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tv   Conversation with Henry Kissinger  CSPAN  May 8, 2016 12:32pm-1:50pm EDT

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forward in so much more. that is your legacy. -- that jackson state football coach i mentioned earlier, his full name is rocking and he went on to be our first african-american secretary of education. [applause] rally fort segregation in these stands singing never, no never, just 50 years later are country elected an african-american president for his second term declaring yes we can. [applause] graduates, that is what is possible in this country of ours . that is the direction history can take when courageous counted young people like all of you step up and lead the way. in you.ou've got it
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i can feel it right from here. as you say here in jackson state, the world better get ready because here y'all come. i love you all so much. i hope you have a phenomenal day. i will pray for you every step of the way. god bless you all. good luck on the road ahead. [applause] i am proud of you all. proud of you guys. get it done. [applause]
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>> recently our campaign 2016 bus made a visit to pennsylvania during its primary, stopping at slippery rock university and washington and jefferson college and harrisburg university -- area community college. resources onctive c-span.org. visitors were able to share their thoughts about the upcoming election. we ended the week in thornton, pennsylvania where it visited a middle school to visit them.
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a special thanks to our cable partners comcast and armstrong for helping this. you can do this online. view more online. >> secretary of state henry kissinger was part of a recent conversation on the vietnam war. he talked about his war -- role during the war and what led to the u.s. withdrawal more than 40 years ago. this was at the lbj presidential library in austin, texas. it is one hour and 15 minutes. [applause] >> welcome. it is a privilege to have you on this stage.
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one of the things i think most people don't realize is that you are not only the national security advisor and secretary of state to president nixon and secretary of state to president ford, but also a part-time consultant to president kennedy and president johnson as tom johnson just alluded to. more than any living person, i think you saw all the principle commanders in chief around vietnam. can you talk about each of those men and what characterized their editions on the war? henry kissinger: let me say what an honor it is for me to be here and to participate in a conference which is needed to heal wounds of the debate about vietnam, and so i want to congratulate the library for
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providing this and the opportunity. i would like to say it is symbolic that secretary kerry is coming here tomorrow night. he was walking around outside of the white house -- [laughter] we point i want to make is became good friends in the end. he came to my 90th birthday party and made a toast in which what hishe pointed out actions had been then and that it was a pity that we did not talkan opportunity to rather than confront each other in that period.
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spirit, he and i were both together when he was chairman of the foreign relations community -- committee . i greatly respected his efforts ,nd it is very meaningful, too that this conference would end with his speech as a distinguished leader of america now. , in ther your question , the anonministration at first was a relatively peripheral issue. -- dominant concern was china in the kennedy administration, the future of laos. haduse they in turn
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listened to the advice from president eisenhower in the transition that the future of laos might determine the future of vietnam. as the administration went on there was a document that the , the successord to mao, that set the whole world was going to be characterized by . struggle of the countries the kennedy administration interpreted what was going on in indochina as part of that process. in those days we had only a few thousand advisors there. that number was increased to about 50,000 in the kennedy administration.
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a general aet subscription -- obsession of american policy. inherited the situation in which the government of vietnam had been overthrown, the north vietnamese had infiltrated regular divisions, and not just lyndonla forces, and so johnson thought he was getting out the spirit of the policy that had been started by president kennedy when he of forces. increase then gradually as the administration went on, a
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president who all his life had been known as concerned primarily with the mastic policy -- domestic policy was engulfed in the division of a country that has lasted to this day. was an english -- anguished person because he wanted peace, and 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. involved became because the normal attempt to achieve negotiations had all
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been blocked. i became involved in the following way. i was at that time a professor inharvard with no standing the hierarchy of washington. i went, i attended a scientific conference in europe. at that conference were two individuals who talked to me. they knew i had been in vietnam for a few weeks earlier that year at the invitation of investor blood -- ambassador ludd. one of these two people had been the host of ho chi minh went ho chi minh lived in paris for a year to negotiate peace with the french. andffered to go to vietnam
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call on his acquaintance on behalf of peace for the united states. i called up secretary mcnamara to tell him about this. -- withy mcnamara president johnson. amazingly, president johnson interested -- entrusted a professor at harvard which was not the constituency that most favored him. [laughter] toh being an intermediary two frenchmen that no one had ever heard before. johnsone from president , it outlined the circumstances
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under which he was prepared to make peace. achieved -- received by ho chi minh. they came back with a reply which after six years of learned was ae typical north vietnamese they reply -- vague reply that rejected the proposal but made it sound as if maybe there was something. they brought back the reply. i will not go through all the details. another fact with this effort none of that i ever see -- did i ever see a vietnamese negotiator. i dealt with frenchmen, they dealt with the enemies.
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this went on for -- they dealt with the vietnamese. this went on for three months. i realized they were installing. -- stalling. i mention this in the case of president johnson to achieve an honorable negotiated peace from the very beginning. president nixon had the problem of how he inherited the war. there are already 500,000+ troops in vietnam. because he had the same issue as president johnson, how do you end this war? how do you withdraw these troops a total collapse
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of the whole structure in indochina, and as some of our allies and the rest of south asia were telling us, the collapse of the whole sector. president ford who was president and the very last phase of the war, it is him i wanted to say at the very end when it was obvious and we were talking only about the evacuation of the last civilians that were stuck at the airport in saigon, and i called now -- weid it is have to commit the evacuation of
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saigon. if you read that phone conversation between him and me, he realized that we had to leave. he wanted to squeeze out another 12 hours to see whether we could rescue a few more people. werehe presidents honorable in their way. toh of them was dedicated helping to find 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. it was nobody who wanted war. there was nobody who wanted to escalate the war. they all wanted peace. the question was under what conditions can you do that without turning over maybe
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millions who were reliant on the word of previous president. >> let me go back. there is widespread speculation that had john f. kennedy not been assassinated, he would have reversed course and withdrawn troops from vietnam. despite any evidence to that end, is there anything that you saw from president kennedy that would suggest he would have withdrawn our support for the war in vietnam? kissinger: i've never seen the slightest evidence. it is possible to say that he might have done this. all the moves of the kennedy administration when kennedy was
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alive were in the direction of increasing our commitment, not diminishing it. all based on the belief that it was a simpler problem then it turned out to be, but i have never seen a piece of paper that would indicate this. all of the chief advisers of president kennedy who were taken over by president johnson believed -- when he became resident -- president were unanimous that both presidents were supporting the course until things got very difficult. then of course divisions appeared. noave never seen -- i know evidence that president kennedy would have done this. domestic johnson was a
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policy sake. he knew how to get deals done. he knew instinctively what to do. there are many who think he was out of his depths in terms of foreign policy. what is your view of johnson as a foreign-policy president? kissinger: president with a war saddled from the first day in office, so what thet really judge foreign-policy tendencies of the president who was swallowed up vietnam by the war in without any question, johnson was a master in knowing the
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nuances of domestic policy. he did not know the foreign leaders as well as he did the domestic constituencies. so it did not come as naturally to him as it did in domestic policy. on the foreign-policy issue, ,ther than the war in vietnam he had a very good relationship with our allies. and our enemies he was very eager to come to an agreement with the soviet union. everything was so overlaid by the war in vietnam that i thought president johnson was a formidable individual. in some ways, it was a tragedy
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that he spent so much of his ine to achieve that office order to be impelled to do the that would be his focus. i thought he was a strong figure. i felt great respect and affection. >> it has long been alleged that richard nixon's presidential campaign in 1968 tempered with the peace process by sending an emissary to the south vietnamese to urge them to withhold from negotiations with the north vietnamese because they might get a better deal from a president nixon. what is your view of that? nory kissinger: i have personal knowledge of whether that contact take place in the way that it has been alleged, but assuming that the story is
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essentially correct, i do not -- whatever it had nixon did, at any of the -- had any of the consequences that have been alleged. , thisve to remember aspect of our relationship with ,he vietnamese, the vietnamese our allies were always in a nearly desperate position. as aneeded our help essential component. when the peace process was going agreey had a tendency to to provisions we put forward on that very that the north vietnamese would always --
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in 1968, we experienced what nixon then experienc four years later. when the time came to actually undertake negotiations, and they would have responsibility for the outcome, then the south vietnamese laters -- leaders found it necessary to demonstrate their own piece, that they had not been forced to the united states to do this. debate about a something that, i am sure president johnson in his day, and i know president nixon in our period thought had our event
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settled. was to actually thenown at the table, and produce the necessity for the south vietnamese to sit down at the same table with the people who had been fighting to from the south vietnamese. arose as assue consequence of the negotiation, president jiu duggan and started -- dug in and started a debate about the way that the negotiations would even start. made anrs later we
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agreement with the south the enemies. we thought the south vietnamese had agreed to peace. what they were actually put forth, what we put forward, we went through six weeks of controversy about nuances. that was inherent. that would have happened whether nixon wrote his note or not. such delay between the announcement as we were sitting down was inevitable. there is one other thing to remember. it is often alleged that peace could have been made if somehow
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they had all sat at the same table. there was absolutely no chance onthis whatsoever because november 3, two days after these announcements were made, the vietnamese published their positions which they never changed for the johnson ministration and the next and administration. which were the united states had to withdraw totally and form a coalition government dominated by communists before any negotiations could take place so thenything else, johnson administration official thation at that time was the vietnamese -- the north vietnamese had to withdraw before any withdrawal of americans could even take place.
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those conditions were maintained for the rest of the johnson administration. principlethe old absolute to the failure of the negotiations and the nixon administration until the vietnamese were defeated in the sequel to the tet offensive. tom johnson mentioned. one thing that the administration would not concede is that we would overthrow and allied government that had supported the united states in reliance on promises made by other presidents. as soon as the north vietnamese agreed that the existing government could stay which was
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at the very end of the next and nixonstration -- administration, a settlement was achieved. have aview that it could settlement earlier if there resident had been more willing -- their president had been more willing, they could not have had a settlement except for terms of withdrawing unconditionally which nobody would have supported. >> president nixon's chief of staff said in a 1978 television interview that nixon had no intention of quickly pulling out of vietnam. he and two exploit the rivalry between china and the soviet union to improve relations with both of them. vietnam was an expedient where america's intentions and motives were being played out.
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next an believe that yet to negotiate from strength to prove willingness to fight, vietnam came that place. how do you respond to that? does that characterize, in your view, nixon's position on the war? >> it characterizes part of nixon's dr. kissinger: it characterizes part of nixon 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 credited by abandoning its commitments in vietnam, he could not do the bigger things that
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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, it's about trying to create a world order in which the amounts 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? dr. kissinger: look, the problem of any foreign policy is that you have to make a commitment on the basis of assessment.
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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 some extent, on president johnson's thinking was the prime minister from singapore. one of the great men i have met. he inherited a sand bar with a per capita income of $60. 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 collapsed, at the time that president kennedy and johnson
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made vacancies, that the whole south asia would be engulfed, and that the same thing within half an 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. i think that the presidents who made the major decisions had a reason for making them. mark: in his 2015 book, the last of the presidents 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
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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. and yet, that before, that before coming in a cbs interview with dan rather, residence and set up the bombing, the results of been very, very effective. i think their effectiveness will be demonstrated. publicly, president nixon as saying the bombing is effective, privately 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. here are these presidents, on 18 hours a day.
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they are under constant pressure. they write a note to their advisors and frustration that it's still going on. and next and had a way of exaggerating his comments. i can tell you here that woodward called me up with this. he said what to do do when he received it? i said i did nothing. he couldn't believe it. 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
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while to wait to see whether they would be a follow-up. 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. i think probably nixon might have slightly exaggerated what he said publicly. and he surely exaggerated his frustration in a handwritten notes, probably late at night. 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? mark: nixon is a very enigmatic person. you write often that he would say one thing and mean another. you had to judge when he was saying --
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dr. kissinger: he didn't mean another. i had a very clear idea of what he wanted. 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 is 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, [indiscernible] and nixon, it's now generally known, hated personal confrontations. and so, therefore, in
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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. if you look at his record, he knew he was a very strong president. sticking to his basic convictions. and he took in or mostly 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. mr.
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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, my now, and in my 90's. i've heard this. i think the word war criminal should be thrown around in domestic debates.
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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. the situation was as follows. in the johnson administration, the north vietnamese moved four divisions into the border areas the vietnam and cambodia. on cambodian soil. an established base areas from which they launched attacks into vietnam, and the divisions were put there in opposition to the cambodian government. the cambodian government told them that if we bombed those areas and didn't kill any cambodians, they would close their eyes to it.
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the lbj administration decided not to do this, because we were already under pressure, domestically. and for other reasons that don johnson may know better than i do. but then, when nixon came in, they can have 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 nexen presidency, 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.
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an established base areas from which they launched attacks into vietnam, and the divisions were put there in opposition to the cambodian government. the cambodian government told them that if 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 don johnson may know better than i do. but then, when nixon came in, they can have already before he assumed office sent a message to
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the north vietnamese that he was eager to resume negotiations. in the third week of the nexen presidency, 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
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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, probably much less than what the obama administration has done in similar base areas in pakistan, which i think is sanctified, and and i believe what was done in cambodia was justified. when we eventually wiped out the
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base areas, the casualties went down by 80%. and so those were the decisions are in and i would bet that sooner or later, any presidents would have had to do it. because this is one that if you fight 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. but i had just come in. it does not matter, i was certainly strongly supportive of it. it was correct. it was in the american interest in the civilian casualties from this bombing along the five mill
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street 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
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goes on in the part of my country in which no cambodians live, and which is occupied by the vietnamese. if any cambodians killed,, i will protest. he never protested. mark: towards the end of his life, robert mcnamara stood on
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the stage after publishing a book and expressed regret over the war, and how it was waged. he said 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. you always make tactical mistakes. i believe that the american president, and those of us who worked with him, were acting on 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.
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i'm proud of the service, and i must say, bob mcnamara was a really good friend of mine. i have huge regard for him. but one should not tell -- it's cheap to me, after hundreds are dead after was decisions. mark: what is the biggest lesson we can draw from the war? dr. kissinger: the biggest lesson is not just from the war in vietnam it. the dilemma of american foreign-policy in general is we have left behind two great oceans. the lucky part of the country has lived in the center part of the country, where the
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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. 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. sort of unusual, would 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. we have been involved in five wars since world war ii.
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which we, in effect, lost. we ended each of these wars with a wide public consensus. it was an 80% support for everyone of these initial actions. but then, after some time, the people say we have to end it. you need an extra case and 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 can sustain.
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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 applies to almost all the ministrations. not to get into these conflicts unless you can describe and aim the you are willing to sustain. unless you are willing in the extreme to sustain it alone, or
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to know when you have to end it, those are lessons in how to learn also from vietnam. 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. and when one teachers -- one teachers the people that is basically patriotic for 20
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years, that they are criminals and fools, then you can get a political debate 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. it also means we should moderate the argument, but make them deeper.
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mark: based on that view, how would you assess the war in iraq? dr. kissinger: the war in iraq? well, i want to be clear, i supported -- i had in mind different kind of war. i thought we would withdraw after saddam. 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. 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.
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but what has happened in iraq and 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. in a minority of she is. -- 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. in each case, the american president 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.
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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
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accepted 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.
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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.
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in your agreement you had an expectation of the north vietnamese moving troops out of laos and that did not happen as expected by the negotiators. dr. kissinger: you are quite right. you can say, at least until recently, the north vietnamese must hold the limbic record -- olympic record for breaking agreements. [laughter] dr. kissinger: the 1962 agreement on laos, if you -- president eisenhower was convinced that laos was like
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vietnam, important to the united states. 100 keep laos from falling under north vietnamese domination. he is reported and i believe it to recommend to the incoming administration that they should make an issue of laos and it was that they would favor some american troops to achieve this. laos being a less complex country to achieve this objective. the kennedy administration was not willing to put in forces, but it said it might as there
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was a neutralization agreement and that was broken by the north vietnamese almost immediately. and it took laos into a supply base and most of the supplies went through laos. in 1972, when the nixon administration made an agreement , we had a lot of practice in violating north vietnamese 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
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provisions of the vietnam agreement, if we could enforce them, would also protect the other two countries. we thought that the south vietnameseorces -- cap --kurdistan at all all out -- the south vietnamese could withstand an all-out attack 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
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were made in 1972, the american position had disintegrated to a available.the best and it goes back to a point i made earlier -- if we and -- enter wars, we must make sure the domestic base where it can be maintained. that is part of the responsibility of the administration but the opponents also have to understand if they achieve their objectives by undermining the existing government then of course, no , strategy can sustain. mark: yes? audience member: i am with the
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vietnamese americans, it is widespread that you agree that you arrange for china to take over the islands in 1974. even the south china sea situation and older concerns and in the pacific ocean what advice , would you give president obama and secretary kerry? thank you. dr. kissinger: i am not sure i fully understood the question. it was a situation where we agreed in 1974 that -- mark: restate the question? audience member: it was understood that the u.s. and the security advisor had arranged so
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that china could take over the parasol island in 1974, so that we don't 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 attacks that china is doing on the u.s. there, and you think the agreement he signed mao at sign -- at that time is worthy of the 50,000 deaths of american soldiers? mark: thank you. dr. kissinger: for the benefit of the two or three who may not know what these islands are -- [laughter]
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dr. kissinger: the parasol islands are a group of islands in the south china sea located between china and vietnam. depending from which point of land you measure the distance, they are either closer to vietnam or china, so that is a disputed issue. the chinese claimed these islands because hundreds of years ago, a chinese angler eror through --p derrew a line at the pacific and
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he said everything on that side belongs to china. chang kai-shek had already claimed the islands. 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 on 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 foremost on our minds. but there is no agreement that was ever signed in which we gave china a right to occupy these islands. nor have the chinese ever claimed that.
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and so i think you are not well informed. there was no specific negotiation. >> [inaudible] mark: thank you ma'am. yes sir your question? ,>> i was a south vietnamese soldier who spent 10 years in communist prison thanks to the agreement you signed with hanoi in 1973. 47 years ago you forced, and assured the president you would send troops to help our nation to defeat the north vietnamese. they invaded vietnam.
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you did nothing. firstfirst the amount policy communist hanoi. you should answer the question. what will we learn from the vietnam war that we would never us?ay allies that depend on thank you very much. dr. kessinger: i have great sympathy for these questions from the vietnamese. they had a right to think that we had promised them support through a number of administrations, including the one in which i served. when vietnam was collapsing, it was impossible to convince
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the countries to pass any additional funds. we are talking now about 1975. there were 35 other nations that had signed on to the agreements when it was made in 1973. we appealed to all of them. none of them was willing to act. it was one of the saddest moments of my life. all of us who were -- the day of the evacuation of saigon, one of the saddest moments of my life and of all of us who have seen theou have dedication of the vietnamese, the dedication of those people who served.
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a little of which you heard in .etters i have sympathy for your question. and i hope no other american leader of his time gets asked similar question. but the fundamental failure was simply vision in our country. without that we could have managed it. mark: yes, sir? >> [no audio] audience member: is that working now? mark: you just a can of items of. -- identified himself. member: after the tet
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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 and darcy casualties -- dodge the casualties 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 of the u.s. soldiers. perhaps we should have 1969, 1970. withdrawn. mark: thank you. dr. kessinger: if you looked at the american political debate, there was no one -- if you look
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at the position of the democratic party at that time, you will find that nobody in 1969 and 1970 recommended unilateral withdrawal. that the position of the johnson administration was that the vietnamese troops had to withdraw first. and six months after that, american withdrawals would start. so, a 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.
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two years later we were talking about increments of withdrawals. relatively few casualties. there were all these casualties. if you lose a war, you cannot say what it would have achieved --any event was that the that southeast asia was not and it probably many intervening factor to the opening to china. it was a bitter ending.
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audience member: i do not blame you or the administration. perhaps the fault is not in the stars, but in ourselves. audience member" it's a pleasure to hear you speak this evening. i may not agree with you always but you are an interesting individual and influenced our world in many ways. the war on drugs was issued under nixon. we have more people in prison. 70% of prisoners are nonviolent. do 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 of that, the war on drugs and how it has affected the last 40 years? mark: the domestic policy matter. audience member: it was under
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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. and of course, their perspective has to be different. and i am sorry, not because of any action the administration in which i was involved in, but it
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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. and that is a lesson we should learn. 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
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people i grew up with were killed in germany. i have always been deeply grateful to this country and i know what it represents to the peace in the world. i have been lucky at being able to execute my concerns as my profession. so i am not involved in what i'm doing in order to get history written about me. there is an extensive record. people -- although i must say, the way the mass of

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