Published on December 21, 2007
PSCI 355U.S. Foreign Policy: Patterns and Processes: PSCI 355 U.S. Foreign Policy: Patterns and Processes Melanson: American Foreign Policy After Vietnam, Richard M. Nixon Nixon Administration: Nixon Administration Melanson notes that the Nixon Administration inherited the presidency and its past follies at a time when America’s hitherto Cold War Consensus had been destroyed. [The same is true of each of the previous three presidents, two Democratic administrations (Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy) and one Republican administrations (Eisenhower). Each inherited a mess from its predecessor. Ike inherited Truman’s financial commitment to the French (for the sake of NATO); by the end of Ike’s tenure, the U.S. had incrementally ratcheted up to taking over for the French who failed at Dien Bein Phu, circa 1954. Ike warned JFK during the transition that two trouble spots would demand his attention: Cuba and Indochina (Laos in particular). JFK inherited Ngo Dinh Diem from Ike, a history of covert operations in Indochina—covert because they violated Geneva Accords—and his insular family of Catholic-Mandarins. By the end of JFK’s tenure, America had deployed some 17,000 advisers and aid workers (troops). Lyndon Johnson inherited a covert war in Viet Nam, a flawed policy premised on Diem, a coup that overthrew Diem (resulting in his death) and a revolving-door government in Viet Nam. LBJ used the Tonkin Gulf fiasco to openly bomb Viet Nam and to get the U.S. Congress to pass a resolution that permitted LBJ virtual autonomy in ramping up U.S. policy in Viet Nam. After being sworn in following JFK’s assassination (November 1963) LBJ decided to follow JFK’s policies in Viet Nam (NSAM 273) then two months later Americanize the war (NSAM 288). Richard Nixon inherited a full-fledged war in Viet Nam (some 500,000 U.S. troops), a country divided and increasingly against the war. Nixon Administration: Nixon Administration Nixon Biography: rough and tumble of California politics after his 8 years of being Ike’s Veep. As Ike left office and his Veep was running against JFK, asked by the media what qualities Nixon had to distinguish himself from JFK, Ike quipped if you give me a few days I might be able to think of some. Nixon infamous from his early Red-Baiting days. Nixon, according to Melanson, was genuinely concerned about the collapse of Cold War Consensus as a result of the Viet Nam War. Similarly, Nixon perceived a domestic-governance crisis: the leadership class (elites & attentive public) had pusillanimously abandoned said Consensus; Nixon believed said leaders had broken trust with the mass public and fallen out of touch with basic American values. Nixon Administration: Nixon Administration Melanson notes that in “1969, in . . . difficult circumstances Richard Nixon became president—a man whose background, behavior, and temperament hardly seemed equipped to reconstruct . . .” the CWC [p. 44]. Doubtless, Nixon would have followed the same policies that JFK did had Nixon been elected in 1960 (Melanson, p. 44). Nixon Administration: Nixon Administration Melanson says Nixon “was genuinely distressed by the destruction of the [LBJ’s] presidency,” (p. 45) “believed that the breakdown of foreign policy consensus had been precipitated by the cowardly behavior of America’s ‘leader class’” (Ibid). Nixon was worried about what it augured for US foreign policy, a newfound isolationism (Ibid). Nixon Administration: Nixon Administration “For Nixon, . . .the simultaneous breakdown of the domestic New Deal consensus and the Cold War foreign policy consensus shared a common root: the failure of the leader class to stay in touch with middle America” (p. 46) In Nixon’s first inaugural address Nixon said ‘we are torn by division wanting unity’ and “that ‘we cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another’” (Ibid). Nixon Administration: Nixon Administration One interesting point is the date of the address, May 14, 1969. Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia had begun in March 1969 and continued into the early 1970s. [Menu bombings, Arc Light, the Killing Fields . . .] Nixon AdministrationBiography Summary: Nixon Administration Biography Summary Nixon elected in November 1968 by a plurality of 43%; Inaugurated in January 1969. By mid 1969 Nixon openly said anti-war critics were hypocrites, elitists, counter-culture dropouts . . . who had supplanted hope and vision (CWC) with despair and selfishness. Inaugural address notwithstanding, Nixon abandoned rhetoric of unity by his Air Force Academy speech, June 4, 1969. In it he said ‘skeptics and isolationists’ had lost the ‘vision indispensable to great leadership’ (p. 47). Melanson argues the AFA speech laid the groundwork for “the so-called silent majority speech” on November 3, 1969 (Ibid). The latter was schedule between 2 huge anti-war protests. Nixon created a foil (the anti-war movement) against which regular Americans could be compared favorably—i.e., he intentionally created more divisiveness in short term for what he thought was longer-term re-creation of consensus. [Silent Majority Speech, 47-48] Nixon: Domestic Priorities: Nixon: Domestic Priorities Co-opt New Deal constituencies binding them together w/ glue of social and cultural politics; Keynesian, wage-control mechanisms to fight inflation; Full employment; New Federalism: limit the states’ role in particular areas such as welfare, energy, and environment; increase states’ role in education, training, public health. Nixon: Governance: Nixon: Governance A new consensus w/ a new majority whose health depended on the existence of a domestic enemy, the new (loud) minority; Pattonesque: a leader had to be willing to take an unpopular stand for what was right (i.e., principled) but also must explain his reasoning to gain approval Foil: silent-majority speech summoned the ‘strength of our national character,’ and the ‘great silent majority of Americans—good people with good judgment who stand ready to do what they think is right’; “By rhetorically transforming what some commentators were terming the ‘politics of resentment’ into a set of positive values,” Nixon “attempted to enlist the new majority in his two major foreign policy goals” (p. 52-53). Nixon: Relationship between domestic goals and governance: Nixon: Relationship between domestic goals and governance “Little direct relationship: Nixon hoped that ‘silent majority’ would tolerate phased withdrawal from Vietnam and that” they “would allow the pursuit of a largely amoral foreign policy.” (Ibid; summary table) Nixon: Grand Design, Strategic Objectives, and Tactics: Nixon: Grand Design, Strategic Objectives, and Tactics Grand Design: a ‘stable structure of peace’ somewhat misleadingly named by Nixon that translated to condominium realpolitik; mostly bipolar but at least ostensibly multipolar equilibrium guided by the United States (or to be precise, Nixon and Kissinger) Nixon: Grand Design, Strategic Objectives, and Tactics: Nixon: Grand Design, Strategic Objectives, and Tactics Strategic Objectives: superpower détente—an array of positive and negative incentives designed to co-opt the Soviets when possible, coerce them when cooptation impossible; “deft” high-level management thereof (Nixon and Kissinger) Gradual Withdrawal from Viet Nam (cleverly called Vietnamization) to preserve U.S. credibility (“peace with honor” & “a decent interval”) Resultant Nixon Doctrine—using indigenous peoples to contain communist-leftist national liberation movements (derived from Viet Nam) applied to the 3rd world. Nixon: Grand Design, Strategic Objectives, and Tactics: Nixon: Grand Design, Strategic Objectives, and Tactics Tactics: Unconstitutional “radical” centralization of foreign policy decisionmaking in White House to formulate and implement policy! Emphasize speed and dexterity of decisionmaking (something neither the Soviets, the Chinese, nor the Vietnamese communist parties could accomplish) Resultant Nixon Doctrine—using indigenous peoples to contain communist-leftist national liberation movements (derived from Viet Nam) applied to the 3rd world. Nixon: Legitimation Techniques: Nixon: Legitimation Techniques Laudatory, declaratory history of America’s post WWII (i.e., Cold War) foreign policy; Emphasize the ways the world had changed since 1947 and how Nixon’s policies addressed said changes; Castigate domestic critics as “isolationists” who would abandon U.S. world leadership; Political Theater: choreographed speeches and press conferences; full generation of peace; Peace w/ honor as America’s character challenge Nixon: Success in Consensus: Nixon: Success in Consensus Policy Consensus: he did achieve a short-lived consensus regarding détente as a management construct for Cold War Containment in a more modern world. Cultural Consensus: inasmuch as his goal was cultural war to give his foreign policy cover, he was successful; however, cultural war is not consensus but its opposite so NO! Procedural: resigned to avoid impeachment. A Ford Not A Lincoln (or Nixon): A Ford Not A Lincoln (or Nixon) Melanson does not attempt to answer the 6 comparative questions for Ford who became president when Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment. Rather, he discusses the woes Ford inherited (continuity?) from Nixon. Namely, a Congress that was exercised over Nixon-Kissinger malfeasance and what he did to counter the hardliner of first the Democrats (Scoop Jackson, et al.) then Republicans. A Ford Not A Lincoln (or Nixon): A Ford Not A Lincoln (or Nixon) Mayaguez: a crisis that was not a crisis! Fords NSC—Nixon as Secretary of State, Schlesinger at Defense, Scowcroft at NSC—bombed Cambodia after ship released; also, lost 30 plus Marines in rescue attempt. SALT I, II problems. Liberals for arms control and cultural exchanges but put their own “linkages” as provisos. Angola (UNITA) where the U.S. backed rebels against the Soviet (and Cuban) backed socialist government.