Open Secret: The Kissinger-Nixon Doctrine in Asia
War Without End: American Planning for the Next Vietnams
Army in Anguish
Richard Nixon once remarked that the nation did not really need a president to conduct its domestic business. And indeed, it is not as the man who cleaned the air, made the streets safe, balanced the budget, found enough jobs, or made Americans feel better about their country that Nixon has sought re-election and a place in history, but as the architect of a new “structure of peace” designed to last a generation. This promised generation of peace is to come from a radically revised vision of the world, a modernized military strategy, and an updated political rhetoric. All reflect the official lessons of the Vietnam war.
There is a new map of the world in the White House which bears little resemblance to the one that McGeorge Bundy and Walt Rostow once used. In the official US world view the Soviet Union and China are no longer centers of an international conspiracy. They have become nation states. The Soviet Union, according to the Nixon-Kissinger analysis, is not primarily interested in promoting the world communist conspiracy or committing “indirect aggression” by subverting free world nations, but is absorbed with problems of securing its borders, building its economy, controlling its own population. China is far more interested in what is happening in China than in the politics of any other place. Nixon’s gamble that the Soviet Union and China would put up with the humiliation of the Haiphong blockade to protect possible profitable trade relations with the United States was based on a nonideological reading of Soviet and Chinese motives unknown in the Kennedy-Johnson era.
Nixon is now prepared to accept the overwhelming historical evidence that the Soviet Union has consistently sold out revolutionary movements. Soviet leaders, contrary to the official view in the Dean Rusk era, are not primarily in business to humiliate the United States. With a judicious mixture of tough talk, ostentatious display of military power, and attractive economic concessions, one can make them offers they can’t refuse.
Nixon has become the first President since Franklin Roosevelt to recognize the Russian revolution of 1917 and to accept the Soviet Union as a fixture of international politics that will neither “mellow” (in George Kennan’s sense) nor collapse, and he is the first President ever to recognize the Chinese revolution of 1949. His generation of peace, as he has said, calls for “a strong healthy United States, Europe, Soviet Union, China, Japan, each balancing the other….” In effect the President has offered the Soviet Union something like the junior partnership in world management that Stalin sought after World War II. He is offering an agreement among great nations not to push each other too far and to conduct their continuing rivalry within mutually advantageous rules of combat, such as the SALT agreements, which forbid exactly those weapons both sides would prefer not to build.
In arranging the new relationship with…
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.
Purchase a trial Online Edition subscription and receive unlimited access for one week to all the content on nybooks.com.