Games Advisors Play: Foreign Policy in the Nixon and Carter Administrations

By Jean A. Garrison | Go to book overview

2 Henry Kissinger's Advisory SystemDesigning Policy Consensus on Arms Control

President Nixon's great plans to build a new, broad approach to foreign policy required the loyalty and vision of Henry Kissinger, his national security advisor; and, to coordinate that policy, an advisory process centered in the White House. Constructing their balance-of-power approach, however, would take time, as would gathering the political resources necessary to guarantee success. In the meantime, action on all strategic issues, such as arms control, was delayed. These issues hinged on the administration's ability to find an "honorable" exit from Vietnam. In turn, the administration's proposal to end the Vietnam War through its balance-of-power approach would promote stability in the relationship between the superpowers. All of this would be accomplished via a "peace through strength" policy.

Kissinger's first attempts to manipulate the balance of power emphasized "strength." They included seeking allocations for new systems like the ABM deployment ant plans for MIRVs that could be used as bargaining chips in order to secure a tough and verifiable agreement with the Soviets.

In the early days, the administration was in an unenviable position. It faced pressure from both arms control advocates and their opponents. This pressure inside and outside the administration made constructing a complex foreign policy, approach very difficult. In the end, arms control negotiations became part of the policy agenda, as the administration had to respond to bureaucratic pressures. Closer examination of the timing and content of arms control policy shows the contributions made by the principal advisors, the president, and individuals outside the administration.

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