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History General

Nixon in the World

American Foreign Relations, 1969-1977

edited by Fredrik Logevell & Andrew Preston

Oxford University Press
Initial publish date
Jul 2008
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2008
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2008
    List Price

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After World War II, the United States stood alone at the pinnacle of international politics, unchallenged even by the world's only other superpower, the Soviet Union. Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union itself nearly five decades later, U.S. foreign policy again achieved global primacy, unrivalled by any competitor. But these historical bookends of U.S. hegemony only tell part of the story of the "American century." In between, during the trauma of the Vietnam War, the power of the United States declined while that of its rivals increased, largely at America's expense. The fighting in Vietnam tied down and weakened the U.S. military. The Soviets and Chinese each challenged the United States geopolitically, albeit in different ways, in Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. Support for Israel helped trigger an Arab boycott of oil supplies. Even two of America's closest European allies-France and West Germany-sought solutions to the Cold War by marginalizing American influence. And running through everything, both as cause and consequence, was the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. By nearly every measure, American power was no longer unrivalled.

The task of managing America's relative decline fell to President Richard Nixon, his chief foreign policy adviser, Henry Kissinger, and his successor, Gerald Ford. From 1969 to 1977, when America was at one of its weakest moments in the world, Nixon, Kissinger, and Ford reoriented U.S. foreign policy from its traditional poles of liberal interventionism and conservative isolationism into a policy of active but conservative engagement. Basing their approach on the doctrine of realism, using age-old diplomatic tactics, such as triangulation and linkage, and constructing a new basis for waging the Cold War in détente, the Nixon and Ford administrations aimed to preserve America's remaining power until the forces against it had eased. By bringing together some of the world's leading historians of U.S. foreign policy, Nixon in the World shows how they did it, where they succeeded, and where they took their new strategy too far.

About the authors

Contributor Notes

Fredrik Logevell is a Professor of History at Cornell University. Andrew Preston is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Victoria.

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