The Process of ImplementationPolicy becomes clearer only in the process of translation into programs and actions. In this process the Nixon Doctrine seeks to reflect the need for continuity as well as the mandate for change. There are two concurrent challenges: to carry out our new policy so as to maintain confidence abroad; to define our new policy to the American people and to elicit their support.
This transition from bearing the principal burdens to invoking and supporting the efforts of others is difficult and delicate.
Some vestiges of the past consist of essentially sound relationships and valid practices. They should be preserved. Others must be liquidated, but the method is crucial. Clearly, we could not have continued the inherited policy on Vietnam. Just as clearly, the way in which we set about to resolve this problem has a major impact on our credibility abroad and our cohesion at home. The same is true in other areas where our military presence remained too large, or our economic burden disproportionate, or our attitude paternalistic.
The challenge is not merely to reduce our presence, or redistribute our burden, or change our approach, but to do so in a way that does not call into question our very objectives.
Others judge us -and set their own course- by the steadiness of our performance as well as the merit of our ideas. Abrupt shifts in our policies -no matter how sound in concept- are unsettling, particularly for those who may have committed themselves to past practices at United States urging. For their own political future is involved. If we acquired a reputation for unsteadiness, we would isolate ourselves. We must avoid practicing either consistency or novelty for its own sake.
For the mood among many of our friends is ambivalent. They seek autonomy but still presume American initiative. They at once realize the need for their new independent role, welcome it and are apprehensive about its responsibilities. The Nixon Doctrine recognizes that we cannot abandon friends, and must not transfer burdens too swiftly. We must strike a balance between doing too much and thus preventing self-reliance, and doing too little and thus undermining self-confidence.
This balance we seek abroad is crucial. We only compound in security if we modify our protective or development responsibilities without giving our friends the time and the means to adjust, materially and psychologically, to a new form of American participation in the world.
Precipitate shrinking of the American role would not bring peace. It would not reduce America's stake in a turbulent world. It would not solve our problems, either abroad or at home.
The need for steadiness overseas has a domestic corollary. While striking a balance in the world it is also necessary, and in some ways even more difficult, to find the proper balance at home.
For the American people have grown somewhat weary of twentyfive years of international burdens. This weariness was coming in any event, but the anguish of the Vietnam war hastened it, or at least our awareness of it. Many Americans, frustrated by the conflict in Southeast Asia, have been tempted to draw the wrong conclusions. There are lessons to be learned from our Vietnam experience-about unconventional warfare and the role of outside countries, the nature of commitments, the balance of responsibilities, the need for public understanding and support. But there is also a lesson not to be drawn -that the only antidote for undifferentiated involvement is indiscriminate retreat.
Our experience in the 1960s has underlined the fact that we should not do more abroad than domestic opinion can sustain. But we cannot let the pendulum swing in the other direction, sweeping us toward an isolationism which could be as disastrous as excessive zeal.
Thus, while lowering our overseas presence and direct military involvement, our new policy calls for a new form of leadership, not abdication of leadership. This policy must not only reflect a changed public will. It must shape a new consensus Or a balanced and positive American role.
While cutting back overseas forces prudently, we must resist the automatic reduction of the American presence everywhere without regard to consequences. While trimming our defense budget where possible and adjusting defenses to modern realities, we must resist ritualistic voting against defense spending. Mere scaling down is not an end in itself We need to determine the proper role for our forces abroad, the level of assistance for allied forces, and the shape of our respective budgets.
The Nixon Doctrine will enable us to remain committed in ways that we can sustain. The solidity of domestic support in turn will reverberate overseas with continued confidence in American performance.