The Vietnam War and Its Impact - The lessons of 1954

There is an important historical caveat worth noting. Richard Nixon was vice president of the United States at the time of the Geneva Conference of 1954 and Pham Van Dong headed the DRV delegation. By 1970 both men would be the leaders of the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, respectively. Both drew lessons from the Geneva experience that would influence how each approached the final phase of negotiations in Paris nearly two decades later. Dong always believed that the Vietminh had been betrayed by its friends and was wary of a repetition. Therefore, he was determined that the Soviet Union and China not use their interest in improved relations with the United States to leverage a quick settlement. For Nixon the lessons from Geneva were just as clear. He would again try to use Hanoi's friends, the Soviets and Chinese, to force concessions that would lead to a political settlement advantageous to the United States. Nixon would insist that President Thieu remain in office as part of any negotiated settlement. Once that goal was accomplished, there would be no need to hold elections until the North Vietnamese troops went home. After all, with American support, Diem had called off the elections of 1956. Such was Nixon's view of Geneva's lessons.

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