President Nixons International and Domestic Challenges

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AP US History
September 20, 2012
President Richard M. Nixon’s administration had to face many international and domestic challenges in the United States between 1968 and 1974, some positive and some negative. His achievements in expanding peaceful relationships with both China and the Soviet Union are contrastingly different with his continuation of the Vietnam War. In the end, Nixon’s scandals and abuse of presidential power caught up to him, and his administration did much to corrode America’s faith in the government.

In 1968, Richard Nixon gave his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention(Doc A). He said that it was time for a new leadership for the United States of America, and that new leadership was him. Nixon won in a very close election against Hubert Humphrey and promised to restore law and order to the nation’s cities. What everyone didn’t know was that for him to achieve his future accomplishments, he would destroy the nation’s trust.

A positive international challenge that Nixon was involved in was seeking better relations with China. Early in his first term, Nixon and his adviser, Henry Kissinger, began sending subtle proposals hinting at warmer relations to the People’s Republic of China’s government. When both countries hinted at this, Kissinger flew on secret diplomatic missions to Beijing and in July 1971, the President announced that he would visit the PRC the following year. This confused most American’s at the time because they believed that all communists countries were evil. When Nixon flew to China in February and he met with Mao Zedong. Nixon’s visit included a vast shift in the Cold War balance, putting the U.S. and China against the Soviet Union. Several months later, Nixon traveled to the U.S.S.R. and met with Leonid Brezhnev and other Soviet leaders. The result this trip was the signing of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. The treaty restricted the number of ICBMs each nation could manufacture and stockpile and it was part of SALT (Strategic Arms Limitations Talks). Nixon’s visits to China was a triumph because it contained the Soviet Union from expanding and gaining power. His visit to the U.S.S.R. was a diplomatic accomplishment because it improved relations with them.

Nixon faced many international disputes during his presidency and some of them, he responded to negatively. Throughout the Vietnam War, President Nixon had sent a letter to President Ho Chi Minh stating that he believes the war has gone on to long and it needs to stop(Doc B). When the letter didn’t work, the biggest international challenge for Nixon was how to end the Vietnam War. Nixon and Kissinger both had a belief that they could end the war in six months, but they were proved wrong. In 1968, the same year Nixon was elected, there had been two huge events of the Vietnam War, the Tet Offensive and My Lai Massacre. President Nixon had inherited the burden of the Vietnam War and he asked the American citizens for their support(Doc D). Two months into his presidency, Nixon realized that there seemed to be no end in sight to the war. In 1969, Nixon ordered the secret bombing of Cambodia. The targets of these attacks were sanctuaries and base areas of the People’s Army of Vietnam and forces of the Viet Cong, which used them for resupply, training, and resting between campaigns across the border in the Republic of Vietnam. Nixon’s purpose for the bombing raid was because the first had been unsuccessful. The purpose of the secrecy was to protect Sihanouk. The way Nixon responded with the secret bombing was negative. He never told America or the Congress about it and that led to the distrust of the American citizens.

Environmental concerns were a challenge but Nixon responded to them positively. In Nixon’s presidency, he started out opposing environmental laws. But then he realized that protecting the environment was popular and he saw it as a politically beneficial area. By the time of...
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