Friday, June 7, 2013

Kraemer and Nixon: If the USA can't crush a nation of 31 million, who can they crush? - Nixon Tapes and Transcripts - Nixon Tapes and Transcripts

This meeting was probably the only one to have occurred during the Nixon presidency in which Nixon and Kissinger permitted a rigorous debate, in the Oval Office no less, over the merits of not just Vietnam policy, but Nixon foreign policy more generally. Kraemer knew the issues well enough that both Nixon and Kissinger were forced to defend themselves to someone who represented an increasingly disenchanted sect of conservatives. Kraemer believed, as other conservatives did, that the conduct of Nixon foreign policy had became tainted by short-term political considerations, and that politicians had acted as a restraining influence on military leaders who believed they were capable of achieving a military victory.

Nixon: We've fought a pretty good fight up to this point, and we're not caving. Because we see that it's a very difficult war. Success or failure now, not just for the moment—because anything will look good for two or three months—but something that has a chance to survive, shall we say, for two or three years. That is very much a condition that we cannot compromise on.
Kraemer: May I formulate, say, one strategic sentence
Nixon: Sure.
Kraemer: —that maybe summarizes...?
Nixon: Sure.
Kraemer: If, it should prove, within a number of fronts, that we, the United States, were not able to deal with the entity North Vietnam, 31 million inhabitants, that would be, apart from everything moral, 
the question will arise—among friend, foe, and entrants—with whom can the United States ever deal successfully? Because this entity of 31 million, supported by the Soviets, by China, but not by their manpower—
Nixon: Yeah.
Kraemer: —is relatively so small that everybody from Rio de Janeiro to Copenhagen, and from Hanoi to Moscow, can draw the conclusion: obviously, the enormous American power couldn't deal with this. Therefore, as a lawyer, I would say...since we cannot deal with Vietnam, with whom can we deal?

The tone of the conversation was not adversarial, but it was clearly elevated. Nixon admitted that Kraemer touched on far more than simply American policy towards Vietnam. "The whole foreign policy of the United States is on the line here," Nixon noted. The half-hour meeting was too brief for what Kraemer had in mind. He made his disagreement known to the president, which ultimately resulted in a split with Henry Kissinger. The estrangement that resulted between the two men, who had met a quarter century earlier after each enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II, continued stubbornly even beyond Kraemer's death in 2003. 

It is because these two conservative sects split—one led by Henry Kissinger and the pragmatists, and the other led by Fritz Kraemer and later figures such as Alexander Haig, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney—as well as the fact that they never resolved their differences before Kraemer's death, that this split continues today. Since Vietnam, wars and have come and gone, but this philosophic battle has never been overcome. Former Vice President Dick Cheney's criticism of President Obama's policy with respect to Afghanistan could have come from Fritz Kraemer himself. While many in the media have interpreted Cheney's comments on purely political, they miss the greater struggle taking place within the conservative camp. The debate over future American policy towards Afghanistan is merely the vehicle for the latest chapter in the epic struggle.

The Forty Years War should serve as a call to researchers to learn much more about Fritz Kraemer. Perhaps the outcome of this future research will confirm Colodny and Shachtman's view that Kraemer was a sort of ideological godfather to the neo-conservatives. After all, a split in the conservative camp indeed took place, and was never resolved. On the other hand, others may conclude that the emphasis on Kraemer is overdone. Either way, the first step is to learn more about the mysterious figure who was indeed influential to so many American diplomatic and military figures since Vietnam. For that, The Forty Years War indeed deserves credit.

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