25 July 1969: Nixon Doctrine Announced in Guam

On a stopover at the American air force base in Guam, before arriving in South Vietnam on 30 July 1969, President Richard Nixon outlined the proposed Nixon Doctrine at a press conference on 25 July 1969. The Doctrine stated that, although America would continue its defence commitments with its allies in Asia and around the world by, for example, acting as a nuclear umbrella and providing economic aid, the US would no longer assume defensive responsibilities through military means. Instead, Nixon urged all countries allied with the US to manage and implement their own defence capabilities, under the assumption that America would no longer provide ground troops for their allies.

The declaration came three months after Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announced America’s new policy of Vietnamisation – the process of training and equipping the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) to sustainably continue fighting against North Vietnam with little to no US troop involvement. In some respects, the Nixon Doctrine was an extension of Vietnamisation, an umbrella term to extend beyond the confines of Vietnam throughout Asia. It also fit into the Nixon administration’s détente foreign policy in general, a policy aimed at placating relationships with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.

However, the Nixon Doctrine was also announced with America’s financial concerns in mind. The war in Vietnam had been a costly economic burden up until 1969. Annual figures were almost impossible to determine for America’s expenditure in Vietnam, but a rough estimate put the total cost of US intervention between 1965 and 1975 at roughly $950 billion in today’s currency. Recalling ground troops from Asia was implemented almost immediately to save on the cost of overseas troops. By the end of 1969, 60,000 US troops were withdrawn from Vietnam. By June 1971, 20,000 out of 61,000 troops stationed in South Korea were withdrawn.

There is also evidence that the Nixon Doctrine began the increased US military aid to its allies in the Persian Gulf, laying the groundwork for the Carter Doctrine (coined by President Jimmy Carter) and the subsequent US military involvement in the Gulf War and the Iraq War. The US turned to Saudi Arabia and Iran as “twin pillars of regional stability,” as quoted by Peter Brienhert in his article “Return of the Nixon Doctrine” for TIME magazine. Oil price increases in 1970 and 1971 provided funding for both states with this military expansion. Total arms transfers from the United States to Iran increased from $103.6 million in 1970 to $552.7 million in 1972; those to Saudi Arabia increased from $15.8 million in 1970 to $312.4 million in 1972. The United States would maintain its small naval force of three ships in the Gulf, stationed since World War II in Bahrain, but would take on no other formal security commitments. 

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