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The 1968 Paris peace negotiations: a two level game?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 August 2010

Abstract

This article draws on fresh archival research to challenge Robert Putnam's ‘Two Level Game Theory’. In his seminal article, ‘Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two Level Games’, published by International Organization in 1988, Putnam contended that international negotiations proceed at the domestic level and at the international level. In taking diplomatic initiatives forward, leaders are compelled to respond to the needs of domestic constituencies, through granting concessions and building coalitions, while international negotiations are pursued with one goal in mind: that any agreement will not damage the domestic political calculus. This article contends that Lyndon Johnson's actions in 1968 disprove this thesis. The President was in fact relaxed about a Richard Nixon victory in the general election as his commitment to defend South Vietnam from communism was stronger than that of his sitting Vice President, Hubert Humphrey. The President's concern for the fate of South Vietnam thus superseded his concern for his ‘normal supporters'– the Democratic Party at large – who had become so hostile towards his management of the Vietnam War.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2010

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References

1 See, McNamara, Robert S., Blight, James G. and Brigham, Robert K., Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy (New York: Public Affairs, 1999), p. xiiGoogle Scholar .

2 See, McNamara, Robert S., Blight, James G. and Brigham, Robert K., Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy (New York: Public Affairs, 1999), pp. 262301Google Scholar for former Defense Secretary McNamara's interpretation of what went wrong with these third party initiatives.

3 Ibid., p. 301.

4 The best single-volume analysis of the Johnson administration's negotiating efforts with North Vietnam is Gardner, Lloyd C. and Gittinger, Ted (eds), The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964–1968 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004)Google Scholar . Other books dealing with the Johnson administration's ill-fated negotiating efforts include Graff, Henry J., The Tuesday Cabinet (Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice Hall, 1970)Google Scholar and Kraslow, David and Loory, Stuart, The Secret Search for Peace in Vietnam (New York: Vintage Books, 1968)Google Scholar . On the Paris negotiations specifically, see, Gardner, Lloyd C, Pay Any Price: Lyndon Johnson and the Wars for Vietnam (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1995), pp. 459539Google Scholar ; Schulzinger, Robert D., A Time For War: The US and Vietnam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 268273Google Scholar and Herring, George, LBJ and Vietnam: A Different Kind of War (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996), pp. 158177Google Scholar . LaFeber's, WalterThe Deadly Bet: LBJ, Vietnam and the 1968 Election (Lanham, MA.: Rowman and Littlefeld, 2006)Google Scholar is engagingly written but contains little on the substance of the negotiations. On the Vietnamese perspective on negotiations see Guan, Ang Cheng, Ending the Vietnam War: The Vietnamese Communists’ Perspective (New York: Routledge, 2004)Google Scholar .

5 For Rostow's take on the Paris negotiations see Rostow, Walt, The Diffusion of Power: An Essay in Recent History (New York: Macmillan, 1972)Google Scholar . Other useful insider accounts include Dean Rusk, as told to Rusk, Richard, As I Saw It (New York: W. W. Norton, 1990)Google Scholar ; Clifford, Clark, Counsel to the President: A Memoir (New York: Random House, 1991)Google Scholar ; Vance, Cyrus, Hard Choices: Critical Years in America's Foreign Policy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983)Google Scholar ; Westmoreland, General William C., A Soldier Reports (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976)Google Scholar ; Ball, George, The Past Has Another Pattern: Memoirs (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982)Google Scholar ; and Kissinger, Henry, White House Years (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979)Google Scholar . Also see Herring, George (ed.), The Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War: The Negotiating Volumes of the Pentagon Papers (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1983)Google Scholar for an invaluable primary source collection. The Foreign Relations of the United States series(Volume VII, Vietnam, 1968) contains important source material but is weaker from Averell Harriman's and Cyrus Vance's perspective.

6 Allison, Graham T., Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (Boston: Little Brown, 1971)Google Scholar .

7 Averell Harriman, ‘Absolutely Personal, General Review of Last Six Months, December 14, 1968, Box 521, W’. Averell Harriman Papers, Library of Congress, Washington DC, (LOC).

8 See, Woods, Randall B., LBJ: Architect of American Ambition (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006), p. 845Google Scholar .

9 Walt W. Rostow was the Johnson administration's chief civilian proponent of bombing North Vietnam to win the war. For more on Rostow's influential foreign policy career, see, Preston, Andrew, The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC and Vietnam (Harvard University Press, 2006), pp. 75101Google Scholar and Milne, David, America's Rasputin: Walt Rostow and the Vietnam War, 1961–1968 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2008)Google Scholar .

10 W. Averell Harriman, ‘Absolutely Personal, General Review of Last Six Months, 14 December 1968, Box 521’, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

11 Putnam, Robert, ‘Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games’, International Organization, 42: 3 (Summer 1988), pp. 459460CrossRefGoogle Scholar . Also see Evans, Peter B., Jacobsen, Harold K., and Putnam, Robert D. (eds), Double-Edged Diplomacy: International Bargaining and Domestic Politics (Berkeley, CA.: University of California Press, 1993)Google Scholar .

12 Many other scholars have responded to Putnam's challenge. They include Paarlberg, Robert, ‘Agricultural Policy Reform and the Uruguay Round: Synergistic Linkage in a Two-Level Game’, International Organization, 51: 3 (June 1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar ; Parsons, Lee Ann, ‘Agricultural Policy Reform in the European Community: a Three-Level Game Analysis’, International Organization, 51: 1 (December 1997)Google Scholar ; Kim, Yungwook, ‘Negotiating with Terrorists: The iterated game of the Taliban Korean Hostage Case’, Public Relations Review, 34: 3 (September 2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar , and many others beside.

13 There have been some admirable attempts to explain and bridge the disciplinary divide between international history and international relations. See Elman, Colin and Elman, Miriam Fendius (eds), Bridges and Boundaries: Historians, Political Scientists and the Study of International Relations (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001)Google Scholar ; Woods, Ngaire, Explaining International Relations since 1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)Google Scholar ; Westad, Odd Arne, Reviewing the Cold War: Approaches, Interpretations, Theory (London: Frank Cass, 2000)Google Scholar ; and Trachtenberg, Marc, The Craft of International History: A Guide to Method (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006)Google Scholar .

14 Johnson, Lyndon Baines, The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963–1969 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971), p. 422Google Scholar .

15 Quoted in Woods, LBJ: Architect of American Ambition, p. 837.

16 Quoted in Lloyd C Gardner, Pay Any Price, p. 459.

17 For a comprehensive account of Harriman's life and career see Abramson, Rudy, Spanning the Century: The Life of W. Averell Harriman, 1891–1986 (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1992)Google Scholar .

18 On Harriman's dim view of Nixon see Ibid., pp. 651–74.

19 Halberstam's, David, The Best and the Brightest: Twentieth Anniversary Edition (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993)Google Scholar is excellent at conveying a sense of Harriman's place within the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. All scholars of the Vietnam War are indeed indebted to Halberstam for his perceptive portraits of the main players.

20 W. Averell Harriman to the President, 2 April 1968, Box 571, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

21 See Schandler, Herbert Y., ‘The Pentagon and Peace Negotiations after March 31, 1968’, p. 322Google Scholar .

22 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 2 April 1968, NSF, Files of Walt Rostow, Box 16, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library (LBJL).

23 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 3 April 1968, NSF, Files of Walt Rostow, Box 6, LBJL.

24 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 3 April 1968, NSF, Walt Rostow, Memos to the President, Box 32, LBJL.

25 Handwritten note from the President to Walt W. Rostow, Undated [approximately April 1968], NSF, Files of Walt W. Rostow, Box 1, LBJL.

26 Walter Cronkite is quoted in Robert Schulzinger, A Time for War, p. 263.

27 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 3 April 1968, NSF, Memos to the President: Walt W. Rostow, Box 32, LBJL.

28 William J. Jorden, Oral History, LBJL, p. 4.

29 Memorandum of phone conversation between Averell Harriman and Walt W. Rostow, 4 April 1968, W. Averell Harriman Papers, Box 499, LOC.

30 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 8 April 1968, NSF, Walt W. Rostow, Memos to the President, Box 32, LBJL.

31 Averell Harriman, Memorandum for Personal Files, 9 April 1968, W. Averell Harriman Papers, Box 571, LOC.

32 Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson, Washington Post, 19 April 1968, B15. It is possible that sources sympathetic to Harriman fed Pearson this story.

33 Walt W. Rostow to Dean Rusk, 29 April 1968, NSF, Walt Rostow, Memos to the President, Box 33, LBJL.

34 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 6 May 1968, NSF, Walt Rostow, Memos to the President, Box 33, LBJL.

35 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 10 May 1968, NSF, Walt Rostow, Memos to the President, Box 34, LBJL.

36 Averell Harriman to Richard Helms, attached to Walt W. Rostow to the President, 16 May 1968, NSF, Walt W. Rostow, Memos to the President, Box 34, LBJL.

37 Harriman, W. Averell quoted in Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, The Wise Men (New York: Simon and Schuster 1986), p. 641Google Scholar .

38 Departure statement by W. Averell Harriman, 9 May 1968, Box 557, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

39 In a discussion with W. Averell Harriman, Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin remarked that there was a ‘joke going around the Diplomatic Corps of President Johnson's preference for a successor: First, Hubert Humphrey; second, Nelson Rockefeller; third, McCarthy; fourth, Nixon; fifth, Ho Chi Minh; sixth, Kennedy.’ Memorandum of Conversation with Anatoly Dobrynin, 24 April 1968, Box 571, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

40 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 22 May 1968, NSF, Walt Rostow, Memos to the President, Box 34, LBJL.

41 Rostow was no fan of RFK. He pandered to Johnson's loathing of Kennedy by quoting Karl Marx's dictum that ‘history never repeats itself except as farce’. Rostow cattily observed that he ‘suspected this would prove true of both Dienbienphu and Khe Sanh; and the Kennedy efforts of 1960 and 1968.’ See, Walt W. Rostow to the President, 29 March 1968, NSF, Files of Walt W. Rostow, Box 16, LBJL.

42 W. Averell Harriman to the President, 4 June 1968 attached to Walt W. Rostow to the President, 4 June 1968, NSF, Walt W. Rostow, Memos to the President, Box 35, LBJL.

43 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 11 June 1968, NSF, Walt W. Rostow, Memos to the President, Box 35, LBJL.

44 See Herbert Y. Schandler, ‘The Pentagon and Peace Negotiations after March 31, 1968’, p. 329.

45 Quoted in Dobrynin, Anatoly, In Confidence: Moscow's Ambassador to America's Six Cold War Presidents (New York: Times Books, 1995), p. 144Google Scholar .

46 See W. Averell Harriman, ‘General Review of the Last Six Months’, 14 December 1968, Box 562, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

47 Notes on telephone conversation between W. Averell Harriman and Clark Clifford, 21 June 1968, W. Averell Harriman Papers, Box 571, LOC.

48 The North Vietnamese negotiators Xuan Thuy and Ha Van Lau were perplexed that Clifford had used the phrase ‘straws in the wind’ with reference to their inconsequential negotiations. In a frosty meeting with Harriman, they argued that ‘You are attempting to soothe public opinion on your failure to act.’ Little could they know that Clifford's words were part of a concerted effort by doves to undermine Walt Rostow and Dean Rusk. Telegram from Averell Harriman and Cyrus Vance to Dean Rusk, 10 July 1968, Box 561, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

49 Clark Clifford with Richard Holbrooke, Counsel to the President, p. 527.

50 Quoted in Herring, George, LBJ and Vietnam: A Different Kind of War (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995), p. 164Google Scholar .

51 Time (3 May 1968). For a compelling critique of Lyndon Johnson's inability to impose any form of cohesion on war-making and negotiations see, Thies, Wallace J., When Government's Collide: Coercion and Diplomacy in the Vietnam Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980)Google Scholar . Johnson's consistent search for consensus within his administration ‘provides an almost perfect example of how not to engage in coercion’. In veering between the advice dispensed by hawks and doves, meant that ‘errors and misunderstandings did exist, and their effect was to make an already difficult problem virtually insoluble’. See Ibid., pp. 373–74.

52 See W. Averell Harriman, ‘General Review of the Last Six Months’, 14 December 1968, Box 562, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC and Robert Schulzinger, A Time For War, p. 268.

53 Letter from W. Averell Harriman to Hubert Humphrey, 31 August 1968, Box 470, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

54 For a comprehensive account of Humphrey's life and career, see Solberg, Carl, Hubert Humphrey: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1984)Google Scholar .

55 Notes of President's Meeting with Foreign Policy Advisers, 24 July 1968, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings File, Box 4, LBJL.

56 W. Averell Harriman to Dean Rusk, 29 July 1968, Box 561, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

57 W. Averell Harriman, ‘General Review of the Last Six Months’, 14 December 1968, Box 562, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

58 W. Averell Harriman, ‘General Review of Last Six Months’, 14 December 1968, Box 521, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

59 Dean Rusk to W. Averell Harriman, 30 July 1968, Box 561, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

60 Quoted in Herbert Y. Schandler, ‘The Pentagon and Peace Negotiations after March 31, 1968’, p. 334.

61 W. Averell Harriman, Memorandum for the Record, 22 August 1968, Box 558, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

62 Walt W. Rostow to Clark Clifford, NSF, 23 August, Files of Walt W. Rostow, Box 6, LBJL.

63 See Draft Letter from the President to McGeorge Bundy attached to Walt W. Rostow to the President, 23 August 1968, NSF, Walt W. Rostow, Memos to the President, Box 39, LBJL.

64 Speech made by President Lyndon Johnson to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan, 19 August 1968, Box 521, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

65 Telegram from Dean Rusk to W. Averell Harriman, ‘Excerpts of Vice President Humphrey's statements today on Vietnam on special NBC-TV “Meet the Press” programme’, 26 August 1968, Box 470, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

66 See Herbert Y. Schandler, ‘The Pentagon and Peace Negotiations after March 31, 1968’, p. 335.

67 Woods, LBJ: Architect of American Ambition, p. 868.

68 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 16 September 1968, NSF, Files of Walt W. Rostow, Box 10, LBJL.

69 Walt W. Rostow, Memorandum for the Record, 17 September 1968, NSF, Files of Walt W. Rostow, Box 6, LBJL.

70 Quoted in Walter LaFeber, The Deadly Bet, pp. 157–8.

71 Woods, LBJ: Architect of American Ambition, p. 869.

72 See Notes of Meeting with Foreign Policy Advisory Group, 14 October 1968, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meeting File, Box 5, LBJL.

73 Herbert Y. Schandler, ‘The Pentagon and Peace Negotiations after March 31, 1968’, p. 336.

74 Henry Kissinger to W. Averell Harriman, 15 August 1968, Box 481, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC. For an unrestrained attack on Kissinger's actions then, and through the Nixon administration, see Hitchens, Christopher, The Trial of Henry Kissinger (London: Verso, 2001)Google Scholar . Kissinger himself skirts around the allegation – providing a somewhat limp defence for his behaviour – in Kissinger, Henry, Ending the Vietnam War: A History of America's Involvement and Extrication from the Vietnam War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003), pp. 4955Google Scholar .

75 For some insider perspectives, see Chennault, Anna, The Education of Anna (New York: Times Books, 1980), p. 174Google Scholar and Diem, Bui with Chernoff, David, In the Jaws of History (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), pp. 234245Google Scholar . For further discussion of the Chennault affair, see Bundy, William, A Tangled Web: The Making of Foreign Policy in the Nixon Presidency (New York: Hill and Wang, 1998), pp. 3556Google Scholar and Matusow, Allen J., The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960s (New York: Harper and Row, 1984), pp. 433440Google Scholar .

76 Eugene Rostow's bombshell was corroborated by evidence gathered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. See Schandler, Herbert Y., ‘The Pentagon and Peace Negotiations after March 31, 1968’, p. 342Google Scholar .

77 Notes of Meeting, 29 October 1968, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings File, Box 1, LBJL.

78 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 29 October 1968, NSF, Files of Walt W. Rostow, Box 6, LBJL.

79 Ibid.

80 See Notes of the President's Weekly Luncheon Meeting, 15 September 1968, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meeting File, Box 5, LBJL.

81 Quoted in Robert Schulzinger, A Time For War, p. 272.

82 See Robert Johnson, ‘Did Nixon Commit Treason in 1968? What the New LBJ Tapes Reveal’ (26 January 2009, History News Network. Available at: {http://hnn.us/articles/60446.html} accessed on 15 February 2009.

83 Quoted in Woods, LBJ: Architect of American Ambition, p. 875.

84 Quoted in Ibid., p. 875.

85 Quoted in Humphrey, Hubert H., The Education of a Public Man: My Life and Politics (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976), pp. 8, 9, 14Google Scholar .

86 On 14 October, Earle Wheeler had rather presumptuously announced that the ‘military war has been won’. It is possible that this positive reading of the conflict convinced Johnson that he had little to lose in stopping the bombing. One wonders why negotiations were necessary, however, if the South Vietnamese insurgency had already been defeated. See Notes of Meeting, 14 October 1968, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings File, Box 4, LBJL.

87 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 28 October 1968, NSF, Files of Walt W. Rostow, Box 6, LBJL.

88 Ibid.

89 Walt W. Rostow to the President, 7 November 1968, NSF, Walt W. Rostow, Memos to the President, Box 42, LBJL. Johnson ignored Rostow on this occasion and sent the following message: ‘Happy Birthday to a man who does not seem to get any older. It has been obvious for years that you have found what Ponce De Leon looked for in vain. As one about to become an elder statesman myself, I offer you five acres of Blanco County for your secret.’ Lyndon Johnson to W. Averell Harriman, 15 November 1968, Box 558. W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

90 Ambassador Bunker to Dean Rusk, 30 October 1968, Box 560, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

91 Ambassador Bunker to Dean Rusk, 2 November 1968, Ibid.

92 Ambassador Bunker to Dean Rusk, 3 November 1968, Ibid.

93 Rusk is quoted in Herbert Y. Schandler, ‘The Pentagon and Peace Negotiations after March 31, 1968’, p. 345.

94 Memorandum of Conversation between Daniel I. Davidson and Murrey Marder, 5 December 1968, Box 571, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

95 W. Averell Harriman, Notes on Conversation with Dean Rusk, 14 December 1968, Box 558, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

96 For a brief biography of Thieu and his intransigence toward negotiations during the Johnson and Nixon presidencies, see Prados, John (ed.), ‘The Shape of the Table: Nguyen Van Thieu and Negotiations to End the Conflict’, in Gardner, Lloyd C. and Gittinger, Ted (ed.), The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964–1968 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004)Google Scholar .

97 W. Averell Harriman to Dean Rusk, 11 December 1968, W. Averell Harriman Papers, Box 559, LOC.

98 Ellsworth Bunker to W. Averell Harriman, 15 December 1968, Ibid.

99 See Schandler, Herbert Y., ‘The Pentagon and Peace Negotiations after March 31, 1968’, p. 352Google Scholar , and Spector, Ronald, After Tet: The Bloodiest Year in Vietnam (New York: Free Press, 1993), p. 25Google Scholar .

100 Letter from Lyndon Johnson to President Thieu, 8 January 1969, Box 561, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

101 W. Averell Harriman, ‘Absolutely Personal, General Review of Last Six Months’, 14 December 1968, Box 521, W. Averell Harriman Papers, LOC.

102 Memorandum of Conversation between Daniel I. Davidson and Murrey Marder, 5 December 1968, Box 571, W. Averell Harriman Papers,LOC.

103 Robert Putnam, ‘Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games’, p. 458.

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