I finished Richard Nixon’s 1962 book, Six Crises. I read the appendix, which has three speeches that Richard Nixon gave when he was Vice-President: One in Great Britain, one in the Soviet Union, and one as the Republican candidate for President before the 1960 Republican National Convention. I have three items.
1. Nixon in his speeches talks a lot about the problem of international Communism. In his speech in the Soviet Union, Nixon says that he’s all for controlling weaponry, but the Soviet government has stood in the way of arms control as well as ways to verify that both sides are pursuing it. In his speech in England, Nixon affirms that he is for a variety of approaches to the problem of international Communism, such as military strength and humanitarian aid. This stood out to me because I enjoyed his discussion earlier in the book about the need for a multivalent approach to Communism, particularly because it highlighted Nixon’s talent for identifying weaknesses in certain positions. Against those who argue that we should just focus on building our military strength—-a “fortress America” view, if you will—-Nixon points out that “Communism made its greatest gains immediately after World War II when the United States had a monopoly on the atomic bomb and massive military superiority over the Soviet Union” (page 289). Against those who say that our primary focus should be on economically assisting underdeveloped countries, Nixon says that we “have only to look at the Czechoslovakian experience to realize that the Communists can take over countries with no serious economic problems” (page 289). For Nixon, the weapons against Communist expansion must be multivalent, which means that they must include military weapons, economic weapons, political weapons, and propaganda weapons.
2. In his speech in England, Nixon spoke rather favorably of British colonialism. He says that it brought to a number of the colonized countries the military strength which protected them, “the technical training which assured economic progress”, ideas that are the basis for progress, and such values as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion (page 433).
I thought about the Dinesh D’Souza documentary 2016, which I have not yet seen, but which I’ve heard is critical of Barack Obama for being anti-colonialist. D’Souza’s defenders say that colonialism has brought good things to the Third World. I don’t know much about Obama’s stance on colonialism, but I do remember him saying in Dreams from My Father that, in Kenya, even after the country had attained its independence, much of the economy was still in white hands, while black Kenyans were on the margins (see here). Colonialism may have brought wealth to the Third World, but how much of that wealth trickled down to most of the inhabitants of the country? I don’t know. I will say, though, that, even though Nixon spoke favorably of colonialism in this speech in England, he did seem to have a sensitivity to the economic condition of the inhabitants of the Third World. I base this in what I read in Stephen Ambrose’s Nixon: The Education of a Politician, and also Six Crises.
3. I enjoyed Six Crises. I can see why it was Nixon’s favorite book that he wrote, why he recommended it to his staff when he was President, and why some on his staff read it multiple times. The book was clear, and it also had a story-telling, conversational quality. This was especially the case when Nixon talked about his two daughters, Tricia and Julie. I also agree with what the San Francisco Chronicle said about the book, which is on the cover of the copy of Six Crises that I own: that Nixon in the book is “relentlessly self-analytical”.
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