Leaders by Richard Nixon

By Shums Parkar

History rarely feels relevant to our times. Our lifestyles have changed so much and are so different than those lived by others, and we seldom relate to the issues of the past. However, we often take the progress and lessons of the past for granted, and many geopolitical issues remain relevant to us today. Suddenly, it seems that the cold-war era issues of nuclear deterrence, political ‘blocs’ and proxy wars are suddenly at the forefront of our social media feeds. Moreover, many young Americans look despairingly at national politics and how detached our presidents seem from our national interests.

Leaders by Richard Nixon is a fascinating book namely because of Nixon’s vast experience dealing with cold-war era politics. Few Cold War-era politicians had such extensive knowledge in diplomacy as Nixon since he dealt with a wide array of influential leaders of the era ranging from Churchill to Mao. His analysis of their leadership styles shows how intimate national leaders must be with national issues, both foreign and domestically.

None of these leaders had the same political agenda as another, but all of them experienced periods of being in the “wilderness” where it looked like they would not return to politics. Many, like De Gaulle and Adenauer, experienced long periods of political isolation wherein few expected their presence as national leaders. They all rose to the occasion and made a tremendous impact on their nation, leading their people through trying times.

Of all the leaders presented in this book, De Gaulle’s character struck me as the most unique. His simple, calculated character and willingness to lead in situations where no one wants to take charge sets him apart. Calm and determined leadership will benefit many nations in our era of celebrity notoriety and social media hype. Many significant policies take years to develop, and true leadership should seek to bridge conflict once again while taking rational, visionary steps in policymaking.

Nixon’s decisive diplomacy helped advance American interests in unforeseen ways. He is credited for re-establishing relations with China despite America’s ideological differences. Thanks to Nixon’s strong willingness to take the initiative, the US shares a strong economic relationship with China. Unfortunately, political polarization has divided our nation and left our government ineffective at decisive decision making that will proceed harmoniously from one administration to the next.

In 2024, Americans will cast their vote on who should lead the country. The ramifications could be huge in either direction, which has left our allies anxious about where American policy will swing next. Uncertainty in American foreign interests will almost certainly undercut American interests abroad, and not to mention significantly affect domestic politics as well. A return to effective diplomacy and long-term political planning as presented in Leaders can help direct American interests

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *