The story of the Vietnam War peace negotiations is among the most important but least understood elements of the conflict. Serious study here has been impeded by a range of factors: by, among others, the vagaries of document declassification; by the inherent complexity, secrecy, and indeed (especially before 1968) the tentativeness of contacts between Washington and Hanoi; by the difficulties of disentangling secret from public diplomacy and establishing their interrelationship; and by the complicating role played by intermediaries. The task of establishing what happened—much less why—is far from complete. The fact remains, however, that, beginning with the commencement of large-scale fighting in 1965, efforts were made by various parties to effectuate a serious Washington-Hanoi negotiating process. Yet no agreement was signed until January 1973. Various historians have pinned the blame for the long delay on some combination of North Vietnamese intransigence, bad faith in Washington, and a host of complicating...

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