The U.S. role in international development assistance reflects the vision we have of ourselves as a society and our hope for a peaceful world.
—President Nixon, Special Message to Congress
On September 15, 1970, President Nixon delivered a special message to the United States Congress and announced his plan for foreign assistance. He understood that the dawn of a decade meant the world would face unique problems requiring innovative solutions. Consequently, he believed that the United States needed a revitalized strategy for foreign aid in order to confront the troubles of the new decade and strive for a peaceful world.
The President’s blueprint for foreign assistance exemplified the Nixon Doctrine, which upheld international treaties and pledged support to allies while discouraging direct involvement in conflicts abroad. The implementation of the Nixon Doctrine resulted in two significant transformations of United States foreign policy: the Vietnamization of the Vietnam War and détente with the Soviet Union. Accordingly, President Nixon intended to meet the world’s needs not through aggressive military action and the threat of nuclear war, but with solutions inspired by the prospect of peace. The modernized policy represented a shift towards increased humanitarian efforts abroad, especially in areas like health and education.
Forming the cornerstones of the proposed plan were six reforms recommended by President Nixon. On the one hand, he advocated for three separate organizations to work bilaterally with other countries in order to better address concerns of security assistance, humanitarian efforts, and development support. At the same time, he encouraged foreign aid based on multilateral collaboration through international systems, which he hoped would create a cooperative and effective environment of worldwide assistance.
In support of the Nixon Doctrine, he suggested the foundation of a separate entity, the International Security Assistance Program, which would reduce the American presence abroad by helping other countries undertake their own defense. The U.S. Department of State’s Security Assistance Team, which provides military training and performs peacekeeping operations abroad, is a testament to President Nixon’s original concept.
In 1970, many Americans exhausted by the war in Vietnam questioned the rationale behind foreign assistance, but President Nixon readily defended importance of supporting developing countries. In defining the purpose of foreign assistance, he insightfully determined that, “we are, of course, wholly responsible for solutions to our problems at home, and we can contribute only partially to solutions abroad. But foreign aid must be seen for what it is-not a burden, but an opportunity to help others to fulfill their aspirations for justice, dignity, and a better life. No more abroad than at home can peace be achieved and maintained without vigorous efforts to meet the needs of the less fortunate.”