“Publicly, we say one thing….Actually, we do another.” -Richard Nixon
Explain why the Nixon Doctrine was announced in June 1969. (12 marks) Background Information (Introduction) Richard Nixon entered the Oval office in autumn 1968. He had vowed in the run up to the election that he would secure for the United States “peace with honour”.
The Vietnam Disaster Nixon recognized that the war in Vietnam had been a political, if not a military disaster. After the Tet Offensive, in the words of Henry Kissinger, the United States could no longer fight a war in a time frame, or with military numbers that was “acceptable” to the American public. The USA could neither afford the conflict in a material sense. The war had cost Lyndon Johnson his view of the “Great Society”, and the financial burden was too much. The deficit had weakened the dollar, which led to a market crash which caused a gold crisis. This was the last straw for American business, and many of the American public. Full Soviet Nuclear Parity By 1969, MAD was fully assured. The USSR had finally begun to surpass the US in nuclear production, and it became necessary for the United States to carefully reconsider military options in a more dangerous world. The US could no longer hope to overwhelm the USSR, and nuclear exchange would guarantee annihilation. Nixon and Kissinger believed that was required was a critical break from general long-standing “non-recognition” doctrine; the USSR was not to be treated not as barbaric enemy, but as an equally powerful adversary to be respected and consulted. Not only would the US recognize Soviet power, but attempt to “educate” the USSR on requirements of civility in world politics. This could hardly be done whilst the world’s greatest super power was bombing a peasant nation. There was also the offer of reciprocity; access to US goods and economic assistance if Soviets would temper their brutal, expansionist tendencies. The Sino-Soviet split However, Russia’s split with China also provided an opportunity for the United States to outmaneuver the USSR politically. This was best accomplished by traditional power diplomacy. In order to gain China’s trust, the US needed to reconsider their military policy in Vietnam. By opening relations with the PRC, there existed the notion of “triangular” diplomacy; seeking not to make alliances with any of the two communist powers, but to create a tri-polar relationship to ensure stability across the globe. Kissinger believed that the Soviets could be controlled more by diplomacy than by military power. The main tactic was to ensure a regional balance of power, and then ensure that the US was as only acceptable arbiter between conflicting parties.