RN in Egypt

RN lends a hand to President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat.

Richard Nixon began his Foreign Affairs journal entry, “Asia After Vietnam,” with the sentiment that Vietnam had so long dominated the American psyche that it distorted its picture of the entirety of Asia. The same can now be related to the crisis in Egypt and, to a large extent, the turmoil in the Middle East.

Amid the chaos torn lands of the Arab country is a political malaise so deep that the prospects of stability and internal peace appear to be whittling away.

It appears another burst of unrest may be on the brink of initiation, as the military seizes power once again and the ominous anniversary of Hosni Mubarak’s fall draws near. However, a voter approved constitution, with some enhancements to personal freedoms and women’s rights, may pave the way for a more progressive military-backed regime. Perhaps this is the opportunity for America to make its presence known and reignite its support for Egypt.

To achieve peace is a monumental endeavor – it is often driven by idealistic and unreasonable fervor – but it can be achieved, albeit with an understanding that no nation can be perfect. President Nixon entered the presidency in search of peace. He was idealistic about the prospects of peace among the nations of the world as he looked into the future, yet understood America’s immediate role in providing stability and in influencing reform among countries threatened by greater, bullying powers.

Emulating South Vietnam’s need for stability to combat Communism, Egypt now needs political and economic stability to combat Islamic militant groups who threaten the fabric of a strong Egyptian nation. The Egyptian military has successfully overthrown Mohamed Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood contingents, but must now face a battle-hardened secular sphere rife with memories of Mubarak’s oppressive regime. Is reform possible after this latest coup?

President Nixon might consider reform possible, so long as leadership in said country can establish overarching peaceful intentions. If the ends of peace are desirable, as RN would quip, then these ends should be achieved by evolutionary rather than revolutionary means. The President elaborates with his example on the evolution of Asia, post-Imperialism:

Looking at the pattern of change in non-communist Asia, we find that the professed aims of the revolutionaries are in fact being achieved by an evolutionary process. This offers a dramatic opportunity to draw the distinction between the fact of a revolutionary result and the process of revolutionary change…The ‘people,’ in the broadest sense, have become an entity to be served rather than used.

Consider RN’s diplomatic overtures with President Thieu of South Vietnam, where he articulated his concerns about the non-Communist nation’s political stability.

An excerpt from a memorandum of conversation between the two leaders during their first meeting at Midway Island lend credence to Nixon’s position on this dynamic.

President Nixon and President Thieu hold a meeting at Midway Island, marking the beginning of a strong South Vietnamese and U.S. relationship.

A follow up meeting in Saigon on July 30, 1969 was highlighted by this discussion as well.


Memorandum of conversation transcribing President Nixon’s and Thieu’s follow up meeting to Midway talks.

The memorandums reveal the Presidents’ multi-faceted South Vietnamese strategy. For the United States to realize an honorable peace and for South Vietnam to remain protected from Communist incursions, the non-Communist state had not only to establish a viable military force, but also to establish a viable political and economic force. If not, Nixon foresaw, then this nation of well-intentioned people would quickly collapse.

Military security has to rest, ultimately, on economic and political stability. One of the effects of the rapidity of change in the world today is that there can no longer be static stability; there can only be dynamic stability. A nation or society that fails to keep pace with change is in danger of flying apart. It is important that we recognize this, but equally important that in trying to maintain a dynamic stability we remember that the stability is as important as the dynamism.

President Nixon never believed that America should impose its political ideals onto foreign governments. Instead, he saw what mattered – “that these governments are consciously, deliberately and programmatically developing in the direction of greater liberty, greater abundance, broader choice and increased popular involvement in the processes of government.” He realized that this did not necessarily mean old resentments and follies might arise. But given the criteria of a growing nationalistic fervor and the common danger posed by Islamic militant groups bent on imposing the authority of Islamic law nationwide, there is a billowing shift of perception that should grab the attention of U.S. foreign policy initiatives.

It is important to protect these nations who show regional perception, who are not wired to preconceived sets of doctrines and dogmas, and who no longer accept poverty as the norm. The combination of a young nationalistic fervor and a strong military may actually bode well for the future of Egypt. But for now, Egypt is fighting its way out of past grievances, and it appears ready as ever to begin this evolutionary process as it steps out of the smoke of revolution. It just might need the help of an American hand.