Conservatives in An Age of Change: The Nixon and Ford Administrations

By James Reichley | Go to book overview

16
Foreign Policy: Conservative Internationalism

ALTHOUGH he had served for fourteen years on the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, and had often traveled abroad on official inquiries and goodwill missions, Ford entered the presidency without a sure grasp of either the substance or the procedures of foreign policy. Among his first acts when he knew that his succession was inevitable was to ask Kissinger to stay on. ("Sir," the secretary of state reportedly replied, "it is my job to get along with you and not yours to get along with me.") 1 To the end of his term, Ford relied heavily on Kissinger's counsel. As time went on, however, other voices began to exert strong influence--particularly those of Rumsfeld and Scowcroft. And the president himself gained increasing confidence in his ability to deal with the intricacies of international problems and relationships.

It happened that the three most important European allies of the United States were at that time led by tough-minded political pragmatists: Helmut Schmidt of the Federal Republic of Germany, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing of France, and James Callaghan of Britain. All had been called upon to tidy up after more visionary predecessors. They got on well with Ford, and he with them--man to man, as the president liked to say. "When I became president," Ford has recalled, "I found that our friends were apprehensive about the reliability of the United States as a partner. I set out to reassure them, through both bilateral and multilateral meetings."2 Leonid Brezhnev was essentially the same type of leader--shrewd, stubborn, realistic--governing through stamina and managerial skill rather than charisma or

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