American Foreign Policy Since Nixon
The Nixon-Kissinger foreign policy reformulation and their attempts to achieve “peace with honor” in Vietnam constituted largely improvised responses to both domestic dissensus and a series of unwelcome international changes that had begun to erode America’s preeminent global position. If Richard Nixon had been elected in 1960 instead of 1968 he probably would have pursued a policy of anticommunist global containment largely indistinguishable from that of Harry S. Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. Furthermore, his efforts would have been sustained by a broad domestic consensus regarding the interest, goals, and instruments of American foreign policy. Members of the Carter administration shared the perception that the American people, traumatized by Vietnam and Watergate and frightened by inflation and the energy crisis, had lost faith in themselves and their institutions. Nixon’s pursuit of superpower detente at a time of growing Soviet strength risked condemnation by the “new majority” as dangerously retreatist.