The insights available here are not limited to those intended by the author. Readers should be forewarned that Humes...



The insights available here are not limited to those intended by the author. Readers should be forewarned that Humes (Churchill: Speaker of the Century, 1980, etc.) was a Nixon speechwriter and friend, and that in these pages Nixon never makes a mistake. Despite unfriendly political pressure and unwise counsel from foreign-policy advisers, Nixon always sees the big picture, makes brilliant decisions, and succeeds in achieving his goals. At times this adulation borders on the ludicrous, most strikingly in discussing peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese. Humes describes how Nixon's stepped-up bombing campaign forced his adversaries to the conference table. He does so, however, without mentioning that it was the North Vietnamese who obtained what they wanted in Vietnam, not the US, and that Saigon fell to the Communists before Nixon's second term would have ended--if he had remained in office. That said, this little volume is intriguing. The ""commandments"" are fairly standard maxims in international diplomacy--e.g., negotiate agreements in private, never give up a bargaining chip without receiving something in return, leave adversaries a way to save face--but they are also widely ignored by those conducting foreign policy. Humes's approach is to first depict Nixon putting a commandment into effect, then illustrating further by relating the success or failure of historical figures ranging from Pericles to Churchill to MacArthur. By weaving together incidents from Nixon's career and the wider past, Humes suggests a general theory of diplomacy and presents an entertaining collection of stories. Nixon admirers will find evidence of their hero's diplomatic virtuosity; the less enthralled will see the rigid East-West geopolitical mindset that was Nixon's foreign-policy weakness. Most interesting as an example of the movement to rehabilitate Nixon's reputation, but also worth reading as a treatise on diplomacy.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997


Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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