Monday, December 07, 2009

The Nixon Quartet

This article brings to light a normally overlooked member of Nixon's inner circle of advisors: Fritz A.G. Kraemer, who was Kissinger's mentor. It was Kraemer who brought in Alexander Haig, another one of his proteges:
Nixon, Kissinger, Kraemer, and Haig would form a quartet whose machinations and interactions would be the steps of an intricate dance that had a major impact on the country’s foreign policy, not only during the Nixon years, but also throughout the presidencies of Nixon successors Ford and Carter, and on into the Reagan presidency, when Haig served as secretary of state.

There is only one known meeting between Nixon and Kraemer, but his influence is felt through his proteges, Kissinger and Haig, who continued to rely on his for advice:
Kissinger met with Kraemer weekly, when schedules permitted, for advice and/or “for absolution,” as Kraemer later told a journalist. In between such meetings, Kraemer would forward cables to Kissinger whose significance would otherwise be missed, and would occasionally write memos to Kissinger on various subjects. Kissinger would send some on to the president, usually with Kraemer’s name taken off. After the first couple, when the next one came in Nixon recognized Kraemer’s writing style and point of view; the president always took the Kraemer memos seriously as arch-conservative but well-reasoned articulations of what was wrong with current policy.

Haig continued to support Kraemer’s ideas in NSC and similar meetings, and on the infrequent occasions when the president asked his opinion. Haig had picked up very quickly on Nixon’s need to be verbally bellicose, and fed it; he too recognized that his route to power lay in getting closer to Nixon.

Kissinger and Haig did not get along and were engaged in a fierce rivalry, that Nixon used to his advantge. The author of this article says that there is much to be discovered on this topic:
There’s much more to the story of this quartet, including Haig’s efforts to push Nixon up the plank toward resignation, and how those who detested Nixon’s foreign policies became the neocons in the Ford and Carter years, when they continued and magnified their efforts to undermine those presidents’ Nixonian foreign policies.

Future biographers of Nixon, Kissinger, and Haig will certainly need to take the whole, tangled story of this quartet into account in order to properly evaluate their subjects.

No previous biography of Nixon does so. As for Kissinger’s biographers, some have dealt with Kraemer but only as an early influence, not as a continuing one, although the evidence for that continuing influence is now available in archived documents, White House tapes, and transcripts of Kissinger’s phone calls. Haig hardly mentions Kissinger in his autobiography, and Kissinger, in his two massive volumes of memoirs on the Nixon and Ford years, devotes only three pages to Kraemer out of a total of more than 2600.

No comments: