I read Richard Nixon’s 1983 book, Real Peace. This book overlapped in areas with the last foreign policy book by Nixon that I read, 1999: Victory Without War. There were three things in Real Peace that particularly stood out to me.
First of all, Nixon in Real Peace seems to support reducing nuclear weapons, whereas in 1999: Victory Without War he appeared to be critical of President Ronald Reagan’s START agreements and more supportive of limiting (as opposed to reducing) the number of nuclear weapons. But I could be off-base on this, for I have not committed either book to memory, plus I may have missed some things in my reading, so perhaps Nixon in both books supported reducing nuclear weapons, without being committed to complete nuclear disarmament.
Second, in talking about China, Nixon says that he supports China and the Soviet Union seeking to reduce tensions with each other. This stood out to me because some have said that Nixon sought to exploit the division between Red China and the Soviet Union, and that the United States’ rapprochement with Red China gave the U.S. another card that it could play as it dealt with the U.S.S.R. In Real Peace, Nixon says that it was preferable for the U.S. to reach out to Red China, since otherwise Red China in its vulnerability would have been pulled even more into the Soviet orbit, and that would not be good for the U.S. While Nixon favors an easing of tension between Red China and the U.S.S.R., he doesn’t want tensions to be eased that way (i.e., through the pulling of Red China into the Soviet orbit). But Nixon does favor Red China and the U.S.S.R., as autonomous nations, easing tensions with one another, since hostility between the two could lead to war, perhaps even a world war during the nuclear age.
Third, on page 99, Nixon states regarding the Kremlin leaders that “We must not object to their attempts to spread communism as long as they use peaceful means to do so.”
This surprised me, since Nixon throughout the book is concerned about Soviet expansionism. So now he’s open to it, as long as it does not occur through violence? Did he consistently apply this policy?
What if Communism triumphed through elections? Nixon in Real Peace criticized the leftists in El Salvador, saying that they were resistant to internationally-supervised elections. What would he say about the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua in 1984, in an election that the UN and Western European observers said was fair (see here)? Well, there were conservative Americans who said that they were not entirely fair, since the Sandinistas restricted freedom of the press and assembly. Was the election that the Sandinistas lost, the one in 1990, fair? Many would probably argue that it was, yet a professor once told me that a number of Nicaraguans voted against the Sandinistas because they wanted the United States to leave their country alone: the U.S. was funding destructive contras on account of the Sandinistas, so let’s vote out the Sandinistas! Technically, that could have been a fair election. But was it truly fair, considering the surrounding factors?
Anyway, those are my ramblings for the day.