of modern activism is collected and treated as if it were a legal document. [laughter] here are these presidents, on 18 hours a day. they are under constant pressure. and they write a note to their
advisors and frustration that it's still going on. and nixon had a way of exaggerating his comments. i can tell you here that woodward called me up with this. and he said what to do do when he received it? i said i did nothing. and he couldn't believe it. [laughter] why would i do nothing? because i have worked with president nixon for 10 years. or eight years. and when you got a message like this, i have a tendency after a while to wait to see whether there would be a follow-up. [laughter]
and if you think about it, this would be the normal way -- on the worst assessment of the air campaign, you cannot possibly say that it achieves nothing. you can say it may not have achieved everything that he wanted, and that you have to break it down into the biggest components were. and i think probably nixon might have slightly exaggerated what he said publicly. and he surely exaggerated his frustration in a handwritten note, probably late at night. [laughter] and i think one ought to analyze these documents that are floating around from that point
of view. i mean, what was the context in which the comment was made? xon isbut you had to -- ni a very enigmatic person. you write often that he would say one thing and mean another. so, you had to judge when he was saying -- dr. kissinger: he didn't mean another. i had a very clear idea of what he wanted. and you have to understand it, you cannot survive security advisor, you have only one constituent, and that the president of the united states. and you must be absolutely straight with him. and the most important thing as security advisor can do, and must do, is to tell the
president the options he has. sometimes, he has to save the president from ill considered first moves. and if you abuse that, utility, it is the end. and nixon, it's now generally known, hated personal confrontations. and so, therefore, in face-to-face confrontations, it was like it was possible that he expressed himself ambiguously. but if you in any written excerpts, you can absolutely rely on what he was saying.
and if you look at his record, he knew he was a very strong president. in sticking to his basic convictions. and he took enormously difficult decisions, and there was no ambiguity about them. but it was better to discuss them with him in writing, then as a face-to-face conversation. and one will find in going through the archives, which are now available, that most of the key decisions when i was security advisor were based on memoranda, and not on conversations. the conversations played a very important role in creating the mood, and establishing the general context.
but when a precise decision was needed, it was best to do it in writing. which i think is a good way anyway, in relations with these presidents. and the people. mark: tom johnson mentioned your commitment to the peace process, and the fact that you, in 1973, along with your north vietnamese counterpart, won the nobel peace prize. there are many who alleged you are a war criminal due to the systematic carpet bombing of laos and cambodia. why was that bombing necessary to our strategy in winning the war? dr. kissinger: well, you know, by now, and in my 90's. i've heard this. i think the word war criminal
should not be thrown around in domestic debates. it's a shameful reflection on the people who use it. let us look -- what was the situation? first, there was no carpet bombing. that is absolute nonsense. it is not true. the situation was as follows. in the johnson administration, the north vietnamese moved four divisions into the border areas of vietnam and cambodia. on cambodian soil. and established base areas from which they launched attacks into vietnam, and the divisions were put there in opposition to the local cambodian government.
in fact, the cambodian bowles,nt told chester who was there as a bj, that ifive for l we bombed those areas and didn't kill any cambodians, they would close their eyes to it. the lbj administration decided not to do this, because we were already under pressure, domestically. and for other reasons, that tom johnson may know better than i do. but then, when nixon came in, had already, before he
assumed office, sent a message to the north vietnamese that he was eager to resume negotiations. in the third week of the nixonpresidency, they started an offensive in which every week, up to 500 americans were killed. and many of these attacks, more than half of these attacks came from the areas that were occupied by those four divisions inside cambodian territory. and after we had suffered 1500 casualties, nearly as many as we suffered in 10 years of war in afghanistan, nixon ordered an attack on the base areas within five miles of the vietnamese
border, which were essentially unpopulated. so, when the phrase carpet bombing is used, it is, i think, attacks,ze of the probably much less than what the obama administration has done in similar base areas in pakistan, which i think is sanctified, and therefore i believe what was done in cambodia was justified. and when we eventually wiped out the base areas, the casualties went down by 80%. and so, those were the decisions . and i would bet that sooner or
later, any president would have had to do it. because this is one that if you fight a war and permit base areas from which the killing units are sustained, then you are in an absolutely hopeless position. i was security advisor, i strongly favored it. because i had just come in. but it does not matter, i was certainly strongly supportive of it. it was correct. and it was in the american interest. and the civilian casualties from this bombing along the five mill streak, was justified.
we have to ask ourselves another thing. the argument against doing it was that cambodia was a neutral country. but a country that has four divisions on its soil is not actually a neutral country. and the leader of cambodia told the johnson administration that he would, in a way, welcome this bombing, when we actually did it , there were press inquiries, and he told them in a press conference, i don't know what goes on in the part of my country, in which no cambodians live. and which is occupied by the vietnamese. if any cambodian is killed, i
will protest. he never protested. mark: towards the end of his life, robert mcnamara stood on the stage after publishing a book and expressed regret over the war, and how it was waged. he said that the war was futile, and that his conduct was wrong, terribly wrong. have you any regrets on any of the actions you took in vietnam? dr. kissinger: no. well, you always make tactical mistakes. i believe that the american president, and those of us who worked with him, were acting on the basis of their best
judgment, at the time. and i think that mistakes were made, in the cause of discussion the vietnam war, one should discuss how one can learn from these. i'm proud of the service, and i must say, bob mcnamara was a really good friend of mine. and i have huge regard for him. but one should not tell -- it's cheap to me, after hundreds are those decisions.
mark: right, what is the biggest lesson we can draw from the war? dr. kissinger: the biggest lesson is not just from the war in the vietnam. say the dilemma of american foreign-policy in general is we have left behind two great oceans. and the lucky part of the country has lived in the center part of the country, where the consciousness of foreign dangers inherently could not develop in the same way it had to in asia and europe, where peoples are being pressed together. so, therefore, americans have a tendency to think that peace is the normal condition among people, among countries. and when there is war, or when
there is instability, it is sort of an accident. it is sort of unusual, which you can remedy by one set of actions. after which, you can go back to a condition of great stability. but most deep international conflicts are caused by circumstances which have a long time to develop. so, to answer your question, we we have been involved in five wars since world war ii. which we, in effect, lost. we ended each of these wars with a wide public consensus. there was an 80% support for everyone of these initial
actions. but then, after some time, the people say we have to end it. extrication an strategy. well, the best extrication strategy is just to get out. but you can also call that defeat. so, if you enter a war, you should not do it for objectives that you cannot sustain. and if you cannot describe objectives that you can sustain, you shouldn't enter it. secondly, you have to distinguish -- you, as a country, between those things you will do only if you have allies, and those you must do because your national security
requires it. regardless of whether you have allies or not. so, you have to make that distinction. and we have to learn that this -- i would apply this to almost all administration. not to get into these conflicts, unless you can describe and aim you are willing to sustain. unless you are willing in the extreme to sustain it alone, or to know when you have to end it, those are lessons in how to learn also from vietnam. but we also have to learn to moderate our domestic debate. because in the course of the vietnam war, what started as a
reasonable debate about whether we were engaged in the process that we could master, was transformed into an attack on the moral quality of american leadership. the the one teaches people that is basically patriotic for 20 years, that they are criminals and fools, then you can get a political debate that becomes more and more violent. and we suffer from it in some of our current political debates. that is one lesson we should draw from the vietnam war. which also means we should moderate the argument, but make them deeper.
mark: based on that view, how would you assess the war in iraq? dr. kissinger: the war in iraq? first of all, well, i want to be clear, i supported -- i had in mind different kind of war. i thought we would withdraw after saddam. i thought more of a bush one type of war. we failed to make in iraq, and maybe in syria, that we failed to make this analysis, which goes back to my original point. namely, we look at these
countries as if they were one unit. and then we see a ruler that is oppressive, and we say let's get rid of this ruler. and the people of iraq with people of syria have a democratic government. and can restore stability. but what has happened in iraq and in syria was at the end of world war i, the european victors organized a group of tribes, religions, ethnic entities. one of them was syria, the had a majority of sunnis. and a minority of shias.
which in syria, recalled a la whites. and in iraq, it was the opposite. they had a minority of sunnis, and a majority of shias. said let's get rid of the top guy, and we will have stability. but getting rid of the top guy produces a conflict among the various minority groups, who are then fighting for preeminence. and so we have to learn that when we get in to nationbuilding in such a war, we have to engage in nationbuilding. and so, i think we did not understand the complexities of nationbuilding as a general proposition. that's how i would assess the war in iraq, we got into something deeper then we assessed at the beginning. mr.
mark: kissinger has graciously excepted to take a few questions from the audience. i will ask you another question, as you would like to ask questions, i asked that you two up on either side of the aisle. i asked that you ensure that your question is in fact a question in a statement, and that you be as brief as possible in asking that question. kissinger, it's impossible to ignore the election as it plays out. you said in a 2014 interview with scott simon of national public radio that you think hillary clinton would make a good president, but you intended to support the republican
nominee. dr. kissinger: i'm not going to get into the -- [laughter] into the -- [laughter] [applause] mark: is it fair to say that 2014 was a long time ago. are you inclined to support whoever the republican party nominates? [laughter] dr. kissinger: i have not made an announcement. mark: fair enough. dr. kissinger: if you were kind enough to say, i could send it. i wanted to give the audience a chance. mark: i must say to his credit he called me several weeks ago and said, i want to take questions from the audience.
i will take any questions they offer. i asked that you ask the question briefly and in a civil matter. audience member: when the court was signed in laos in 1962, they counted on the vietnamese to honor the neutralization in laos which did not happen and they did not acknowledge that that accord was broken. you had an expectation of the moving troops out of laos and that did not happen as expected by the negotiators.
dr. kissinger: you are quite right. audience member: how do we -- dr. kissinger: you can say, at least until recently, the north vietnamese controlled the record for breaking agreements. [laughter] dr. kissinger: the 1962 agreement on laos, if you generalize it now, the president was convinced that laos was like vietnam, important to the united states. they wanted to keep laos from falling to the north the enemies -- vietnamese. and they did recommend to the incoming administration, that they should make an issue of laos and it was implied that they would favor the usa, some
american troops to achieve this. laos is a complex country in order to achieve this objective. the kennedy administration was not willing to put in forces, but, as a result there was a neutralization agreement and that was broken by the north the emmys -- bievietnamese almost -- north vietnamese almost immediately. and it took laos into a supply phase and most of the roots -- r outes went through laos. in 1972, when the nexen -- nixon administration made a trip there, we had made a habit of violating the agreements. we were faced with near certainty that the congress would vote an end to the war, no
matter what action would be taken. secondly, we believed that the provisions of the vietnam agreement, if we could enforce them, would also protect the other two countries. we thought that the south vietnam ease forces could withstand all attacks and we would have enforced them if there was an all-out attack. then watergate destroyed that
possibility. and then congress legislated against any attempt. so, we will not know what might have happened, but you are right . by the time these agreements were made in 1972, the american -- had disintegrated, to a point and it goes back to a point i made earlier -- if we and -- the wars, we must make sure that part of the responsibility of
the administration is sustaining the domestic side. and opponents must understand, if they achieve objectives by undermining government, then of course, no strategy can sustain. mark: yes? audience member: i am with the vietnamese americans, it is widely agreed that you wanted to take over the -- islands in 1974. even the south china sea situation and into pacific ocean, what advice would you
give president obama and secretary kerry? dr. kissinger: i am not sure i understood the question. it was a situation where we agreed in 1974 that -- mark: can you restate the question? audience member: it was understood that the u.s. and the security advisor had arranged so that china could take over the parasol island in 1974, so that we would not lose that area to russia. today, what would use it just us do on behalf of the national security of the u.s. and given all the attacking that china is doing on the u.s. there, and you think that you would side with mao, in all that time, was responsible for the 50,000 deaths of american soldiers?
dr. kissinger: for the benefit of the two or three who may not know what these islands are -- [laughter] dr. kissinger: the parasol islands is a group of islands in the south china sea, located between china and vietnam. depending on which point of land you measure the distance, they are either closer to vietnam or china, so that leads to this
issue. the chinese claimed these islands because hundreds of years ago, a chinese angler through a line at the pacific and he said everything on that side belongs to china. so, and they had already been claimed. the vietnamese also claimed these islands. and the american position, with respect to the islands, has been consistently that we do not take a position of the sovereignty of these islands. in 1974, in the midst of
watergate, in the middle east, i can assure you that these islands were not for most on our minds. but, there is no agreement that was ever signed in between, that gave china a right to occupy these islands. nor have the chinese ever claimed that. so, i think there was no specific negotiation. mark: your question? >> i spent two years in a communist prison thanks to the agreement you signed with hanoi in 1973. 47 years ago you forced, and that you would send troops to
help our nation to defeat the north vietnamese. but you did nothing. the result is the communist took hanoi. you should answer the question. what will we learn from the vietnam war that we would never the tray our allies. thank you very much. dr. kessinger: i have great sympathy for these questions from the vietnamese. they have a right to think that we had promised support through a number of administrations, including the one i served. vietnam was collapsing. it was impossible to convince countries to pass any additional funds. 1975.
our country. we could have the managed it without that. mark: yes. audience member: is that working now? after the tet offensive, after lbj refusing to run again, after walter cronkite, there was peace with honor as striving, yet it cost tens of thousands of casualties. would it have been better to skip the honor, getting out earlier? mark: given the fact that peace with honor took such a toll in terms of human life would it have been better to withdraw? is that fair? audience member: the invasion of cambodia, the extended time of the soldiers, 69, 70.
perhaps we should have withdrawn. mark: thank you. dr. kessinger: if you look at the american political debate, there was no one -- if you look at the position of the democratic party at that time, you will find nobody in 1969 and 70 recommended unilateral withdrawal. that the position of the johnson administration was that the vietnamese troops had to
withdraw first. six months after that, american withdrawals would start. so, unilateral withdrawal of american forces, in the middle of a war, declaring we couldn't stand the consequences of the war, i don't know anybody who recommended it at that time. three years later we were talking about increments of withdrawals. there were few casualties. there were casualties. if you lose a war, you cannot say what it would have achieved that the southeast asia was not over, and it may be a
the war on drugs was issued under nexen. we have more people in prison. 70% of prisoners are nonviolent. you think the war on drugs was worth it and you think it should be continued in the 21st century and we should continue it or look at it as a failure? or was it a victory? what do you think about it and how it has affected the last 40 years? mark: the domestic policy matter. audience member: it was under nixon. dr. kessinger: i don't think any statement i can make on the war on drugs -- [laughter] [applause] dr. kessinger: i want to make
one other point. my observations are directed at the american audience. i have great sympathy for the vietnamese who are in this audience. of course, their perspective has to be different. i am sorry, not because of any action the administration in which i was involved in, but it is an historic tragedy that america found itself so divided and could not solve its domestic debates. so that it could come out of the war within itself. that was more compatible. it had entered -- mark: you have major mark on history. what will history say about
henry kissinger? dr. kessinger: i have no obsession about this. i have the good fortune of being able to come to the united states when most, many of the people i knew were killed in germany. i have always been deeply grateful to this country and i know what it represents to the peace of the world. i have been lucky, it being able to execute my concerns as my profession.
so i am not involved in what i'm doing in order to get history about me. there is an extensive record. some people, although i must say, the way the mass of material that is produced in the internet age, i'm not sure whether you can say history will come to a fair judgment anyway. that is not my concern. i tried to do the best i could. that is all i can say. mark: that is all anyone can say. [applause]