I'm still reading Richard Nixon's 1992 book, Seize the Moment: America's Challenge in a One-Superpower World. I have five items for today. Like yesterday's post, my post today will comment on quotations from Nixon's book. I'll be using those quotations as starting-points to discuss Nixon's broader arguments.
1. On page 52, Nixon contrasts Mikhail Gorbachev with Boris Yeltsin, who were prominent political figures in Russia:
views had grown, evolving to deal with the deepening Soviet crisis
while Gorbachev's remained in the quagmire of Marxism-Leninism. Before
the failed coup, Yeltsin had totally repudiated communism, while
Gorbachev had not. Yeltsin supported private ownership of enterprises
and land, while Gorbachev had not. Yeltsin supported immediate
independence for the Baltic states, while Gorbachev did not. Yeltsin
called for cutting off all aid to Cuba, Afghanistan, and other Soviet
clients in the underdeveloped world, while Gorbachev did not. Yeltsin
wanted to make major cuts in spending on the Soviet military, while
Gorbachev did not. Yeltsin won office in a fully free election, while
Gorbachev did not. Immediately after the coup, Yeltsin spoke of a bold
democratic revolution, while Gorbachev spoke timidly of reforming the
I grew up when the Cold War was drawing to a
close. At the time, I was one of those right-wingers who thought that
the Russians could still not be trusted. I believed that Gorbachev's
policies of Glasnost and Perestroika were a ruse designed to lull the
United States to sleep, so that the U.S. would disarm and the Russians
would take us over. In my mind, Communism had not truly collapsed, and
it was still a threat to the free world.
What's surprising to me
is that Nixon in this book actually overlaps with my views at the time.
No, Nixon didn't regard Glasnost and Perestroika as a ruse. And yes,
unlike me, Nixon believed that the collapse of the Soviet Union was
real. But he still did not think that it was a time for America to be
complacent. As Nixon noted in this book, Gorbachev was still a
dedicated Communist, who was providing assistance to other Communist
countries; Gorbachev was still cultivating the powerful Soviet military;
Gorbachev still did not want to let go of the Baltic states; and
Gorbachev was increasing Russian influence in the Pacific, which
included an attempt to heal the rift between Russia and Communist China.
the time, I pointed to the sorts of things that Nixon mentions to argue
that Russia was still a threat (only, in contrast to Nixon, the
right-wing books, articles, and magazines that I read did not think that
there was a real rift between the Soviet Union and Communist China). But
Nixon places these things in a different context than the right-wing
literature that I read: for Nixon, Russia was doing these things in a
state of desperation, while it was standing on its last leg. Communism
in Russia truly was collapsing.
I recently read Monica Crowley's Nixon Off the Record, which is about Crowley's time working for Nixon during the 1990's. What
Nixon harps on continually in that book is the importance of the U.S.
providing aid to post-Soviet Russia, so that her economy would get off
the ground and she wouldn't be taken over by Communist hard-liners who
would be all too happy to exploit the Russians' economic desperation. That sort of scenario, for Nixon, could lead to another Cold War. In Seize the Moment,
Nixon expresses more nuance to his view on foreign aid to Russia.
Nixon does not think that a whole lot of foreign aid should go to Russia
when Gorbachev is still in charge because that would only be supporting
a failed Communist system. Rather, Nixon wants aid to go to Russia
when she is committed to democracy and free enterprise,
something that he thought would occur under Yeltsin (even if Yeltsin
banned Communist Party activity in Russia). What happened after Nixon
wrote this book, however, was that wealth under Yeltsin got concentrated
into the hands of a few.
2. On page 152, Nixon says that countries in the 1990's were afraid of the possibility of a strong Germany and Japan:
resurgent Japanese military would cause great regional apprehensions.
Historical memories from World War II have not vanished. Despite
forty-five years of peaceful policies, the fear in Asia of Japan as a
major military power dwarfs European concerns about a united Germany."
I grew up in an offshoot of the Herbert W. Armstrong religious
movement. For years, Herbert Armstrong and his son Garner Ted
predicted that Germany would reunite and become a revived Nazi
dictatorship, which would be a significant part of the Beast power in
Revelation 13, as well as the aggressive Assyrian in the Book of
Isaiah. When the Berlin wall came tumbling down and Europe was
on the road to becoming a United States of Europe, Garner Ted Armstrong
essentially said that he told us so!
Nowadays, at least
as far as I can see, Germany does not look as if it will be a powerful
Nazi dictatorship anytime soon----and this is more than twenty years
after the fall of the Berlin wall. But, reading Nixon's 1992 book, I
learned that there were more people than Armstrongites in the early
1990's who feared a united Germany and a United States of Europe.
As Nixon says, there were lingering memories about the times when
Germany was a powerful and an aggressive nation, and countries in Europe
did not know what a newly united Germany----with a sizable
economy----would do. Regarding a United States of Europe, there were
apprehensions that this could be a formidable economic force.
did Nixon propose that the U.S. should do about a united Germany? On
page 137, Nixon essentially says that the United States should provide
the "political cover" that Germany needs for a "more active...foreign
policy." For Nixon, if the U.S. helps Germany to become more active in
the world, other countries would not fear Germany as much, for they'd
see that we're okay with Germany. It sounds to me like "the friend of
my friend is my friend."
3. On page 129, Nixon talks about a possible role for Eastern European countries in NATO:
Europe's only time-tested security structure, NATO should seek to find
ways to fill the security vacuum in Eastern Europe, particularly over
the next decade when the uncertainty centering on instability within the
former Soviet Union will run the highest. This does not mean that NATO
members should immediately extend its full Article 5 commitment----'an
armed attack on one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be
considered an attack on all of them'----to the new democracies. But it
does mean that we should think in more subtle terms than an
all-or-nothing guarantee. NATO, after all, functions at various levels,
including political consultation, military cooperation, and
participation in its integrated military command. Because they share
our values and because the current vacuum creates an incentive for
adventurism, the East European democracies must be brought into NATO's
security sphere without granting them immediate full partnership."
reason that this passage stood out to me was that it called to my mind
Charlie Gibson's 2008 interview with Republican Vice-Presidential
candidate Sarah Palin. As I talk about here, Palin was saying that Georgia and the Ukraine should be in NATO. This surprised me and a few other people I read.
At the time, Russia was going after Georgia. If Georgia were in NATO,
would NATO be obligated to fight Russia? And would a war against Russia
even be feasible, or desirable?
Palin should probably have read Nixon's discussion of NATO on page 129 of Seize the Moment.
Nixon was for cooperation between NATO and the Eastern European
countries, but not for a "you attack one Eastern European country, and
we consider that an attack on all of us" approach (my words). Maybe he
would have had the same ideas about Georgia and the Ukraine.
4. On page 164, Nixon mentions the loss of Chinese Communist dictator Mao Zedong's son:
the United States provided aid and troops to prevent Communist
victories in Korea and South Vietnam, the Communist Chinese sacrificed
tens of thousands of solders----including Mao Zedong's only son----to
support the aggression of North Korea and provided indispensable
economic and military assistance to the aggressors in North Vietnam."
are many things that I loathe about Mao----the Cultural Revolution, his
killings of millions of people, etc. But I do respect that his only
son went out to fight for the advancement of Communism, knowing that he
might die. There are enough politicians who try to save their own skin
or the skin of those they love: they may be military hawks, but they
themselves dodged going to war, or they are okay with sending other
people's kids to war but not their own. It's a mark of principle when a
leader is the opposite of this.
You can probably detect some
respect on Nixon's part for Mao in this case. Nixon in his books is
quite critical of Communism and Communists, but he does at times note
things that he finds admirable about them.
I'll probably talk more about China in tomorrow's post.
5. On pages 158-159, Nixon says that the U.S. partly has itself to blame for its trade deficit with Japan:
tremendous economic success represents an easy scapegoat for American
politicians seeking to deflect attention from our own economic
problems. First, the combination of a high federal deficit and a low
domestic savings rate requires capital imports, which, in turn, are
reflected in a trade deficit in goods and services. Second, many U.S.
companies lack the long-term horizons needed to cultivate the Japanese
markets. Third, since 95 percent of Japan's young people but only 75
percent of America's graduate from high school, we have failed to invest
sufficiently in our human capital. Some studies have pointed out that
even if Japan eliminated all its import barriers, the U.S. trade deficit
would drop by only $5-8 billion. They suggest that primarily the fault
is ours, not theirs."
In the above passage, Nixon appears to overlap with the economic views of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
Nixon, like many right-wingers, seems to portray a high deficit and low
personal savings as bad for the economy. Why? I think that he regards
a high deficit as bad because it sucks money out of the private sector:
money that could be used for private investment and production is
instead being used for an inefficient government program. And Nixon may
believe that people should save more because, once they have saved
enough money, they can use that money to pay for capital that builds
businesses. Or people's savings would be in the bank, where it would be
available to be loaned out to people who want to start businesses.
For Nixon, because we do not have enough capital ourselves, we rely on a
country like Japan to provide us with capital, contributing to the
And yet, Nixon also overlaps with Barack Obama's
view that the key to a strong economy is education. Mitt Romney was all
for education, too, but my impression during the 2012 campaign was that
Romney emphasized tax cuts as the key to economic recovery----a
trickle-down sort of approach----whereas Obama stressed government
investment in education as a way to prepare people for the high-skilled
jobs of the twenty-first century. Nixon, at least in my reading thus
far, does not say what the government should be doing about education,
but he did highlight its importance in terms of helping the U.S. to
become economically competitive.