57. Memorandum From President Nixon to His Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

A general reaction to the State of the World message2 is that it might be strengthened to knock down the assumption that is gaining disturbing currency abroad and in the United States—that this Administration is on an irreversible course of not only getting out of Vietnam but of reducing our commitments around the world. I realize that this thesis is answered in several places with phrases like “This is not a retreat from our obligations but a sharing of obligations,” but this is not enough. I think high up in the lead of the introductory statement should be some strong assertions to the effect that the United States recognizes that because of our economic and military position the fate of freedom and peace in the last third of this century will depend upon how we meet our responsibilities in the world. We did not ask for this role but now because the force of circumstances has imposed it upon us we shall meet our responsibilities. However, we believe that our goal of nations [Page 187] living in independence and freedom in a peaceful world will be better achieved if other nations assume responsibilities to the extent of their capabilities just as we do.

In other words, get back to my theme that the Nixon doctrine rather than being a device to get rid of America’s world role is one which is devised to make it possible for us to play a role—and play it better, more effectively than if we continued the policy of the past in which we assume such a dominant position. I would suggest that you take a look at the Colorado Springs speech3—some of the tone and strength of that speech on this issue is very much needed in the introductory portion.

I realize that your staff may well object to this because the peacenik types who will be primarily the reading audience for this report will want to find any evidences possible which will give comfort to their feeling that “the United States should reduce its world role and start taking care of the ghettoes instead of worrying about Afghanistan.”

For over twenty years, however, I have been saying “that we can have the best social programs in the world—ones that will end poverty, clean up our air, water and land, provide minimum income, etc., and it isn’t going to make any difference if we are not around to enjoy it.” I am not suggesting that this be put into the report in such specific, blunt terms but the thought must be put in just as strongly because I feel that the people of the country and even more so our troubled allies in Asia and Europe, as well as our potential enemies, need to hear this.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 325, President’s Annual Review of U.S. Foreign Policy, 2/8/70, Vol. I. No classification marking.
  2. Reference is to the foreign policy report submitted to Congress on February 18; see Document 60.
  3. See Document 27.