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Remarks on the CBS Radio Network: "To Keep the Peace"

October 19, 1968

Anyone who travels extensively abroad comes back with one indelible impression: whether peace and freedom survive in the world depends on what we do here in America—the leadership we give, the decisions we make.

Of all the tasks facing the next Administration, none is greater than this: establishing the basis for a just and a lasting peace.

We have lived for a generation now with the abrasive tensions of the Cold War, with the threat of nuclear weapons, with the explosive instabilities that rose from a rapid dismantling of the old colonial empires. We have fought World War II, Korea, Vietnam; we have poured out $150 billion in foreign aid; we spend nearly 80 billion dollars in a year on arms —and still we live in a world in which tyranny and greed and fanaticism march behind the barrels of guns.

It's time for a new beginning.

It's time for a new commitment to preventive diplomacy, to persistently seeking out ways in which wars can be averted and peace can be strengthened.

It's time for a creative new approach to our structure of alliances, not only adapting that structure to the changed conditions of the world today, but also enlisting our allies more effectively in achieving our common aims.

In policy planning it's time for a determined shift of emphasis from crisis management to crisis prevention. The key to peace lies in anticipating trouble, not merely responding to it. As part of our missile defense, we have a Distant Early Warning System stretched across Canada; we also need a Diplomatic Early Warning System to cope with threats to the peace while they still are manageable short of war.

Within the term of the next President I believe the foundation for a lasting peace can be laid. But we cannot have peace by wishing for it, however fervently we wish. We cannot secure it by proclamations or declarations or pious exhortations.

Peace today requires strength of will, strength of arms, and strength of purpose. It has to be pursued with a combination of relentless passion, calm reason, and cold logic. By itself neither logic nor reason nor passion is enough.

In its preoccupation with the war in Vietnam the present Administration has lost America's leadership in the world. If we are to make progress toward a durable peace, we must recover that leadership.

Increasingly today, we find ourselves confronting a paradox of American power: never has a nation had such power, and never has a nation sought to use its power for better purposes—but seldom has a nation been so mistrusted in its purposes or so frustrated in its efforts.

Our example has lost its fire. Our leadership has lost its drive. The world has lost its respect for our judgment, its faith in our ideals, its confidence in our dollar, its trust in our word.

If we are to regain our lost leadership, there are four things we must do.

We must see the world as it is, not as it was or as we wish that it were.

We must face facts with a new realism.

We must speak with a new candor.

We must act with a new urgency.

We live in a new world.

It is a world of new nations and a world of new people. Half the world's nations have been born since World War II, and half the world's people have been born since World War II.

It is a world of new ideas. The old isms—communism, socialism, anticolonialism—that summoned men to revolution after World War II, have lost their appeal.

But if the new generation is no longer prisoner of the old isms, neither is it sold on the American idea.

When people abroad look at America, they see violence, intolerance, lawlessness; and too often they see us as stodgy champions of the status quo rather than what we are: the boldest architects of change and progress in the world's history.

Keeping the peace is inseparable from defending freedom. If we hope to inspire others to the defense of freedom, we must show a decent respect for the uses of freedom. If we expect others to follow our lead in keeping the peace abroad, we must show ourselves capable of maintaining peace at home. If our ideas are to command respect from a new world in search of a direction, they have to be made relevant to the needs of that world.

The time has come when America must reappraise—in a most searching, measured, and fundamental way—its role and its responsibilities in the world and the resources which we and other nations can bring to the task of keeping peace and defending freedom.

Economically, diplomatically, militarily, the time has come to insist that others must assume the responsibilities which are rightfully theirs. We must do our full share. But the free world can no more afford to base its security and prosperity on a system of permanent welfarism abroad than the progress of our own people can be based on permanent welfarism here at home. Peace is everybody's business, and the pursuit of peace is everybody's responsibility.

To insist that others do more is not a retreat into a new isolationism. Rather, it faces up to one of the blunt facts of life in the world today: that even if the United States had the will, it no longer has the capacity to do all that needs to be done. If the other nations in the free world want to remain free, they can no longer afford the luxury of relying on American power.

When President Eisenhower left office, the United States held a massive advantage in strategic nuclear power—and it was that advantage which enabled President Kennedy to face down the Soviet leaders in the Cuban missile confrontation. But under the short-sighted defense policies of the present Administration, that advantage has been dissipated; a determined Soviet drive for supremacy has very nearly achieved its goal. As a result, even where the thinly stretched forces of the United States can be deployed, they no longer are backed by the decisive nuclear superiority which in past crises made our power fully credible.

In Europe—as I indicated in a major address last weekend—NATO must be strengthened, with our European allies not only asked for a greater contribution but also given a greater voice in the policies of the alliance.

Southeast Asia presents a special case because of its proximity to Communist China, its history of conflict, and the designs of Hanoi—which has troops fighting in Laos and Thailand, as well as in South Vietnam.

But if Asia has special needs, it also presents a special opportunity.

All around the rim of China, nations of non-Communist Asia have been growing phenomenally in wealth and achieving a new stability. It's in non- Communist Asia that the world's most exciting records of economic development are being written. At the same time there is a developing spirit of Asian regionalism, with old rivalries giving way to new ventures in economic and cultural cooperation.

Almost without exception, the leaders of non-Communist Asia recognize the threat from Communist China. They want protection against it.

The American commitment in Vietnam has bought time for this to take place. The time bought at such terrible cost must now be used to ensure that any future aggression is held in check—without another unilateral American commitment on the pattern of Vietnam.

I look back over a generation of Americans that has been called on to fight three wars—and I know that for the next generation, we must do better.

In Korea and again in Vietnam the United States furnished most of the money and most of the arms in defense of freedom—and also most of the men. We are a rich nation and a powerful nation, and we have 200 million people. But there are 2 billion people in the free world—and it's time we made sure that in the future we help others fight their wars, if necessary, but that we don't do the fighting for them.

The nations of non-Communist Asia must be brought to accept the need for their own mutual security arrangement, able to deal both with old-style wars and with new—with traditional wars in which armies cross over national boundaries, and with the so-called "wars of national liberation" in which they burrow under them in the guise of revolution.

It is not for the United States to prescribe the pattern for such an arrangement; this must be determined by the Asian nations themselves. But whatever its form, the important thing is that the Asian nations themselves be prepared in the future to make the initial response to any new aggression in their area.

This has a purpose beyond sparing American lives and beyond even ensuring that aggression would be effectively resisted at a time when the American people would be deeply reluctant to become involved in another Asian war.

Its larger purpose is this: if another world war is to be prevented, every step possible must be taken to avert direct confrontation between the nuclear powers. Whenever the United States sends its forces in to block a Communist advance, the danger of a confrontation between nuclear powers arises. This danger can be reduced by the development of regional pacts in which other nations undertake, among themselves, to contain aggression in their own areas. The regional pact thus becomes a buffer separating the distant great power from the immediate threat—and the danger of a local conflict escalating into world war is thereby reduced.

In the case of Asia by joining forces the non-Communist nations would also lessen the temptation to Chinese adventuring, and thus speed the day when Communist China could return to the family of nations.

Vietnam has been a profoundly sobering lesson in the limits of U.S. power. But it is not enough to lament these limits or to criticize the commitment or to wish that history had dealt differently with that tormented corner of the world.

What we must do is to work—with a sense of urgency that has so far been lacking—toward ensuring that we have no more Vietnams.

If this requires concerting the power of the free world, it also requires tapping the best brains of the free world.

All around the globe there are far-sighted statesmen, men of extraordinary vision and extraordinary brilliance—in small nations as well as large.

We can't afford go-it-alone diplomacy any more than we can afford go-it-alone defense. When peace requires mobilizing the support of the world's people, we cannot continue to neglect the enormous resources that the ideas and insights of these leaders represent.

As we look to the future, it is clear that the years just ahead must be a time of intensive and sustained negotiation with the Soviet Union. The primary purpose of this is not to secure Soviet friendship, though friendship we seek; the primary purpose is, more modestly and more realistically, to seek out those areas of mutual interest on which accommodation can be reached, while making it abundantly evident that the profit has gone out of aggression.

If the Soviets believe they can extend their influence by arms or the threat of arms, their interest in peaceful agreements will be limited. To the extent they become convinced that they cannot win their way by force, their interest in peaceful agreements will increase. But in any case they do share with us a common interest in preventing the dread specter of nuclear holocaust; as their economy grows richer and more complex, they share a greater interest in stable arrangements for international trade. Faced with frictions and rivalries within the Communist bloc, they may from time to time seek respite from the cold war tensions they themselves have created.

Looking further into the future, we must also anticipate eventual conversations with the leaders of Communist China. In the short run we should not reward China's present tactics with offers of trade or recognition; but taking the long view, we simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates, and threaten its neighbors. There is no place on this small planet for a billion of its potentially most able people to live in angry isolation.

The world has a long way to go before the rule of reason prevails in international relations, before those who seek domination renounce their ambitions and agree to respect the rights of their neighbors. But rather than grow discouraged, we should grow firmer in our resolution; precisely because the world does contain persistent threats of war, we should redouble our efforts for peace.

APP NOTE: From section six of the volume "Nixon Speaks Out" titled, "Quest for Peace".

Richard Nixon, Remarks on the CBS Radio Network: "To Keep the Peace" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project