Few presidents grasped the importance of international cooperation as President Nixon. From the Vietnam War to the Arab-Israeli conflict, RN understood that in order to have successful action on the world stage, it was necessary to create and maintain positive relations and partnerships with other countries.
Nixon was a product of the Cold War. Having come into office on an anti-communism platform, he achieved one of his earliest major successes when he led the prosecution of accused Soviet Spy Alger Hiss in 1948.
This opposition to Communism would serve him well as the Vice President under President Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander in the Second World War and first NATO commander. As President Eisenhower was firmly committed to intervention abroad if necessitated, he and the National Security Council, of which Vice President Nixon was a member, understood that coalitions and cooperation abroad were needed to create security and stability and fend off the Iron Curtain.
President Nixon’s policy in Vietnam was deeply rooted in international cooperation. Not only were United States forces accompanied by the troops of other countries, but President Nixon’s ultimate strategy was to transfer the responsibility of combat operations to the South Vietnamese government, allowing them the means to end the conflict with North Vietnamese Communist forces. RN recognized that America could not act unilaterally to police the world, especially not in Vietnam. This made the help of a coalition of nations an absolute necessity when engaging in conflict abroad or negotiating major peace settlements.
RN’s policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict followed along these lines, aspiring to build a coalition or partnership of nations led by the United States. Initially, the President aimed for a multilateral approach alongside the United Kingdom, France, and the USSR. This cooperation, known as the Four Power Talks, was comprised of members of the United Nations Security Council. By acting in tandem with other nations, a lasting peace in the region could be achieved without forcing the United States to act alone or in a way that could be perceived as too one-sided. However, these discussions were frequently bogged down in gridlock and ultimately were unable to achieve their goal.
This left discussion up to the United States. A strategy analysis from Secretary of State William Rogers describes a peace agreement in the region as an effort that “only the U.S. can undertake, and one which engages the resources of the U.S. and the President,” and that the approach the Nixon Administration envisioned “relie[d] largely on bilateral U.S. inducements to Israel,” as well as “international guarantees of peace and non-belligerency” from the Arab States. This mentality prefigured Dr. Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy efforts in the latter years of the Nixon administration and, eventually, the first real peace agreement the region would see.
In fact, much of the US analysis consisted of in-depth discussion of Arab and Israeli politics and culture in order to gain a better understanding of their respective worldview and how they might respond to provocation. This kind of multilateral thinking allowed other countries to feel included in the decision-making process and laid the groundwork for a successful foundation for greater stability in the region.