I finished Richard Nixon’s 1980 book, The Real War.
In the 1990 introduction to his next book, Real Peace, Nixon states the following:
“Real Peace was written five years after The Real War. During his first years in office President Reagan had vigorously addressed the crisis in superpower relations I had described in the earlier book. He had undertaken a massive defense buildup and was taking a more assertive line against Soviet aggression.”
Indeed, President Ronald Reagan did do many of the things that Nixon proposed in The Real War. Reagan sought to redress the problem of American military inferiority to the Soviet Union. His Administration offered military aid to anti-Communist insurgents in such countries as Nicaragua and Afghanistan. And Reagan offered support to anti-Communist regimes that did not have stellar human rights records, on the supposition that these countries would be much worse off if the Communists were to take them over.
But there were some things that Nixon talked about in The Real War that Reagan did not do until his second term. Nixon promotes detente in this book, a concept of negotiation with the Soviet Union, but Reagan was long a critic of detente. Nixon does not say this, but he may have had people like Reagan in mind when he wrote in The Real War that detente was misunderstood—-that it was not a policy of naievity about the Soviets but actually entailed a degree of toughness on the part of the United States. Reagan negotiated more with the Soviets in his second term.
Nixon talks in The Real World about the importance of the U.S. cultivating a relationship with Communist China, which had a poor relationship with the Soviet Union. Did Reagan do that? I had to do an Internet search to find out, for I hadn’t heard or read a great deal about President Reagan’s stance on Red China. According to this article, Red China was upset that the U.S. was selling arms to Taiwan, but Reagan met them halfway by limiting (albeit not ending) the sales. The article also states that, under Reagan, “China and the United States worked together closely to deter Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, sharing intelligence and sending arms to the mujahedin”, that “the Reagan administration sold avionics kits to upgrade China’s F-8 fighter as well as improve submarine torpedoes and artillery shells”, and that “Reagan’s speeches in China emphasized American values of freedom and democracy and highlighted common interests in trade and anti-Soviet strategy.” Reagan apparently exploited the Sino-Soviet rift to make gains for the West in the Cold War, something that probably met with Richard Nixon’s approval.
What did Nixon think about Ronald Reagan calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire”? I don’t know for sure, so I’m just guessing. Nixon explicitly treats the Cold War as a conflict between good and evil in the last chapter of his book. Yet, Nixon earlier in the book is against alienating the Soviets by treating them disrespectfully, since he regards the Soviets as insecure people who desperately want to be taken seriously on the world stage. My guess is that Nixon was not against Reagan calling the Soviet Union an evil empire, as long as Reagan did not trivialize or disrespect the Soviets in whatever interactions he had with them.
An issue on which Nixon and Reagan differed: Nixon on page 218 of The Real War calls for reintroducing the military draft, which he ended as President. Reagan as President, however, opposed bringing back the draft.
One thing that interested me in reading The Real War was that Nixon in 1980 did not expect for the Cold War to end anytime soon, even were the policies that he proposed to be implemented. On page 331, Nixon states: “Over the longer term we can encourage peaceful evolution within the Soviet Union itself. However, this is a task not of decades but of generations. Pressed too rapidly, it would bring a brutal repression; developed gradually, so that it less directly threatens those in power at any given time, it can gradually show results, just as it did under the Tsars in the nineteenth century.” But the Soviet Union changed, not over generations, but within a decade, namely, the 1980’s. And yet, even after the Soviet Union changed, Nixon had the same concerns that he expressed on page 331 of The Real War: that, if the U.S. does not play its cards right, Russia could fall into the hands of brutal Communists.