I started Richard Nixon's 1992 book, Seize the Moment: America's Challenge in a One-Superpower World. In today's post, I'll just comment on four passages that stood out to me. Tomorrow, I'll write about Richard Nixon's views regarding post-Soviet Russia.
1. On page 30, Nixon says the following about the war against Iraq in the 1990's:
we not intervened, an international outlaw would today control more
than 50 percent of the world's oil. While the United States could
survive if necessary without Persian Gulf oil, Western Europe and Japan
could not. What happens to the economies of the other industrial
democracies directly affects the health of our own economy. We
therefore could not have afforded to allow Iraq to control access to
Gulf oil and blackmail the world through its choke hold on our oil
This reminded me of a conversation that I once had with
a professor at my undergraduate institution. He was telling a group of
us that the U.S. did not get a whole lot of oil from the Persian Gulf,
but Japan did. I replied: "I don't remember the government telling us
that when we were fighting the Gulf War!" The professor replied: "Of
course it didn't! Can you imagine how Americans would have reacted had
they learned that American troops were being used as mercenaries for the
Nixon essentially acknowledges my professor's point,
but, unlike my professor, Nixon believes that what happened in the
Persian Gulf was relevant to our national interests, even if we could
survive without Persian Gulf oil.
2. On pages 62-63, Nixon says the following about Soviet support for Saddam Hussein's Iraq:
the Persian Gulf War, Moscow had to choose between supporting its
traditional ally, Iraq, and retaining its newly won respectability in
the West. Though the Soviet Union helped Saddam Hussein covertly with
military advisers and spare parts and sought to save him from decisive
defeat through last-minute diplomacy, Gorbachev ultimately endorsed the
U.S.-led coalition's use of force to liberate Kuwait and to cut Iraq
down to size. Gorbachev is not a stupid man. Faced with a choice of
Iraq or the West, he chose the West."
The reason that this stood
out to me was that it called to my mind a right-wing article that I read
against George W. Bush's war against Iraq. Essentially, this article
praised Saddam for cracking down on the Communists in his country. It
was interesting to me how this right-wing article was looking at Iraq
through the prism of the Cold War, about a decade after the Cold War had
ended! In any case, though, I wonder how the author of that article
would have responded had he (I remember it was a he) learned that the
Soviet Union had been a major backer of Iraq. A parallel case is
evident in what the right-wing thinks about Israel. For a long time,
there were right-wingers (not all, or even most, but some) who equated
Zionism with Communism----as if there's a conspiracy that is both
Communistic and also Zionistic. And yet, the Soviet Union supported
3. On pages 29-30, Nixon says the following about President George H.W. Bush's handling of the Iraq War in the 1990's:
he achieved his fundamental military objectives and even after he
shielded the Kurds from Saddam Hussein's wrath, he avoided the quagmire
of playing kingmaker in Iraqi internal politics."
Nixon appears to think that it was a good thing that Bush I did not proceed to topple Saddam Hussein.
would Nixon have thought about George W. Bush's Iraq War in the
2000's? I don't know. On the one hand, Nixon thought that Bush I was
wise not to get involved in Iraqi internal politics, which Nixon called a
"quagmire". Had Nixon been alive in the 2000's, perhaps he would have
believed that the U.S. would be unwise to take on the responsibility of
nation-building in Iraq. On the other hand, I can also picture Nixon
thinking that U.S. intervention in Iraq would be justifiable, since Iraq
affected U.S. interests: if he were alive in the 2000's, Nixon may have
bought into the idea that Iraq had WMDs and thus was a dangerous
presence in the region. I doubt that Nixon would have accepted the
neocon agenda of making the world safe for democracy, however, for he
argues in this book that democracy is not necessarily the best
government for everyone.
On the one hand, Nixon probably would
have been proud of Bush II for going over the UN's head to attack Iraq,
for Nixon is rather critical of the UN in this book. On the other hand,
perhaps Nixon would have thought that Bush II was unwise to go into
Iraq without enough allies, for Nixon praises Bush I for forming an
alliance in the first Gulf War.
I can only speculate, based on
what I've read thus far. Later in this book, there is a chapter on "The
Muslim World". It will be interesting to see what Nixon says there.
4. On page 83, Nixon says the following about Gorbachev's spending on the military:
has pleaded for Western tolerance of excessive military production,
citing the monumental difficulties----particularly massive
unemployment----in converting facilities to civilian production. That
argument crumbles under scrutiny. Like most government spending,
military procurement is nonproductive spending. Because it does not
produce any goods that consumers can buy, it acts as a drag on, not a
stimulus for, economic growth. Moscow would be better off shutting down
defense plants and paying workers not to produce tanks and
other equipment. Then, the steel, electronics, and other inputs could
at least be put to better purposes----such as, for example, alleviating
shortages of consumer goods."
This passage intrigued me because Jerry Voorhis makes a similar point in his 1972-1973 critique of Nixon as President: The Strange Case of Richard Milhous Nixon----namely,
that military spending does not stimulate the economy because it does
not result in the production of goods that consumers can buy.
didn't military production get the U.S. out of the Great Depression?
How, then, could it be a drag on the economy? It may have gotten us out
of the Depression, but American goods had to be rationed during the
War. And in the war's aftermath, there was a lot of inflation, for
there was a limited supply of consumer goods, yet there was increased
demand for them as people returned home from the war, and as Americans
desired to get back to normalcy.
I am not entirely convinced that
military spending cannot serve as stimulus, to tell you the truth. It
creates jobs, since people are producing stuff for the military. People
with those jobs can then go on to spend money on consumer goods,
creating a demand for them, and (hopefully) a supply. The thing is, I
wish that there were other ways to stimulate the economy than for the
government to spend money on weapons that we don't really need. If only
government spending on infrastructure could employ more people.