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Richard Nixon: The Real War

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

Revisiting the prescient arguments and timely remarks contained within former President Richard Nixon's 1980 bestseller "The Real War"

Richard Nixon: The Real War (1980)


“America is still suffering from the legacy of the 1960s. A rabid anti-intellectualism swept the nation’s campuses then, and fantasy reigned supreme. Attacks on anything representing the established order were in fashion. The discords of that decade and of its aftermath critically weakened the nation’s capacity to meet its responsibilities in the world, not only militarily but also in terms of its ability to lead. Ironically, even as anti-intellectualism ravaged the campuses, the 1960s also saw an overly ‘intellectualized’ new fashion take hold among many of those who thought professionally about arms and particularly about arms control: the notion that above a certain minimum, the less military strength you had, the better…”

“There are many today who suggest that American civilization is suffering a terminal illness, that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the West. Some American opinion leaders view this with despair. Some, especially in darkest academia, see it as the logical and overdue result of our being on the wrong side. Like the classic definition of fox hunting as ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable,’ they see America as the aggressive in support of the oppressive. As playwright Eugene Ionesco reported after a recent visit to the United States, American intellectuals tend to be ‘masochists who want to be blamed for everything wrong in the world.’ When he told American liberal friends that the United States was not as bad as other nations, ‘the liberals looked at me askance. For in order to be appreciated in America, one must, above all, never say that Americans are not the worst criminals of humanity.’ What America does suffer from is not itself a terminal illness, but rather a sort of creeping paralysis that could become terminal unless treated.”

“Too many of those who profess to be the guardians of our ideals have instead become the architects of our retreat.”

“Too many of America’s intellectual and cultural elite have shown themselves to be brilliant, creative, trendy, gullible, smug, and blind in one eye: they tend to see bad only on the Right, not on the Left…The nation’s immediate problem is that while the common man fights America’s wars, the intellectual elite sets its agenda. Today, whether the West lives or dies is in the hands of its new power elite: those who set the terms of public debate, who manipulate symbols, who decide whether nations or leaders will be depicted on 100 million television sets as ‘good’ or ‘bad.”

“Too many of those who should be most jealously preserving and defending what America represents have instead been paralyzed by a misplaced sense of guilt, which has led them to abandon faith in our own civilization.”

“If America loses World War III, it will be because of the failure of its leadership class. In particular, it will be because of the attention, the celebrity, and the legitimacy given to the ‘trendies’—those over-glamorized dilettantes who posture in the latest idea, mount the fashionable protests, and are slobbered over by the news media, whose creation they essentially are. The attention given them and their ‘causes’ romanticizes the trivial and trivializes the serious…Whatever the latest cause they embrace…it is almost invariably one that works against the interest of the United States in the context of World War III…Their minds are impervious to argument, and their arguments are impervious to fact. Posture is all.”


“To meet the challenge to our own survival and to the survival of freedom and peace, we must drastically increase our military power, shore up our economic power, reinvigorate our willpower, strengthen the power of our Presidents, and develop a strategy aimed not just at avoiding defeat but at attaining victory.”

“World War III is also the first truly total war: it is waged on all levels of life and society. Military power, economic power, willpower, the strength of a nation’s galvanizing ideas and the clarity of its sense of purpose—each of these is vital to the outcome. So, too, are other intangibles whether the prevailing ethic is for the individual to do the least he can get away with or the best of which he is capable; whether the next generation are to be builders and creators or television zombies. It is also the first total war because of the nature of our adversaries: because theirs is a totalitarian system, advancing under the banner of an ideology in which even the minds of its people are the property of the state.”

“[The Communists] are totally amoral opportunists. They will carefully calculate cost-benefit ratios, but they will not fret over the sanctity of contracts, the value of human life, or ‘bourgeois’ concepts of justice.”

“Communism offers the slogan of ‘liberation,’ the promise of order; it tells the ‘outs’ that it will put them ‘in,’ the underdogs that they will be the top dog. It speaks in terms of passionate certainty, and this appeals to people awash in uncertainty. [They] know that war, revolution, and economic depression can destroy the fabric of a society and make the siren song of communism sound sweeter. When people feel panic, tyranny can look attractive if it promises order. Chaos, war, and revolution are thus the natural allies of communism, just as famine, conquest, and slaughter ride alongside the fourth horseman of the apocalypse, death.”

Knowing this, the communists: “try, by whatever means they can, to exacerbate tensions, to stir up discontent, to foment wars and revolutions. They do not want human needs met. They do not want problems between nations solved. They want to exacerbate the problems in order to seize the nation.”


A statement made in 1980: “No amount of trade or financial aid will keep the U.S.-Chinese relationship viable. China…will have to revert to its historical pattern of accommodating its enemies and hoping to absorb them.”

“The Taiwan issue continues to be one for which no easy or immediate answer appears on the horizon. The United States cannot and should not back away from its firm declaration—made in the Shanghai communiqué in 1972—against the use of force to resolve the problem. While China will predictably continue to press for bringing Taiwan under the central government in Peking, self-interest will strongly argue against any resort to military action…It would not make sense to impose the mainland’s primitive economic system on Taiwan, which has one of the most prosperous economies in Asia.”

“If for any reason the Chinese revert to their policies of the 1950s and 1960s, when they were bent on extending communist control throughout Asia and the world, they will be an enormous threat to the peace of the world and to the survival of the West.”


“Inflation can only be overcome by attacking the problem at its roots: too much government, mortgaging the future by spending beyond our means, overregulation, inflationary monetary policies, tax policies that penalize initiative, disincentives for saving and investing, and low productivity. What will not work is treating the symptoms of inflation by imposing wage and price controls…The only answer to inflation is for government to spend less and for people to produce more.”


“One characteristic of advanced civilizations is that as they grow richer and fatter, they become softer and more vulnerable. Throughout history the leading civilizations of their time have been destroyed by barbarians, not because they lacked wealth or arms, but because they lacked will; because they awoke too late to the threat, and reacted too timidly in devising a strategy to meet it.”

“Edith Hamilton, a historian of ancient Greece, once wrote, ‘To the Greeks of that day their most precious possession, freedom, was the distinguishing mark between East and West… “You do not know what freedom is,” Herodotus reports a Greek saying to a Persian. “If you did you would fight for it with bare hands if you had no weapons.”’ Freedom is still the distinguishing mark between East and West.”


“Only in very recent years has the notion taken hold that life is meant to be easy. Coddled, pampered, truckled to, a generation of Americans has been bred to believe that they should coast through life—and that any disparity between American society as it is and a gauzy, utopian ideal is evidence that society is corrupt. The principal threat to a highly developed society is not that overconsumption depletes its resources, but rather that insulation from the hardscrabble challenge of basic existence dulls its sense of reality and leaves it prey to the barbarians who are always at the gates.”

“If the West loses World War III, it will have been because of an unwillingness to face reality. It will have been because of the compulsion to live in a dream world, to infuse the public dialogue with romantic fantasies and to imagine that cold steel can somehow be countered with simplistic moralisms.”


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