Foreign Policy: Evaluating Nixon's and Eisenhower's Use of Power

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Foreign Policy: Evaluating Nixon’s and Eisenhower’s’ Use of Power Both President Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon were presidents during the cold war. Their uses of presidential power within foreign policy greatly shaped the United State’s strategies in cold war politics. Comparing their actions as Chief Diplomat, Chief Legislator, Chief Executive and Commander in Chief shows how they have used both their formal and informal powers to lead the nation. President Eisenhower was much more successful in gaining congress approval through working with them yet had much more trouble dealing with peace abroad. Nixon was able to use powers to make successful gains within the cold war abroad, yet had trouble working with others at home. As Chief Diplomat, Dwight Eisenhower vocalized the domino theory, meaning that if one country fell to communism this would lead to the fall of another country and so on (Skidmore 2004, 259). During his presidency, he believed that many nations were susceptible to Soviet sponsored Communism and that proactive United States commitment to world affairs would deter this effect. He theorized that communication between the Soviet Union and the United states was critical to the safety of the world, even if both countries were stocking up on nuclear weapons (PBS Eisenhower 2002, 1). Using his formal powers as Chief diplomat, Eisenhower tried to make an executive agreement with the USSR. Open Skies was the name of this first proposal to the USSR, he proposed this at the 1955 Geneva Convention. His plan included each nation giving one another a full description of their military facilities, and allowing one another to conduct aerial inspections to make sure that the descriptions provided were correct. This plan was rejected by the Soviets because they had previous knowledge of the whereabouts of the United States military facilities (PBS Eisenhower 2002, 1). Eisenhower used his powers of executive agreements many times as Chief Diplomat. He commanded United States negotiations to maintain communication with the Soviets, trying to come to an agreement to ban nuclear testing (PBS Eisenhower 2002, 2). Eisenhower used this strategy when dealing with Korea as well, sending his secretary of state, John Dulles, to talk with Prime Minister Nehru. Dulles conveyed to Nehru a warning that if the resolutions in Korea stopped, the United States may expand the war. However, talking to leaders of Korea indirectly was not a successful use of his power because the warnings given to Nehru never reached Eisenhower’s intended audience (Damms 2002, 34).

Eisenhower also used his informal powers as Chief Diplomat. In 1953, he gave a speech highlighting the large amount of human cost that the cold war could bring to both the USSR and the United States. He offered Georgi Malenkov the cooperation and goodwill of the United States in exchange for the USSR’s discontinuation of extension of land and influence over other nations. This use of informal powers also proved to be unsuccessful when the Russians responded coldly (PBS Eisenhower 2002, 1). During Eisenhower’s last years in office, he began to make a breakthrough by meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, secretary of the Communist party. This meeting was a successful use of formal diplomatic powers because they agreed to meet again in 1960. However, an unwise use of executive power disrupted their meeting (PBS Eisenhower 2002, 2). Although Ike tried diligently to make executive agreements with communist nations, he was unsuccessful. However, his diplomatic relations formed a base for the United States policy during the rest of the cold war. (Damms 2002, 109-110).

As Chief diplomat, Nixon used a variety of formal and informal powers in foreign policy. Unlike Eisenhower who chose to follow a safe route, acting conservatively, Nixon was distinctly a chance taker. Nixon saw that he had extended powers, due to the fact that he served as president...
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