In a Washington Post article last week, commentator Charles Krauthammer criticized the Obama administration’s response to the definitive foreign policy crises of our time, citing failures across the board on the three ultimate international issues of the past month: Ukraine’s turn away from the European Union, America’s romancing of Iran, and China’s aggressive behavior in regards to airspace over the East China Sea.
To sum up Krauthammer’s concerns, the United States has placated its adversaries more so than it has its allies.
With Krauthammer’s claim that President Obama’s foreign policy is “yielding nothing but the well-earned distrust of allies,” we take this opportunity to look at President Nixon’s foreign policy doctrine and his support of American allies.
The Nixon Doctrine is an edict proclaiming that the United States would provide a nuclear shield if an ally or country of interest were threatened and a pledge to support said country’s self-defense and self-determination.
Declassified memorandums of conversation from the National Security Council archives detail President Nixon’s staunch foreign policy and foreign aid strategies.
The materials cover meetings that the President held with prominent world leaders, including Prime Minister Golda Meir of Israel and President Thieu of South Vietnam.
RN and President Thieu of South Vietnam discuss foreign policy strategy at Midway Island on June 8, 1969
RN and Prime Minister Golda Meir discuss the prospects of peace in the Middle East at the Oval Office.
The conversations display President Nixon’s incredible understanding of Communist negotiating behavior and his unsurpassed ability to foresee and map out geopolitical events. Perhaps more importantly, they display a critical element to his Nixon Doctrine: his unwavering commitment to American allies.
In his conversation with President Thieu during their meeting at Midway in June of 1969, Nixon assured the President that there were no crossroads between his country and theirs:
“President Nixon asked several questions regarding Vietnamese political institutions, commenting that Thieu knew his people and required timing. He emphasized that there was no wedge between the U.S. and GVN nor between Thieu and his people.”
In discussing Middle East peace dynamics with Gold Meir during the March 1, 1973 meeting, President Nixon assured the Prime Minister that America’s foreign policy would not wane despite the easing of tensions between China and the Soviet Union.
“We are realistic about the dangers which still exist. Many here say that since the world is at peace, we can reduce arms to spend on ghettos. But there will be more until our adversaries really change. So publicly we say that it is good to say that these moves have happened—we wouldn’t have had a Vietnam settlement without our moves toward China and the Soviet Union, we wouldn’t have these moves with the Soviet Union without the Chinese initiative—but we will not change our ground.”
A critical element to President Nixon’s foreign policy strategy was the successful management of foreign aid. A memorandum of conversation between President Nixon and his task force on foreign aid reveals his visionary approach on this matter.
RN discusses his vision for the successful management of foreign aid as a critical element to his overall foreign policy.
“The President stated his strong conviction that aid won’t work unless and until recipient countries develop political stability. He agrees with Dr. Kissinger that aid does not necessarily lead to political stability. He would use our limited resources in areas where some stability already exists.”
With the thrust of the Nixon Doctrine to get other countries to shoulder a greater share of the burden of freedom, it was important that Nixon’s foreign aid approach be based on pragmatism rather than idealism. As a result, fear of Communist aid as retribution did not fly well with Nixon.
“The President said he was not impressed by the argument that the Communists will pour in aid if we don’t. We need not react every time to such a threat. The question is whether U.S. interests in the particular countries are vital. We must not let other countries shake us down, even though some of our friends are among those who do so.”
It might be fair to say that modern day allies of the United States are looking for Nixon in the White House—a man who keeps his word and has the visionary capacity for peace among enemies.