The Vietnam War spanned the terms of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. Each president was plagued by the seemingly unwinnable war that was unfolding in Indochina and except for Presidents Nixon and Ford all were committed to somehow winning the war. However, it was President Nixon that made the decision to instead commit the United States to developing South Vietnamese forces to protecting itself from North Vietnam and other invading nations. Thus, the Nixon Doctrine was not focused directly on the containment of communism or on defending developing nations via declarations of war against aggressors but instead was focused on developing the native military forces of those nations requesting aid and supplying such nations with the means to protect themselves from external and internal threats.
The Nixon Doctrine was immediately applied to the latter half of the Vietnam War after the Nixon Administration moved into the White House. The doctrine’s main purpose was to address the methods of how the United States would extricate its military forces from Vietnam while at the same time aiding South Vietnam in defending itself against Chinese-supported North Vietnam. According to the Encyclopedia of the New American Nation regarding the Nixon Doctrine:
Southeast Asia would be the setting for the most visible application of the Nixon Doctrine. In an attempt to extricate the United States from the war in Indochina, Nixon sought to ‘Vietnamize’ the conflict by having indigenous troops supplant American forces. It was a program that took four years to complete, with the last U.S. troops leaving Saigon in 1973. (2011)
During the extrication process from Vietnam, the Nixon Administration implemented the Nixon Doctrine in the defense of American and South Vietnamese forces. The Vietnam War up until this time had been contained within North and South Vietnam. However, North Vietnam had been giving aid to the Khmer Rouge party in order to turn Cambodia into a communist ally with the trade-off of providing soldiers to fight against American and South Vietnamese forces (Khmer Rouge, 2011). Thus, using the policies of the Nixon Doctrine, U.S. forces began to bomb East Cambodia in an attempt to deter and destroy Khmer Rouge forces. While such a situation is not specifically addressed in the Nixon Doctrine, the administration justified its actions in stating that since an aggressive force in a neutral state was attempting incursions against the joint force of the United States and South Vietnam, the air bombing was an act of self-defense for both the United States as well as South Vietnam (Meiertöns, 2010). The action taken against the communist forces of Khmer Rouge was justified by the Nixon Doctrine which includes a commitment to aid all allies and those nations vital to U.S. security by providing military assistance where the aided nation does not have the mean necessary to take appropriate action to defend itself. Such was the case when...