(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 7)

Richard Nixon here offers readers the fourth book written after his memoirs; one that extends and combines the ideas he expressed previously in The Real War (1980), Real Peace (1984), and No More Vietnams (1985). Those books defined the substance of this one. 1999: Victory Without War is a treatment of the three ideas from the earlier books, applied to the last decade of the twentieth century.

These ideas are easily expressed if difficult to practice, simply because they make demands on Americans as a nation and as individuals. The first, the premise of The Real War, is that there is a real war going on between the United States and the Soviet Union, which is not necessarily always manifested as armed conflict. The war can be economic, social, or ideological. The victor in that war will be the most dedicated and resourceful of the two contestants. In order to win, Americans must do two things: recognize that the enemy is real and that the methods necessary to defeat him may not be those that have been traditionally acceptable to Americans.

The second idea, from Real Peace, is that there are two kinds of peace: real peace and perfect peace. Perfect peace, the complete lack of conflict between nations, cannot exist, or nations would not exist. Those who think that it can exist are deluding themselves. Real peace, however, can exist. Real peace depends upon the realization and the acknowledgment that there is conflict between nations and that conflict can be managed, and best managed, from a position of strength.

If the managed peace does not contain itself within the bounds of armed conflict, then armed conflict is inevitable. No More Vietnams offers a prescription for the avoidance of armed conflict: Make the machinery of aid and support a full expression of both national will and national ideals, with the clearly stated intention that those wills and ideals include support of democracies and resistance to totalitarian governments. In addition, it must be made clear that American goals will be supported by arms if necessary.

These notions of the core of United States foreign policy are ideas that Nixon has held for some time. While the previous three books can be seen as an expression of the former president’s views of the ideal foreign policy (both as he practiced it and how he would have it practiced now), 1999 is an expression of how that policy must be followed in the future. Deviation from it, which has taken place since the day Nixon left office, makes the demand for his ideas more urgent, the necessity of them more apparent.

To charge Nixon with writing 1999 simply to restate his earlier themes as a plan for the future instead of an assessment of the past is perhaps an easy accusation to make, but not a fair one. There is little in this book that is not essentially defined or at least strongly implied in the others, but 1999 is as much a result of the earlier works as a compilation of them. The combined power of these ideas merits another book, particularly as the notions set forth here are demanding ones.

The two introductory chapters set a familiar stage. In the middle third, Nixon’s arguments are presented as a “how-to” manual of foreign policy: “How to Deter Moscow,” “How to Compete with Moscow,” and “How to Negotiate with Moscow.” The foreign policy maintenance system must be constructed in that order: deter, compete, negotiate. This fundamental assumption about his outlook—that negotiation is the last step in the process, not the first—may be the most difficult aspect of Nixon’s vision to understand, but it is crucial. It gains impetus from the fundamental notion that Americans must negotiate from a position of strength. The strength must be gained through deterrence and competition.

Deterrence centers on nuclear weapons issues. Nixon believes that those who prefer the path of disarmament are unable, or unwilling, to recognize his point about perfect peace: “Arms controllers fail to understand the basic fact that since arms are not the cause of war, arms control cannot produce peace.” This inability to recognize the real problems engendered by the possession of nuclear weapons prevents the production of deterrence. Americans must be dedicated enough to ensure their superiority. Nixon supports this contention through a historical survey that runs the gamut of the post-World War II world from Korea to Cairo, demonstrating each time that nuclear superiority prevented war. The maintenance of deterrence in a time when the Soviets no longer lag behind the United States as much as they once did brings Nixon to the specifics of arms control: Equality, warhead-to-target ratio, modernization, and verification are the keys to negotiation. The rationale for each key element is logically and forcefully presented in what is the most compelling section of the book. If the United States offers the Soviets an agreement, it must be an agreement that they would be forced to accept, because to refuse it would leave them worse off than no deal at all. What if somehow they refuse the offer they cannot refuse? If...

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(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 7)

Booklist. LXXXIV, May 15, 1988, p. 1370.

Kirkus Reviews. LVI, March 15, 1988, p. 435.

Library Journal. CXIII, June 1, 1988, p. 101.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. May 8, 1988, p. 7.

The New Republic. CXCVIII, May 23, 1988, p. 36.

The New York Review of Books. XXXV, July 21, 1988, p. 17.

The New York Times. CXXXVII, April 11, 1988, p. C17.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIII, April 17, 1988, p. 7.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIII, April 1, 1988, p. 71.

The Wall Street Journal. April 28, 1988, p. 26.

West Coast Review of Books. XIII, July, 1988, p. 41.