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04/18/2002

Richard Nixon - The Middle East

Richard Nixon has not received a lot of favorable press recently,
with the release of more White House tapes, but no one can
knock his political acumen when it came to foreign affairs, and
his writings in his later years largely stand up to the passage of
time.

So I picked up his 1994 book “Beyond Peace” and now pass on
some of the former president’s thoughts on the Middle East,
including where the West’s experience in the Balkans contains
some lessons for our current travails. I offer the following with
limited comment and for the purpose of showing how prescient
many of his musings proved to be, as well as to point out some of
the issues that the West and the U.S. continue to fail to address,
as what may have once been soluble problems now verge on the
explosive.

---

[1994]

“The large-scale dispersal of arms to eager buyers in the Middle
East, the Persian Gulf, and elsewhere creates a time bomb with
direct implications for Europe and America. Europeans are
deeply concerned about refugees from Eastern Europe and
economic migration from North Africa ”

Nixon quotes Belgian Foreign Minister Mark Eyshen, who
during the Gulf War advocated a strong NATO, as opposed to
the growing sentiment at the time that the organization should be
replaced by newer, Euro-centric outlets.

“The European Community was an economic giant, a political
dwarf, and a military worm.”

Nixon adds, “America took the lead (in the Gulf) (but) the
collective indecisiveness of the major European powers have
frustrated an effective response to the violent and tragic breakup
of the former Yugoslavia. Europe can unite behind a common
purpose only if the United States continues to play a leading
role.”

On the Japanese and their role in the Gulf and other foreign
missions:

“Like the Germans, the Japanese have refused to provide military
personnel for U.N. peacekeeping operations on the grounds that
their constitution limits the use of their armed forces to the
defense of the home islands. This line sounds increasingly like a
self-serving rationalization. No one should expect the wealthy
Japanese to supply foreign aid and peacekeeping support on
demand, like cash at an automatic teller machine. No one should
expect them to do other than act according to their interests, as
great nations must do. But if they want to be taken seriously in
the world and to share fully in the fruits of global stability, they
must use their vast power to promote the interests of other
countries as well as their own.”

On Turkey:

“One Muslim nation that deserves its place in a full partnership
with the United States is Turkey, whose recent emergence as a
major diplomatic player in the Gulf region has been a highly
positive development

“Regardless of objections from the anti-Turkish Greek lobby in
the United States, we should increase our economic and military
cooperation with Turkey. It can play a pivotal role as a bridge
between the Muslim and Western worlds and can help check
Iranian advances in the Middle East ”

[In case you ever wondered where your editor’s pro-Turkey
stance originated.]

On Iran and Iraq:

“With their vast oil wealth, and in view of the weakness of Saudi
Arabia and the other Gulf states, the Iraqi and Iranian regimes
will be in a position to threaten the Gulf indefinitely.
Consequently, the United States should assume the responsibility
of guaranteeing Gulf security with its military power

“Because these regimes cannot openly embrace the United States
for fear of inciting domestic violence, we should look the other
way when they fail to follow our lead on other international
issues. It is more important that they work with us on Gulf
security issues.

“ (The Gulf states) are military midgets in comparison with
their Iraqi and Iranian neighbors. The United States must accept
the fact that it is the only Western power with the military
resources to project force and block Iranian and Iraqi advances in
the region.

“ While Iraq gave us the time to prepare, the next aggressor
probably will not make the same mistake. [Nixon then discussed
the need to pre-position as many armaments as possible, which
the U.S. is frantically attempting to do more of in places like
Qatar.]

[On the siege of Sarajevo, particularly the massacre in February
1994 of shoppers and their children, for which Nixon blames the
West in not acting sooner.]

“It is an awkward but unavoidable truth that had the citizens of
Sarajevo been predominantly Christian or Jewish, the civilized
world would not have permitted the siege to reach the point it did
on February 5, when a Serbian shell landed in the crowded
marketplace

“The siege of Sarajevo can have a redeeming character only if
the West learns two things as a result. The first is that
enlightened peoples cannot be selective about condemning
aggression and genocide. When the communist Khmer Rouge
massacred two million Cambodians in the late 1970s,
Americans’ outrage was muted The situation in Cambodia, it
seemed, was too fraught with contradiction, especially for those
Americans who had opposed our efforts to defeat the
communists who carried out the massacre

“(The U.S. failure to act early on in Bosnia) tarnished our
reputation as an evenhanded player on the international stage and
contributed to an image promoted by extreme Muslim
fundamentalists that the West is callous to the fate of Muslim
nations but protective of Christian and Jewish nations *[Ed.
The admission this week by the Dutch government that it
abandoned the Muslims of Srebrenica in ‘95 is a telling example
of this.]

“The nightmare scenario invoked by some, of fanatical Islam on
a collision course with the West, will come true only if
fundamentalist forces take over the Muslim world, (however)
Fundamentalist regimes are still a minority, comprising only 10
percent of the Islamic world’s total population. If the peoples of
the Muslim world are able to chart their own destinies, extreme
fundamentalism will not triumph [Ed. Of course this hasn’t
been the case, except in Turkey, to a great extent.]

“Whittaker Chambers wrote that communism was a faith and that
it was only as strong as the failure of all other faiths. Muslim
fundamentalism is a strong faith. Its appeal is religious, not
secular. It appeals to the soul, not the body. Secular Western
values cannot compete with this faith. Neither can secular
Muslim values. In the clash of civilizations, the fact that we are
the strongest and richest nation in history is not enough. What
will be decisive is the power of the great ideas, religious and
secular, that made us a great nation. Though the West and the
Muslims have profound differences in their cultural and
historical development, we can learn from each other, studying
the reasons for our past successes and failures.”

Well, regarding this last point, I wish it were possible.
Unfortunately, other forces, even if but a small minority, have
hijacked the agenda. The only thing that will change the future
at this point would be the emergence of new, modern leaders in
the Arab world. None have to date stepped forward.

Next week, a look at Henry Kissinger and his Mid East shuttle
diplomacy of 1973-4.

Brian Trumbore



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-04/18/2002-      
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Hot Spots

04/18/2002

Richard Nixon - The Middle East

Richard Nixon has not received a lot of favorable press recently,
with the release of more White House tapes, but no one can
knock his political acumen when it came to foreign affairs, and
his writings in his later years largely stand up to the passage of
time.

So I picked up his 1994 book “Beyond Peace” and now pass on
some of the former president’s thoughts on the Middle East,
including where the West’s experience in the Balkans contains
some lessons for our current travails. I offer the following with
limited comment and for the purpose of showing how prescient
many of his musings proved to be, as well as to point out some of
the issues that the West and the U.S. continue to fail to address,
as what may have once been soluble problems now verge on the
explosive.

---

[1994]

“The large-scale dispersal of arms to eager buyers in the Middle
East, the Persian Gulf, and elsewhere creates a time bomb with
direct implications for Europe and America. Europeans are
deeply concerned about refugees from Eastern Europe and
economic migration from North Africa ”

Nixon quotes Belgian Foreign Minister Mark Eyshen, who
during the Gulf War advocated a strong NATO, as opposed to
the growing sentiment at the time that the organization should be
replaced by newer, Euro-centric outlets.

“The European Community was an economic giant, a political
dwarf, and a military worm.”

Nixon adds, “America took the lead (in the Gulf) (but) the
collective indecisiveness of the major European powers have
frustrated an effective response to the violent and tragic breakup
of the former Yugoslavia. Europe can unite behind a common
purpose only if the United States continues to play a leading
role.”

On the Japanese and their role in the Gulf and other foreign
missions:

“Like the Germans, the Japanese have refused to provide military
personnel for U.N. peacekeeping operations on the grounds that
their constitution limits the use of their armed forces to the
defense of the home islands. This line sounds increasingly like a
self-serving rationalization. No one should expect the wealthy
Japanese to supply foreign aid and peacekeeping support on
demand, like cash at an automatic teller machine. No one should
expect them to do other than act according to their interests, as
great nations must do. But if they want to be taken seriously in
the world and to share fully in the fruits of global stability, they
must use their vast power to promote the interests of other
countries as well as their own.”

On Turkey:

“One Muslim nation that deserves its place in a full partnership
with the United States is Turkey, whose recent emergence as a
major diplomatic player in the Gulf region has been a highly
positive development

“Regardless of objections from the anti-Turkish Greek lobby in
the United States, we should increase our economic and military
cooperation with Turkey. It can play a pivotal role as a bridge
between the Muslim and Western worlds and can help check
Iranian advances in the Middle East ”

[In case you ever wondered where your editor’s pro-Turkey
stance originated.]

On Iran and Iraq:

“With their vast oil wealth, and in view of the weakness of Saudi
Arabia and the other Gulf states, the Iraqi and Iranian regimes
will be in a position to threaten the Gulf indefinitely.
Consequently, the United States should assume the responsibility
of guaranteeing Gulf security with its military power

“Because these regimes cannot openly embrace the United States
for fear of inciting domestic violence, we should look the other
way when they fail to follow our lead on other international
issues. It is more important that they work with us on Gulf
security issues.

“ (The Gulf states) are military midgets in comparison with
their Iraqi and Iranian neighbors. The United States must accept
the fact that it is the only Western power with the military
resources to project force and block Iranian and Iraqi advances in
the region.

“ While Iraq gave us the time to prepare, the next aggressor
probably will not make the same mistake. [Nixon then discussed
the need to pre-position as many armaments as possible, which
the U.S. is frantically attempting to do more of in places like
Qatar.]

[On the siege of Sarajevo, particularly the massacre in February
1994 of shoppers and their children, for which Nixon blames the
West in not acting sooner.]

“It is an awkward but unavoidable truth that had the citizens of
Sarajevo been predominantly Christian or Jewish, the civilized
world would not have permitted the siege to reach the point it did
on February 5, when a Serbian shell landed in the crowded
marketplace

“The siege of Sarajevo can have a redeeming character only if
the West learns two things as a result. The first is that
enlightened peoples cannot be selective about condemning
aggression and genocide. When the communist Khmer Rouge
massacred two million Cambodians in the late 1970s,
Americans’ outrage was muted The situation in Cambodia, it
seemed, was too fraught with contradiction, especially for those
Americans who had opposed our efforts to defeat the
communists who carried out the massacre

“(The U.S. failure to act early on in Bosnia) tarnished our
reputation as an evenhanded player on the international stage and
contributed to an image promoted by extreme Muslim
fundamentalists that the West is callous to the fate of Muslim
nations but protective of Christian and Jewish nations *[Ed.
The admission this week by the Dutch government that it
abandoned the Muslims of Srebrenica in ‘95 is a telling example
of this.]

“The nightmare scenario invoked by some, of fanatical Islam on
a collision course with the West, will come true only if
fundamentalist forces take over the Muslim world, (however)
Fundamentalist regimes are still a minority, comprising only 10
percent of the Islamic world’s total population. If the peoples of
the Muslim world are able to chart their own destinies, extreme
fundamentalism will not triumph [Ed. Of course this hasn’t
been the case, except in Turkey, to a great extent.]

“Whittaker Chambers wrote that communism was a faith and that
it was only as strong as the failure of all other faiths. Muslim
fundamentalism is a strong faith. Its appeal is religious, not
secular. It appeals to the soul, not the body. Secular Western
values cannot compete with this faith. Neither can secular
Muslim values. In the clash of civilizations, the fact that we are
the strongest and richest nation in history is not enough. What
will be decisive is the power of the great ideas, religious and
secular, that made us a great nation. Though the West and the
Muslims have profound differences in their cultural and
historical development, we can learn from each other, studying
the reasons for our past successes and failures.”

Well, regarding this last point, I wish it were possible.
Unfortunately, other forces, even if but a small minority, have
hijacked the agenda. The only thing that will change the future
at this point would be the emergence of new, modern leaders in
the Arab world. None have to date stepped forward.

Next week, a look at Henry Kissinger and his Mid East shuttle
diplomacy of 1973-4.

Brian Trumbore