For my write-up today on volume 2 of Richard Nixon's memoirs, I'll use as my starting-point something that Nixon says on page 418:
the year between the first and second Soviet Summits, a fusion of
forces from opposite ends of the political spectrum had resulted in a
curious coalition...On the one side the liberals and the American
Zionists had decided that now was the time to challenge the Soviet
Union's highly restrictive immigration policies, particularly with
respect to Soviet Jews. On the other side were the conservatives, who
had traditionally opposed d[e]tente because it challenged their
ideological opposition to contacts with Communist countries. My request
in April 1973 for congressional authority to grant most-favored-nation
trade status to the Soviet Union became the rallying point for both
groups: the liberals wanted MFN legislation to be conditioned on eased
emigration policies; the conservatives wanted MFN defeated on the
principle that d[e]tente was bad by definition."
Here are two items:
Nixon's rationale was that more good could be accomplished if the U.S.
had a relationship of dialogue with the Soviet Union than if the U.S.
were on the outside looking in, throwing stones. Nixon feared that
"public pressure" on the Soviet Union would make it more "intransigent",
and he doubted that the U.S. refusing to grant MFN trade status to the
Soviet Union would ameliorate the U.S.S.R.'s "brutally repressive
nature" (page 419). From 1971-1973, Nixon notes, the number of
Soviet Jews who were permitted to emigrate from the Soviet Union jumped
from 15,000 to 35,000, and Nixon attributes this to his Administration's
dialogue with Soviet leaders. In March 1973, after all, a
Soviet leader assured Henry Kissinger that the U.S.S.R. had removed the
requirement that Jews desiring to emigrate repay "state educational
expenses", requiring them instead merely to pay a "nominal fee" (page
419). But, in December 1973, the U.S. House passed a bill
prohibiting MFN for the U.S.S.R. due to its "restrictive emigration
policies" (page 419). Nixon expressed to a Soviet official his hope
that this would not poison U.S. relations with the U.S.S.R. But,
according to Nixon, the bill resulted in ill consequences, for "the
number of Jews allowed to emigrate declined from 35,000 in 1973 to
13,200 in 1975" (page 420).
Do I agree with Nixon's
stance on this issue? I can see his point that more can be accomplished
within a relationship than outside of it. At the same time, I
grew up reading right-wing literature that had quite a different
point-of-view. It contended that U.S. aid to the Soviet Union both
propped up the failed Soviet system, and also provided the U.S.S.R. with
the material to develop further its military capacity. According to this story, the U.S.S.R. then supplied the arms that it developed to the U.S.'s enemies in Vietnam.
Nixon's conflation of American Zionists with liberals intrigued me,
especially since, nowadays, it is the right-wing in the United States
that tends to be hawkish on Israel, whereas the left-wing seems to have
more sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians. Nixon talks more
about Israel in the first volume of his memoirs, on pages 590-600. I
found his discussion there to be interesting, but I did not get around
to blogging about it. I'll do some of that here.
that the Middle East was relevant to the Cold War, for the Soviet Union
was supporting Arabs. Within Nixon's Administration, there was some
difference of opinion about what the U.S. should do. Secretary
of State William Rogers was for developing relationships with the Arabs,
and he was also supportive of Israel returning the Arab territories
that it was occupying, "in exchange for Arab assurances of Israel's
territorial integrity" (page 593). Henry Kissinger (who,
according to Nixon, had a personality conflict with Rogers) did not care
for Rogers' plan, for he thought that it "encouraged the extremist
elements among the Arabs, gratuitously offended the Israelis, and earned
the contempt of the Soviets, who saw it as playing na[i]vely into their
hands" (Nixon's words on page 593).
At least in what Nixon narrates on pages 590-600, Nixon appears to have leaned more towards Rogers' position. For
one, Nixon did not want a situation in which the U.S.S.R. would support
the Arabs, whereas the U.S. would support Israeli victories, for that
could end up drawing both into the Middle East "against [their] wills" and
their "national interests". Nixon preferred to cultivate relationships
with the Arabs to undermine Soviet influence in the Middle East.
Second, Nixon gave to Rogers and his Assistant Secretary of State for
Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs the responsibility for the
Administration's Middle East policy, one reason being that Nixon
feared that "Kissinger's Jewish background would put [Kissinger] at a
disadvantage during the delicate initial negotiations for the reopening
of diplomatic relations with the Arab states" (page 591).
Nixon reminded Kissinger that Kissinger would have enough other stuff on
his plate: Vietnam, SALT, the Soviet Union, Europe, and Japan. Third,
while Nixon realized that Rogers' plan would most likely not be
implemented because Israel would never accept it, Nixon still wanted to
reassure the Arabs that he was open to their position on the occupied
territories, as well as "a compromise settlement of the conflicting
claims" (page 593).
Nixon decided to postpone delivering Phantom
jets to Israel, for two reasons. First, Arabs were pressuring the
Soviets to increase their military aid to their Arab clients, to surpass
the military aid that the U.S. was giving to Israel. Nixon wanted to
slow down that arms race without "tipping the fragile military balance
in the region", and he thought that he could do so by postponing the
provision of Phantom jets to Israel, since Israel was already strong
militarily (page 594). Second, Nixon hoped that his move would "renew
diplomatic relationships with Egypt and Syria" (page 595). Nixon
had to reassure Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that the U.S. would
stand with Israel in a crisis, for she wrote to him that "It is true
that our pilots are very good, but they can be good only when they have
planes" (Meir, as quoted on page 595). Nixon himself expressed
his support for Israel in a memorandum to Kissinger, as Nixon called
Israel "the only state in the Mideast which is pro-freedom and an effective opponent to Soviet expansion" (page 596).
laments on page 595 that parts of the American Jewish community,
Congress, the media, and "intellectual and cultural circles" equate not
being sufficiently pro-Israel with anti-Semitism. Nixon deemed it
ironic that senators who desired more military aid to Israel were also
against U.S. efforts to protect South Vietnam from Communism.
Nixon wrote to Kissinger that Israel should not trust American liberals
(the doves) as a source of steady support, for, in the end, they are
"peace at any price people", who will "cut and run", even from Israel,
when "the chips are down" (page 596). Nixon wrote that
Israel's true friends were people like William F. Buckley, Barry
Goldwater, and himself, who were not for cutting and running!
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