The Nixon Doctrine: A differentiated assessment of U.S. national interests (case study in presidential dominance)

Date of Completion

January 2005


American Studies|History, United States|Political Science, General




President Nixon's doctrine “occupies a unique place in the annals of American diplomacy” and has “no peer” in American history. 1 Richard Nixon's history, by definition, offers an incomplete and thereby distorted picture of his presidency. The examination of the Nixon Doctrine, as an articulation of Nixon's foreign policy developed within six months of his inauguration, and the seeking of a philosophical as well as practical reorientation of our foreign policy lends itself to testing the hypothesis that beliefs of presidents are the determinant bringing about such a doctrine. ^ I believe doctrine to be a distinct form of executive direct action in at least three ways: strategy, substance, and policy process. Utilizing a predominantly descriptive approach, focusing on the devising and articulation of the Nixon Doctrine, I establish what the doctrine was intended to do, namely initiate a “new era of negotiations.” Such an intent was meant to move the United States away, conceptually and politically, from the post-World War II view of the international world as dominated by two mutually antagonistic spheres unable to interact, to one in which both the interaction and the method of interaction was reformed. For Nixon, bipolarity became anachronistic. Multipolarity, his pentagonal plan, incorporating Europe, China, and Japan into the Soviet and U.S. dialog, linked with economic and diplomatic methods of interaction would become the new global framework. ^ By tracing the origins, intentions, and results of the Nixon Doctrine, this study reveals that doctrines encompass foreign policy plans of action. Such a study is important in providing both scholars and policy makers with information about the relationship between presidential concepts of national security strategy, policy, and political change. The personal vision of a president, if conceptualized clearly, articulated to a global audience, and implemented as a unified administrative doctrinal pronouncement, has the ability (and obligation) to reorient foreign policy making. ^ 1Crabb, Cecil. 1982. Doctrines of American Foreign Policy: Their Meaning, Role, and Future. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 5/6.^