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The Nixon Doctrine in the 21st Century

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In July 1969, President Richard Nixon dealt with Cold War triumph and adversity in quick succession. On July 24, he met the Apollo 11 astronauts on their return from the moon landing, a highly symbolic American victory in the space race. On the next day, at a press conference in Guam, he tried to adapt U.S. foreign policy to the pressures of the Vietnam War, which were stretching the military's ability to meet America's global commitments. He resisted calls to withdraw American ground forces from Vietnam immediately, and searched for a way to reinvigorate U.S. alliances around the world, hoping to maintain American credibility while sharing the burden of Western defense.

Over the next several months, the president and his advisers worked to clarify and codify his initial comments, an effort that led to the simple formulation of the Nixon Doctrine included in a famous November 3, 1969, speech (pdf):

- First, the United States will keep all of its treaty commitments.
- Second, we shall provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation allied with us or of a nation whose survival we consider vital to our security.
- Third, in cases involving other types of aggression, we shall furnish military and economic assistance when requested in accordance with our treaty commitments. But we shall look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for its defense.

This doctrine explained how the United States would interact with its allies, specifically in Asia, according to the president's speech. It was most explicitly applied in Vietnam and, later, in Iran, but the principles might apply around the world. ...

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