Nixon Doctrine

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The Nixon Doctrine (also known as the Guam Doctrine) was put forth in a press conference in Guam on July 25, 1969 by U.S. President Richard Nixon. He stated that the United States henceforth expected its allies to take care of their own military defense, but that the U.S. would aid in defense as requested. The Doctrine argued for the pursuit of peace through a partnership with American allies.

In Nixon's own words (Address to the Nation on the War in Vietnam November 3, 1969):[1]

  • First, the United States will keep all of its treaty commitments.
  • Second, we shall provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation allied with us or of a nation whose survival we consider vital to our security.
  • Third, in cases involving other types of aggression, we shall furnish military and economic assistance when requested in accordance with our treaty commitments. But we shall look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for its defense.

The doctrine was also applied by the Nixon administration in the Persian Gulf region, with military aid to Iran and Saudi Arabia.[2] According to author Michael Klare,[3] application of the Nixon Doctrine "opened the floodgates" of U.S. military aid to allies in the Persian Gulf, and helped set the stage for the Carter Doctrine and for the subsequent direct U.S. military involvement of the Gulf War and the Iraq War.

Doctrine In Practice

Both Nixonians and Contrarians argue that the Guam Doctrine may have masked other needs, intentions, and motives.[citation needed] Nixon was president when a resolution of the Vietnam War was essentially mandatory due to growing public opinion in favor of withdrawal;[4] A Gallup poll in May showed 56% of the public believed sending troops to Vietnam was a mistake. Of those over 50, 61% expressed that belief, compared to 49% of those between 21 and 29, even if tacit abandonment of the SEATO Treaty was ultimately required, resulting in a complete communist takeover of South Vietnam despite previous US guarantees.[5]

US retreat from unconditional defense guarantees to lesser allies in general was driven as much by financial concerns[6] as by policy re-examination of strategic and foreign policy objectives, reflected in Nixon's goals of detente and nuclear arms control with the Soviet Union, and establishment of formal diplomatic relations with Communist China. As a consequence of this shift, direct sales of weaponry[7] to nations no longer under the nuclear umbrella of previous US security guarantees dramatically increased as US guarantees were withdrawn.


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