Lyndon Johnson refuses to run for a certain loss in the 1968 election, Bobby Kennedy is killed and Richard Nixon climaxes the most unlikely political comeback in the history of the United States. Part of the appeal of Richard Nixon during the election of 1968 was his promise to end the war during his period of attachment to the Oval Office. Flash forward to a year after the re-coronation of Pres. Nixon and in Paris the peace talks lead to an acceptance of a cease fire. Peace with honor. America’s first loss of a war….with dignity. Meanwhile, the fighting continued in Vietnam right up to that day in 1975 when the last U.S. troops left Vietnam.
The domino effect predicted by the hawks who led America into a war it had no business fighting appeared ready to take place, after all. The government heading up South Vietnam did little to inspire confidence and the result was a relatively easy victory by the communists who actually believed in their leader and system of governance. Saigon fell and was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. South Vietnam was utterly devastated and the land to the north wasn’t in much better shape. Those members of the country that had collaborated with the imperialist invaders known as the United States military were sent to labor camps to be re-educated and then sent to work on collectivized farms. The year 1976 saw Vietnam initiate a Five Year Plan similar to the plans undertaken by the Soviet Union during the heady days of the dictatorship of Josef Stalin.
Despite its proximity to China, the real communist overseers of the new Vietnam was the Soviet Union. It was during Vietnam’s Five Year Plan that the infamous boat people took to the seas and wound up in American cities. Illegal immigration was not a major political issue of the time and, besides, it was the Republicans who were most in favor of the Vietnam War and so it could only be hypocritical of them to oppose the immigration into the land o’ plenty by the Vietnamese. The situation is kind of like how conservatives overlook illegal immigration from Cuba, but see illegal immigration from Mexico as some kind of threat to their comfortable existence.
The year 1978 saw the Vietnamese situation take another strange turn. That was the year that the Vietnamese communists invaded neighboring Cambodia. Cambodia had been under the thumb of Pol Pot, one of the most fearsomely psychotic leaders in the world. Over the course of three years, Pol Pot had targeted the educated citizens of Cambodia and in the process committed genocidal crimes that took away about 15% of the country’s entire population. The Vietnamese invasion was looked upon as the lesser of two evils by the Cambodians: it was either put up with Vietnamese imperialist aims or welcome back Pol Pot. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. The acceptance of the Vietnamese invaders was accepted with passivity by the Cambodians only because they didn’t want a return of the killing fields of their mad former leader.
The invasion of Cambodia put a significance dent into the Five Year Plan forwarded by Vietnam. In fact, the Five Year Plan has to be abandoned because of the economic strain that it and the Cambodian invasion was placing upon the country. At this time, relations with China reached an all-time low and so the Vietnamese/Russian relationship took a stronger hold. A deal was made for Vietnam to receive significant economic, military and political support. In return, the Soviets garnered what has always been their dream: a warm water naval port. This particular port was maintained at Cam Ranh Bay.
That decision put China on the defensive and as is almost always the case with a big bully, the defensive transformed into the offensive. Chinese troops invaded the northern regions of Vietnam in 1979. Surprisingly, Vietnam successfully fought off the invasion, though the price was high. China also began providing support to the guerilla armies loyal to Pol Pot and his dream of regaining power in Cambodia.