Your humble servant had the great privilege of being a speechwriter and lawyer for Richard Nixon in the last year of his presidency, 1973-74. I am well aware that he was forced from office and that the powerful people of that era had a low opinion of him.
I am also aware that few would question that in terms of his foreign policy achievements, he and his foreign policy guru, Henry A. Kissinger, working with Brent Scowcroft, were in a class by themselves: opening Red China, wrestling out détente with the Soviet Union, saving Israel and laying a foundation for a durable peace between Egypt and Israel, negotiating a peace treaty ending — temporarily — the war in Vietnam, bringing home the POWs.
These were gigantic triumphs, showing a mastery of diplomacy and defense and a hard-earned scholarship in how the world works.
Now, Mr. Nixon has been out of office for forty-one years and deceased for twenty-one years. But I keep asking myself, as the U.S. heads into one foreign relations catastrophe after another — Islamic State, militant Russia invading its neighbors, anarchy and terrorists riding roughshod through large parts of Africa and the Middle East, Iran getting close to a bomb and becoming a regional terrorist superpower — what would Nixon do if he were in the White House? What would this maestro of foreign and defense policy do now that we have reaped the whirlwind that Mr. Obama and some of his predecessors have sown?
I have read most of RN’s books, some of Kissinger’s masterpieces, and I had the great honor of discussing the Middle East, militant Islam, and Israel just man to man with RN when he was in San Clemente after he resigned. And I have discussed it with two of my smartest friends, who also worked at the Nixon White House, John R. Coyne, Jr. and Aram Bakshian, Jr.
This is what we basically came up with:
First of all, RN would not have allowed the situation to get so totally screwed up to start with. He knew well that the Arab and Muslim worlds of North Africa, the Mideast and Southwest Africa were highly fractionated, riven with rivalries and sectarian rage. He knew they were fragile and required a strong, tough hand to keep them in line, even though that was not the way of a Great Britain or a modern France.
He would not have smashed the egg of Iraq and then tried to put it back together with the bloody glue of American lives. He would not have egged on an “Arab Spring,” one of the biggest frauds of all time. He would have known that kicking out the strong secular men would lead to the rise of Islamists of unlimited energy and rage and brutality.
He would not have worked to kick out Qaddafi, whom he detested but considered necessary. He would never in a lifetime have aided in kicking out our pal Mubarak, dictator of Egypt, no matter how much American journalists loved the excitement of the deadly “Arab Spring” Revolution.
And he certainly would have backed the Shah one hundred percent, or enough to allow a transition to power by someone less hateful and dangerous than Khomeini. He would have considered Iran far too important to fall into the lap of people who hate us and are committed to terror.
And now that everything has fallen into the toilet, what would he do?
I believe that after careful consideration with Drs. Kissinger and Scowcroft, after assurance from the top minds in the field in consensus that Iran was on a smooth course to getting the nuclear bomb, he would not even consider allowing Iran to get the bomb. He would know the mullahs well enough to understand that if they say they will use the bomb to annihilate Israel, they probably will. He would not even remotely make a fake, absolutely unverifiable “deal” with a regime that denies our understanding of the “deal” on a subject of life and death. He would never in a million years allow Iran to get a nuclear bomb even as their leaders scream “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
He would realize it is incomparably better to launch 200 cruise missiles at Fordo and other Iranian nuke sites than to wait years until Iran has its own nukes and Korean rockets and can vaporize Paris or London or even New York as the fulfillment of a solemn religious duty. Again, he would do this after consideration with experienced, brilliant minds like Kissinger and Scowcroft.
Yes, I think RN would upon taking counsel go to war to prevent Iran from getting nukes, just as FDR would have bombed every city in Germany to rubble (even beyond what we did) to keep the Nazis from getting a nuclear bomb.
After he did that, he would build an anti-missile defense for Israel, Europe, and North America that shielded us for decades while we kept suppressing Iran’s urge to go nuclear.
He simply would not allow a regime that promises to use nukes against us and our friends to get them.
What about the Islamic State? Long, long ago, as Mr. Nixon petted his Irish Setter, King Timahoe, I asked Mr Nixon what he would do about a certain set of Islamic terrorists. I won’t say which ones. “I don’t know what the solution to that is,” he said, “except to hang ’em all.”
Of course he was exaggerating with his customary good humor, but his point was sound: the goal was not jobs or color TVs for terrorists who were truly committed to terror. The goal was to send them to eternity. It was not about reforming them. It was about terminating them with extreme prejudice.
Mr. Nixon loved America. He had a sense of history. He knew that there was no one else in the world who could indefinitely maintain the good in the struggle between good and evil. He believed in Pax Americana. He did not think he could kowtow and ass-kiss his way into victory against evil. He believed in leading, not in that nonsense of “leading from behind.”
What would Nixon do? Whatever it took.
He had no hesitation to bomb Hanoi. That was a far less terrifying situation than the mullahs getting a nuclear weapon. But North Vietnam was an explicit ally of a nuclear power, Russia. Nixon bombed them anyway. Tehran would know he meant business, and a verifiable, meaningful arrangement might come out or else the Tomahawks. He sure would not trust the world’s future to people who call for “Death to America.”
What would Nixon do? He would keep us and our freedom alive. He would not even allow the glimmer of a chance of a terrorist state with nuclear weapons.
Mr. Nixon often said before the world and to me that his goal was to leave “a lasting structure of peace” in the world. With a deft shake of his head that meant there could be no disagreement by anyone on this point. To Mr. Nixon, a structure of peace in this world could not possibly include a terrorist state sworn to genocide with nuclear weapons. “Could anyone be this stupid?” Mr. Nixon would have asked. God help us.