Monday, July 6, 2009

In Search of Real Peace

Although written for a bipolar world, Richard Nixon's Real Peace provides some lessons in the principles of realism as we head into an increasingly multipolar world. Written in 1983, Nixon's primary concern was the Soviet Union and how to coexist with the communist empire without either side resorting to nuclear war in the face of conflicts. However, the problems of arms control, terrorism, and dangerous ideologies are still an issue in the 21st century as they were in 20th, and thus Nixon provides us with a launching point as we maneuver our way through the new century.

Much of Nixon's advice is echoed in Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, such as:
"A democratic country with a weak economy will have a weak foreign policy."
Kennedy addresses this topic often in his history of Great Power relations, and this advice is especially important at this time in our history as our economy struggles out of recession. Our ability to project our power depends upon our economic success; if our economy continues in its current slump, then our foreign policy options become limited.

Nixon also addresses the issue of how we deal with the developing world:
"The critics - both hawks and doves - fail to recognize a fundamental truth about nations in the developing world: they cannot have progress without security, and they cannot have security without progress."
We have to give developing nations economic and military aid so they can stand on their own two feet. By improving the situation of the peoples in these developing nations, we help our own interests as well by creating a trading partner who has the wealth to purchase American goods, but it also helps to prevent the spread of Islamism and other dangerous ideologies, which foster terrorism and totalitarian regimes, because these ideologies prey on the poor and hopeless (inciting revolutions which leave the people in possibly worse conditions than before).

In conjunction with trade, we must spread our message to the people of the developing - and developed - world. Nixon makes the argument that we must strengthen public diplomacy programs like Radio Liberty which broadcast our message across the globe. Our ideological enemies will not stop their propaganda, even in times of peace, so we must step up to counter their message. Ours is a message of hope and liberty, which Nixon says "proclaim[s] the promise of freedom," that resonates with hearts and minds.

There are several other sound principles in this work, but I'll leave off with this one:
"They fail to recognize the profound truth of British historian Paul Johnson's dictum: 'It is the essence of geopolitics to be able to distinguish between different degrees of evil.'"
We cannot divide the world into monolithic blocs, whether it was Communism during the Cold War, or Islamic fundamentalism today. Just as there were differences between the communist powers of the Cold War era, there are differences within the Islamic community today. We must use those differences to our advantage, just as Nixon used the differences between the Soviet Union and China.

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