I finished Richard Nixon's 1980 book, The Real War.
In the 1990 introduction to his next book, Real Peace, Nixon states the following:
"Real Peace was written five years after The Real War.
During his first years in office President Reagan had vigorously
addressed the crisis in superpower relations I had described in the
earlier book. He had undertaken a massive defense buildup and was
taking a more assertive line against Soviet aggression."
Indeed, President Ronald Reagan did do many of the things that Nixon proposed in The Real War.
Reagan sought to redress the problem of American military inferiority
to the Soviet Union. His Administration offered military aid to
anti-Communist insurgents in such countries as Nicaragua and
Afghanistan. And Reagan offered support to anti-Communist regimes that
did not have stellar human rights records, on the supposition that these
countries would be much worse off if the Communists were to take them
But there were some things that Nixon talked about in The Real War that Reagan did not do until his second term.
Nixon promotes detente in this book, a concept of negotiation with the
Soviet Union, but Reagan was long a critic of detente. Nixon does not
say this, but he may have had people like Reagan in mind when he wrote
in The Real War that detente was misunderstood----that it was
not a policy of naievity about the Soviets but actually entailed a
degree of toughness on the part of the United States. Reagan negotiated more with the Soviets in his second term.
Nixon talks in The Real World
about the importance of the U.S. cultivating a relationship with
Communist China, which had a poor relationship with the Soviet Union.
Did Reagan do that? I had to do an Internet search to find out, for I
hadn't heard or read a great deal about President Reagan's stance on Red
China. According to this article,
Red China was upset that the U.S. was selling arms to Taiwan, but
Reagan met them halfway by limiting (albeit not ending) the sales. The
article also states that, under Reagan, "China and the United States
worked together closely to deter Soviet aggression in Afghanistan,
sharing intelligence and sending arms to the mujahedin", that "the
Reagan administration sold avionics kits to upgrade China's F-8 fighter
as well as improve submarine torpedoes and artillery shells", and that
"Reagan's speeches in China emphasized American values of freedom and
democracy and highlighted common interests in trade and anti-Soviet
strategy." Reagan apparently exploited the Sino-Soviet rift to
make gains for the West in the Cold War, something that probably met
with Richard Nixon's approval.
What did Nixon think about
Ronald Reagan calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire"? I don't know
for sure, so I'm just guessing. Nixon explicitly treats the Cold War as
a conflict between good and evil in the last chapter of his book. Yet,
Nixon earlier in the book is against alienating the Soviets by treating
them disrespectfully, since he regards the Soviets as insecure people
who desperately want to be taken seriously on the world stage. My guess
is that Nixon was not against Reagan calling the Soviet Union an evil
empire, as long as Reagan did not trivialize or disrespect the Soviets
in whatever interactions he had with them.
An issue on which Nixon and Reagan differed: Nixon on page 218 of The Real War calls for reintroducing the military draft, which he ended as President. Reagan as President, however, opposed bringing back the draft.
One thing that interested me in reading The Real War
was that Nixon in 1980 did not expect for the Cold War to end anytime
soon, even were the policies that he proposed to be implemented. On
page 331, Nixon states: "Over the longer term we can encourage peaceful
evolution within the Soviet Union itself. However, this is a task not
of decades but of generations. Pressed too rapidly, it would bring a
brutal repression; developed gradually, so that it less directly
threatens those in power at any given time, it can gradually show
results, just as it did under the Tsars in the nineteenth century." But
the Soviet Union changed, not over generations, but within a decade,
namely, the 1980's. And yet, even after the Soviet Union changed, Nixon
had the same concerns that he expressed on page 331 of The Real War: that, if the U.S. does not play its cards right, Russia could fall into the hands of brutal Communists.
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