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The Nixon Doctrine

The Nixon Doctrine (1969) was first introduced by President Richard M. Nixon at an informal background press conference in Guam on 25 July.After more than four years of U.S. military intervention, beginning with President Lyndon B. Johnson's extension of bombing into North Vietnam, Nixon proclaimed an ostensible reduction in Washington's future role in the former Indochina. According to the new approach advanced by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the president, future military operations would be carried out principally by indigenous forces. Nixon was clearly attempting to reconcile the conflicting political and military needs that dictated resistance against a Communist takeover of all Vietnam, while at the same time signaling an “exit strategy,” an eventual withdrawal of American troops from the prolonged Vietnam War.

After nearly three decades of Cold War “containment,” the president was eager to promote the revised emphasis as a way to preserve anti‐Communist governments while minimizing the cost to American lives. He spelled out the Nixon Doctrine in detail on several occasions, most formally in a special message to Congress on 15 September 1970. Skeptics scoffed that it essentially prescribed a war of “Asians against Asians” and became the justification for the politically more palatable “Vietnamization” policy. Other critics alleged—as subsequent events would confirm—that it was inadequate for achieving what some still thought might be an American victory. The additional limitations of the Nixon Doctrine were confirmed by the character of international responsibilities after the end of the Cold War.
[See also Cold War: External Course; Cold War: Domestic Course; Pacification.]


Richard Nixon , RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, 1978.
Henry Kissinger , The White House Years, 1979.
Robert Litwak , Detente and the Nixon Doctrine, 1984.
Stephen E. Ambrose , Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962–1972, 1989.
Herbert S. Parmet , Richard Nixon and His America, 1996.
Raymond L. Garthoff , Detente and Confrontation: American‐Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan, 1985; rev. ed. 1994.

Herbert S. Parmet

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