President Nixon promised Americans peace last Monday night: peace at maximum cost, peace with minimum justice. Nixon substituted dramatic posturing for national leadership in yet another attempt to support failing policies by lulling domestic dissent.
Those who saw hints of a "new Nixon" in the President's past statements on foreign affairs have now had their hopes laid to rest. The man who spoke so the nation three nights ago was firmly a product of the 1950's. In President Nixon's eyes, we are still the defenders of "peace and freedom" abroad. We are still scrambling from firefight to firefight in a righteous struggle against those "great powers who have not yet abandoned their roles of world conquest." The Communist Monolith rides again, and the dominoes clink and totter on all sides; in Thailand, Indonesia, yes, even in the Philippines (only a few miles off shore). If you closed your eyes, you could hear Lyndon Johnson or John Foster Dulles.
The peace plan the President reiterated in his talk-Vietnamization of the struggle according to a timetable he would not divulge-is consistent with this vision. American troops will continue to fight and die in Vietnam to avoid a "defeat" which so many have already acknowledged. And after our uncertain withdrawal, we will continue a costly program of aid to the South Vietnamese government and other reactionary Asian regimes at a time when money is so desperately needed to remedy domestic ills.
In only one major respect was Nixon's statement a departure from past policy, and this feature was the most insidious of all. In a transparent appeal to particular ethnic, geographic, and economic segments of the population. Nixon called on "the great silent majority" for support of his program. It is questionable whether that majority exists where the Vietnam issue is concerned, but one thing is certain. This appeal, combined with Nixon's obstinate refusal to offer any concessions to the peace movement, can only further polarize an already bitterly divided country. If the President's strategy succeeds it will do so only at the cost of heightened domestic conflict on a range of issues.
The November 3 speech could have been an historic turnabout in American foreign policy. Instead, it offered discredited rhetoric in place of vision and leadership.