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Sarah Lachapelle

After World War II and for many years during the Cold War, American foreign
policy focused on the containment of communism, and aid to any country trying to fight
it, as established by President Truman. However, foreign policy took a revolutionary turn
with the policies of President Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Through detente,
vietnamization and the Nixon Doctrine, Nixon set a precedent that influenced the
direction of foreign policy to a great extent. The Nixon Doctrine established the idea of
not sending American troops into battling countries, but to aid them economically and
politically, and then let them fight the conflict with American weapons. Detente was
revolutionary in foreign policy, because it enabled Nixon to make concessions with
China, a communist country, and the Soviet Union, something that had not been done
before the start of the Cold War. In 1977, Carter broke the mold set by President Nixon,
but through Reagan and Bush in 1993, the direction of national interests set by the
policies of Nixon had a large influence.
When President Carter was elected, he sought to restore pride in the government
due to the still lasting effects of the Watergate scandal that ended Nixons presidency.
Carter was largely influenced by his idea of moral supremacy and that America should
spread its moral perfection to other countries around the world. Much like President
Wilson, Carter focused on the idea of the city upon a hill, and he took an ideological
approach in his foreign policy (Doc 1). Carter focused on protecting human rights, which
enabled him to differ away from detente and the Nixon Doctrine, because he allowed his
moral supremacy to get in the way of American interests, such as the hostage situation
on Lebanon, which lasted so long because Carter would not return the Shah to the
Iranians holding the hostages (Doc 2). While Carter differed from Nixon with his
ideological approach to foreign policy, Ronald Reagan took the presidency and followed
some aspects of Nixon policies, however he was still not as pragmatic as Nixon.
Reagan had to deal with the conflicts rising in Nicaragua, which he believed was

connected to the Soviet Union. Basing the government overthrow off of the monolithic
theory was similar to the Nixon Doctrine, because Regan focused on a country,
Nicaragua, that was of importance to the US (Doc 3). Reagan also followed the idea of
Vietnamization by not sending in American troops to fight in the conflict between the
Sandinistas and the contras. However, unlike Nixon, Reagan was ignorant to what his
policies were actually doing, but he channeled his charismatic personality into his
presidency, which made up for a series of corruption and scandals that were later
brought to light (Doc 7). Such as the Iran-contra scandal, which was the US selling
weapons to Iran and funneling the money to help support the contras (which was
illegal). Reagan was using two countries specifically for American interests, however, he
did act on some ideological impulses (Doc 4). President Bush, who succeed Reagan,
further expanded on the idea of detente and the Nixon Doctrine and returned to a
pragmatic approach of foreign policy. Bushs foreign policy focused on increasing
American activism in the world, seeing as it was now the only superpower following the
collapse of the Soviet Union. Bush, like Nixon, sought to make concessions with the
Soviet Union specifically for American interests, regardless of its internal structure or the
bitterness cast by the Cold War (Doc 5). Bush also created a United Nations coalition to
stop Saddam Hussein, who had invaded Kuwait, which Bush viewed as significant to
American interests. However, Bush did differ in the policies set by Nixon's
Vietnamization because he sent American troops into Iraq to crush the Iraqi army.
Nixons foreign policy established a new, pragmatic direction for American national
interests, and that had a significant influence on Ronald Reagan and George H. W.
Bush. Although Nixon may not have been a very popular president due to the stigma of
the Watergate scandal, he did set a precedent of American foreign policy that still has
influence today (Doc 7).
The pragmatic direction set by policies of the Nixon presidency, such as detente
and the Nixon Doctrine, not only influenced presidents actions and policies from 1977-

1993, but it still influences actions done today. Such as when the US trained the Iraqi
army so that American troops could leave, and the locals could fight the battle. This
tactic was similar to that done by Nixon in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. No
matter how unpopular and how infamous Nixon may be to the American public, he and
Kissinger created a foreign policy that influenced other presidents, including actions
done to this day.