Today, at the State Department in Washington, a two-day conference about the lessons of the Vietnam War concluded. The conference was opened with remarks by Secretary of State Clinton, and featured panel discussions about the war that included a number of eminent scholars. One panel, on the role of the media in the war, was moderated by Marvin Kalb and featured Morley Safer of 60 Minutes.
The three main speakers of the conference were Ambassadors John D. Negroponte and Richard C. Holbrooke, who were involved in the Vietnam peace negotiations early in their careers, and former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, who, as President Nixon’s National Security Advisor, forged the peace agreements that concluded the Vietnam conflict.
The Associated Press reports that:
[Dr. Kissinger] said he regretted that what should have been straightforward disagreements over the U.S. approach to Vietnam became “transmuted into a moral issue — first about the moral adequacy of American foreign policy altogether and then into the moral adequacy of America.”
“To me, the tragedy of the Vietnam war was not that there were disagreements — that was inevitable, given the complexity of the (conflict) — but that the faith of Americans in each other became destroyed in the process,” he said.
He called himself “absolutely unreconstructed” on that point.
“I believe that most of what went wrong in Vietnam we did to ourselves,” he said, adding, “I would have preferred another outcome — at least another outcome that was not so intimately related to the way that we tore ourselves apart.”
A complete transcript of Dr. Kissinger’s remarks can be found here.