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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    War Isn’t As Fun As It Sounds

    I find it interesting the way many people view American foreign policy. I often hear intense discussions about how America should “crush” its enemies. I hear disdainful accusations toward politicians who would rather “talk to our enemies” than make war with them.

    I hear claims that this type of diplomacy will ruin America’s reputation in the world, that we’ll be viewed as cowards who don’t stand up for what we believe. I mean, there’s definitely a place and time for war, but what about giving peace a chance? That’s all I’m saying.

    Not to be off topic, but Richard Nixon was a smart guy. I firmly believe that if it hadn’t been for Watergate, he would have gone down in history as one of the best presidents we’ve ever had. For those of you who weren’t around back then, look him up online.

    Among other things, Nixon understood foreign policy.

    One interesting example of this is his relationship with China. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, China and Russia had been undergoing the so-called “Sino-Soviet split,” in which China began to distance itself from the USSR to the point of nearly hostile relations.

    If the so-called “Brezhnev Doctrine” meant anything, it would mean that the Soviets would do whatever they could (including war) to compel China to do what Czechoslovakia had done the year before — succumb to Soviet control and wear big fuzzy hats because that’s what Lenin and Stalin would have wanted.

    At the same time as all this stuff, the United States was fighting a war against communism in South East Asia or, more specifically, Vietnam. When Nixon visited China in 1972, this obviously irritated the Soviets. It’s almost like when a kid whose parents are divorced runs to the dad in order to complain about how mean the mother is. China is the kid, the Unites States is the dad and the USSR is the mother who says to China, “Your dad will say anything to irritate me! This is why we got divorced at the end of World War II.”

    The result, however, is that the USSR invites America over for lunch in order to talk the whole thing over because the last thing the Soviets want is to lose custody over their child. Remember, this child has a population of almost a billion people (at the time). For a while, oddly enough, it almost looked as if the USSR and China were competing for America’s friendship because both nations had come to the realization that they were a lot closer to each other, had a much more inevitable conflict brewing between them and thus had a lot to gain from befriending the United States. Out of this environment came two unprecedented treaties between the U.S. and the USSR — the first SALT treaty as well as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

    The other side of this is that North Vietnam (remember them?) was in a lot of ways dependent on the support of their communist counterparts worldwide, especially in China, but Russia as well. To suddenly see both of these nations happily shaking hands with the president of the United States was, as you might expect, a bit disheartening.

    Soon, both China and the USSR were advising the North Vietnamese to agree to a diplomatic end to the war, which is exactly what Vietnam did shortly thereafter (it wasn’t the diplomatic end that the U.S. would have wanted, but it was certainly something). Keep in mind that all of this happened in under a year-after more than 10 years of armed conflict in Vietnam.

    You can picture people back here in the United States looking at this situation and saying, “What?! Nixon is talking with Communists! Communists are the enemy! And now we’re surrendering in Vietnam? We need to crush our enemies!” Not too many people were actually saying these things because first of all, that war had a draft, and secondly, the enemies had nuclear bombs, both of which succeeded in putting the ugly consequences of war on the doorstep of the average American. Nowadays, it’s a lot easier to advocate war.

    My point, however, was not to show how great Richard Nixon was. My point is to show how powerful good diplomacy can be. War is expensive. It is the number one thing that the federal government spends our tax money on — more than health care for the elderly, more than education or getting good food on college campuses, more than research for alternative energy sources, more than anything else. And that’s besides the fact that your friends and family die. Diplomacy is cheap and if you do it right, it works. But yes, it takes smart people and a lot of thought on how to best approach a sensitive situation, rather than solving your problems with big guns and stuff. I feel your pain. I like guns too. But that’s what they make video games for.

    As you can guess, foreign policy matters a lot to me. And when I go to the polls on Nov. 4 to vote for federal offices like congressmen and the president, I’m going to put a lot of thought into deciding which candidates would rather “talk to our enemies” and which candidates would prefer to make more.

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