December 4, 2013 By Chris Barber
The oft-covered Iranian Nuclear Deal and the future developments that will result from it will greatly determine the stake of U.S.-Middle Eastern relations. The initial rapprochement between Iran and the P5+1 nations has generated such conjecture over the future of Middle Eastern geo-political relations that it has drawn comparisons to President Nixon’s diplomatic overture with China in 1972.
But does this deal with Iran truly compare to the stroke of skillful diplomacy President Nixon displayed?
Let us take a look at what the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran constitutes:
-A commitment to halt progress on the growth of existing stockpiles of low enriched uranium, to halt work on the heavy-water reactor at Arak, and full access by IAEA inspectors to all nuclear facilities.
-A limited, temporary, and reversible relief package that would provide $7 billion in relief, a fraction of Iran’s approximately $100 billion inaccessible foreign exchange holdings.
The Iranian Nuclear Deal is a concentrated effort towards mitigating nuclear hegemonic concerns. Some declare this a failure for United States foreign policy because it concedes too much to an untrustworthy nation. There are obviously some who declare the deal a success because it opens new diplomatic channels to a once isolated Iran.
But pundits on either side of the spectrum miss the point. The deal is a reaction to a very specific Iranian element, and is not emblematic of overarching Iranian interests or P5+1 interests. Coupling nuclear capabilities with all diplomatic interests of a nation is short-sited; it is difficult to negotiate with a country when a large portion of its economic capability is controlled by other world powers.
When we look back to the Nixon presidency, we see a leader who postured himself in favor of a new-age diplomacy—one that included diplomatic overtures with an isolated China. Leaders of the modern world should be mindful of how President Nixon established diplomatic relations with China, especially given the unknowns of China at that time.
He recognized in the 1960s that to continue on the same path of American indifference to the Chinese situation was unrealistic and dangerous, particularly in the case that China developed nuclear weapons.
“Taking the long view, we simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors. There is no place on this small planet for a billion of its potentially most able people to live in angry isolation.” RN, Nixon on the Issues
President Nixon would open the door to China with the foot of his diplomatic forte—“to carefully distinguish between long-range and short-range policies, and fashioning short-range programs so as to advance our long-range goals.”
These long-range goals were reflected upon in a set of letters from the President to critical allies in Taiwan and South Vietnam. He assured his allies that his visit to the “enemy” would not countermand prearranged treaty agreements. He urged them to understand the purpose “to help ensure that these events will move [all nations] in the direction of a stable and enduring international order.”
RN’s letters to President Nguyen Van Thieu of the Republic of Vietnam and President Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China stating his unwavering support of his allies’ interests despite meeting with Communist China.
A memo dated February 21, 1972, transcribes the famed conversation between President Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong at the onset of the China trip. During the conversation, he fashioned to Mao the purpose of their meeting:
“What brings us together is a recognition of a new situation in the world and a recognition on our part that what is important is not a nation’s internal political philosophy,” President Nixon said. “What is important is its policy toward the rest of the world and toward us.”
Transcript of conversation between President Nixon and Chairman Mao, talks that set the stage for the successful Shanghai Joint Communiqué.
In a conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua discussing final revisions to the joint communiqué, Kissinger reiterated the President’s strategy and the importance of the document.
“That after this long interval it has been a very delicate and difficult task for both of us, in which there are many obstacles ahead and in which both sides have had to exercise great restraint on many issues which are quite complex for them, but that it is in the spirit that it should be considered, and not every single word in the communiqué.”
Transcript of Henry Kissinger and Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua in the final stages of Joint Communiqué revisions.
Philosophical differences aside, President Nixon set the stage for the successful establishment of the Shanghai Joint Communiqué.
The differences between the communiqué and the current Iranian nuclear deal are glaring; while the deal narrowly discusses nuclear terms, the communiqué established a statement of both sides’ differences as well as agreements, particularly agreements in the principles of international relations and peace.
If President Nixon were overseeing negotiations with Iran today, he might proclaim that the Middle East cannot be safe until Iran changes just as he once said the world cannot be safe until China changes.
“The way to do this is to persuade China that it must change: that it cannot satisfy its imperial ambition, and that its own national interest requires a turning away from foreign adventuring and turning inward toward the solution of its own domestic problems.” RN, Nixon on the Issues
The administration convinced China to change via subtle signals and the establishment of various backchannels for communication. President Nixon made many low-level signals to the Chinese demonstrating an interest in opening discussions with China in 1969, a time when its relationship with the Soviet Union was hostile. When the trip to China was announced, the United States halted U-2 reconnaissance flights over Mainland China and attempted at all possible to prevent its Laotian agents operating in Northern Laos from entering Communist China. Through the use of backchannel sources, the United States pledged to provide intelligence reports of Soviet military activity to Chinese officials. To establish trust between both sides would take time, but it began with an extended hand from the United States and an acceptance of internal differences from both parties.
The Obama administration has initiated a short-term goal, believing that this in of itself is enough to quell concerns over Iran’s aggressive behavior. To apply Nixonian diplomacy, the administration will have to convince Iranian leaders, most notably Supreme leader of Iran Ali Khamenei, that it must turn away from opposition of the Israeli state and western powers and solve its own domestic political issues.
Only then can there confidently be a path towards normalization with Iran and peace in the Middle East.
November 26, 2013 By Chris Barber
Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington last week, Florida Senator Marco Rubio articulated a foreign policy more centrist than many of his peers would agree with.
Among the Republican Party are interventionist hawks and libertarian isolationists. But Senator Rubio is seeking new ground—contending that diplomacy and foreign aid ought to eclipse the country’s use of military force.
Senator Rubio claims that the United States would be most rewarded through “the decisive use of diplomacy, foreign assistance and economic power.” The strategic use of these three principles of American foreign policy can effectively stop crises before they spiral into bloody conflict.
Similarly, President Nixon was a leader who comparatively saw neither military intervention nor isolationism as a means toward achieving peace in the modern world. As early as 1947, when RN was a young Congressman, post-war circumstances molded his prevailing view on administering foreign aid.
He was chosen as a member of the Herter Committee, an entourage of 19 members headed by Congressman Christian Herter tasked with preparing a report on the Marshall Plan. The group would travel to post-war Europe and analyze the situation first-hand.
Contrary to the opinions of his political support base in California—those who did not support a foreign aid agenda, then Congressman Nixon, upon landing in Europe, witnessed a continent “tottering on the brink of starvation and chaos.”
He saw a continent that without American aid would have ultimately fallen to the Communist sphere of influence. Despite the initial overwhelming opposition to the Marshall Plan among his district’s constituents, he felt that he had no choice but to vote in favor of economic aid. Thus, RN crusaded throughout his district to describe what he had seen on the trip and tried his hardest to convince his constituents to realize its merits.
His appearances in his district proved successful and even enhanced his popularity as a Congressman.
More than 25 years later, President Nixon famously ordered a massive airlift to supply Israel with emergency military supplies on the seventh day of the Arab invasion in the October 1973 War. His order effectively turned the tides of that conflict in Israel’s favor, which eventually progressed into President Nixon’s masterful execution of turning Egypt into an American ally. RN’s rapprochement with Egypt’s president, Anwar Sadat, culminated in a $250 million foreign aid package administered by the U.S. It also motivated Sadat to excommunicate all Soviet military advisors from Egyptian lands.
Perhaps most representative was the diplomatic maneuver with China in 1972. His overtures with China opened the door to an entirely new era of Sino-American relations and indirectly assuaged the Soviet Union into accepting terms in an historic nuclear arms reduction treaty and the relaxation of tensions between the two nations. Whereas the war in Vietnam weakened America’s credibility as guardian of the free world, diplomacy with China and the Soviet Union strengthened its standing.
Senator Rubio faces the same difficult decisions then Congressman Nixon once had to make, albeit in a different light. He also emulates RN as President, by advocating strategy over tactics. In order to appease his constituents of any concern over his vision for American foreign policy, Senator Rubio must convince them that taking the middle ground in foreign affairs, that instigating peace through strategic and balanced negotiations, is in the best interest of America. There can be no room for either of the extremes. He explains why:
Our standing as a world power depends on our ability to engage globally, anywhere and at any time our interests are at stake.
In similar fashion 40 years ago, President Nixon once proclaimed that the United States maintain superiority not for the purpose of threatening anybody or waging war, but for the purpose of perpetuating a defensive goal to win and keep the peace.
November 22, 2013 By Nixon Foundation
Richard Nixon wrote a letter to Jackie Kennedy the day following the death of President John F. Kennedy.
While the hand of fate made Jack and me political opponents I always cherished the fact that we were personal friends from the time we came to Congress together in 1947.
The nation will be forever grateful for your service as First Lady.
Below the letter is Mrs. Kennedy’s response to RN.
November 19, 2013 By Chris Barber
It is clear that the United States has entered a new era with regard to energy, and as Lincoln once said, ‘we must think anew and act anew.” RN
It is appropriate to reflect on President Nixon’s oversight in the signing of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act, signed into law 40 years ago this past Saturday. The act permitted the construction of an oil pipeline that connected the oil heavy region of Alaska’s North Slope to its South Slope at Port Valdez. The Act resulted in the eventual construction of an 800 mile North to South Trans-Alaskan pipeline—one of the world’s largest pipeline systems.
President Nixon in the Oval Office Signing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act
The primary purpose of the act was to provide much needed crude oil to the United States’ depleted supply, which had been caused in large part by the oil embargo of OPEC in the latter half of 1973.
President Nixon foresaw the prospects of an American energy crisis and advocated for exploring outer-continental shelf oil resources well before economic contingencies pushed legislators to his position.
Since 1967 and up until the beginning of 1971, the United States accelerated down the path toward an avoidable energy crisis. Rising fuel prices, occasional brownouts, and a growing awareness of environmental consequences were emblematic of the larger energy issue.
An economic pragmatist, President Nixon formulated immediate and farsighted methods towards improving the United States’ energy producing capabilities.
On June 4, 1971, President Nixon lent a far-reaching hand to Congress on matters of the environment and energy resources. Of the many points the President made in this special message, the one that proved the most direct and attainable was challenging nonetheless.
To avert imminent energy shortages, President Nixon called for an accelerated program to utilize the prolific source of oil and gas located under federal lands, particularly in the northern Alaskan shelf. Attaining Congressional support would prove incremental at best due to the wielding power of environmental interest groups and past oil spills in federally held lands. It was a challenge the President felt could be and needed to be met.
“Based on the information now at hand, I do not believe that the apparent conflict between oil and the environment represents a permanent impasse. Instead it presents a challenge—a challenge to our engineering skills and a challenge to our environmental conscience.” RN
In a Statement about the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline dated September 26, 1971, President Nixon made public his determination to meet this great challenge. In his almost three years in office, the pipeline proposal remained locked by stringent environmental review. Yet it was time spent in review that President Nixon welcomed. The arduous time spent systematically and analytically accommodating the interests between the Alaskan environment and Arctic oil, he believed, “would avoid long periods of reexamination and delay in the future.”
Perhaps most impressive to the President’s efforts was the balancing act with which he needed to satisfy the environment and the economy. After all, it was President Nixon who had signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1970, which allowed conservation objections the legal grounds to halt potentially environmentally damaging projects.
Working in concert with Secretary of the Interior Rogers Morton and Alaskan Governor Wally Hickel, President Nixon sought to mitigate all environmental concerns. A 3,500 page environmental impact statement was finalized on March 20, 1972 that followed the guidelines set by new NEPA standards. The project seemed to be given the green light, until restrictions regarding the width of the right of way for the proposed pipeline yet again stalled the passage of legislation.
President Nixon in a meeting with Secretary of the Interior Rogers Morton
President Nixon was becoming impatient with Congressional inaction–a legislative lethargy that was prevalent during his presidency. It was only after the United States experienced the tangible effects of energy crisis that Congress obliged itself to unanimously sign off on Alaskan pipeline legislation. In October 1973, oil prices immediately soared 400%, sending American retail gasoline prices to its highest point ever at 42 cents a gallon. Though only comparable to nearly $3.00 a gallon in today’s standards, the shock of such a precipitous rise forced a pivot in American economic policy.
The act signed on November 16, 1973 effectively removed all legal barriers and amended right-of-way clauses of an outdated Mineral Leasing Act that so hampered earlier passage of this law.
To this day, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline has shipped over 16 billion barrels of oil. When oil production in Alaska peaked in 1988, the state was responsible for approximately 25 percent of total U.S. crude oil production. Today, Alaska provides less than 17 percent in oil production, yet still drives half of Alaska’s economy.
November 15, 2013 By Nixon Foundation
By Scott Carlson
Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, pollution by American industrial companies was rampant. By the time President Nixon took office, public concern over this problem had grown immensely, especially after a number of major environmental catastrophes. President Nixon knew something needed to be done about the degradation of the environment and he took action.
Aside from environmental disasters, growth in the public’s concern over the issue of the environment was due to the obvious visual harm that was being done to the natural environment. In New York City in the summer 1966, incredible amounts of smog were generated, which became attributed to the death of 169 people. Several years later in 1969, an oil rig in Santa Barbara caused the largest ocean oil spill of the era, which had a disastrous effect on the coastal and marine environment on the California coastline. It was the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland, Ohio that led to an article in Time Magazine and garnered even more of the public’s attention. Factories had pumped waste into the river for decades leaving a thick layer of oil that eventually caught ablaze… for the second time!
These disastrous events throughout the 1960’s gave a greater understanding and awareness to the public about the dangerous pollution trends of the era. The heightened public awareness about the issue led to the demands that the federal government needed to regulate the environment through laws and standards for companies to meet.
In a special message to Congress in July of 1970, President Nixon relayed his concerns about the environment and established the Environmental Protection Agency. The President said,
“Our national government today is not structured to make a coordinated attack on the pollutants which debase the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land that grows our food.”
To this point, he argued for the passage of a government reorganization plan, which took some of the functions of other branches and compiled them under the responsibilities of what would be the new EPA.
President Nixon’s intent for the EPA was to have an agency that was focused specifically on the quality of the environment. The effort of the government prior to the EPA was splintered, with a number of different agencies holding separate responsibilities for environmental regulations. This divided effort was ineffective. President Nixon wanted an agency with an effective focus on cleaning up and maintaining the environment. With the creation of the EPA and the numerous environmental acts that were enacted in 1970, the government now had the proper control to defend against the pollution that had grown uncontrolled for decades.
Under President Nixon’s administration, a number of laws were passed in an effort to preserve and repair the natural environment. Between 1970 and 1972, the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Marine Mammal Protection Act were all passed. These were the laws that the EPA was able to use to effectively regulate the American natural environment. The environmental laws that were passed during President Nixon’s administration set the basis for effectively cleaning and maintaining the beauty of America’s environment.
Following President Nixon’s administration, the argument can be made that the EPA used these laws to over-regulate private industries, inhibiting economic growth—a legacy never intended by President Nixon. During his administration, President Nixon faced the growing issue of environmental damage and the problem was growing severe. The enactment of the EPA and the subsequent environmental laws were meant to simply reverse the process of environmental damage caused by pollution. In this regard, the EPA was successful. President Nixon cared deeply for the environment, and with the situation becoming so dire, he made the decision to take a stand against the heavy polluters of the era. The EPA’s later expansion of power and over-regulation, following the Nixon administration, was something that could not be predicted at its founding.
Since President Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, the agency has gone on to accomplish great things in environmental preservation. Our air and water is much cleaner today than it was when President Nixon took office. Due to the work of the EPA, today’s cars are 98% cleaner than in 1970 in smog-producing terms. The EPA has done immense work in keeping America’s air clean as there has been a 60% decrease in dangerous air pollutants since 1970. Water quality and the health of our lakes have improved as well. There are half as many lakes today that suffer from increased nutrient concentrations than there were in 1970.
Because of President Nixon’s dedication to improving the health of our nation’s natural environment, America’s resources are now cleaner and better protected from dangerous pollutants. Public concern over the status of the environment in the late 1960’s had grown large, and President Nixon listened to the country and took action.