Most of the literature of Watergate—a cottage industry— treats it as a personal aberration of Nixon's, as if there I had been no surrounding circumstances. In truth, Watergate is unthinkable apart from Nixon's driven personality. But historians who neglect the destructive impact of the war in Viet Nam on American politics, spirit and unity will misunderstand Watergate.

We had become militarily involved in Indochina during the Kennedy Administration. The war in Viet Nam was thought to reflect the cutting edge of a homogeneous ideology directed by a monolithic Sino-Soviet bloc. The Johnson Administration had...

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