As "1999: Victory Without War" and its various predecessors make clear, Richard Nixon's political role model is Charles de Gaulle. The parallels in their two careers are striking, if perhaps facile.
After lengthy banishments, both men were resuscitated to assume supreme power long after their political obituaries had been written.De Gaulle, of course, would forsake the colonialist and military factions that supported his return to power by granting independence to Algeria, understanding that only a man of his conservative credentials could make so radical a break with the past.
Similarly, Nixon would horrify the China lobby and anti-communist right by secretly contriving a rapprochement with China, understanding that only a Republican with his 1950s Cold War credentials could summarily end 20 years of enmity by shaking Chairman Mao's hand.
Only a politician of principle betrays his most ardent followers. And the principle shared by De Gaulle and Nixon was a pragmatic devotion to securing not merely the short-term national security of their respective nations, but their long-term place in the world.
That, in essence, is the game that Nixon plays in his somewhat grandiloquently titled book, which seeks by inference at least to suggest that Nixon, alone among American geopolitical thinkers, has both a vision and program to assure the reach of U.S. power and influence into the next century.
Certainly, Nixon's intellectual powers and foreign policy experience are vast - dazzlingly vast in comparison both with the current American foreign affairs establishment and those likely to be in position to appoint their successors after the upcoming election.
His book is a competent, cant-free tour d'horizon of the issues facing us with the Soviet Union, China, Central America, the Third World, NATO, etc. As a centrist, Nixon is not the man to advance propositions likely to astonish the probable secretaries of state of either George Bush or Michael Dukakis.
In essence, Nixon's world view is that America has a far more viable and exportable system than the Soviets and a far more menacing tendency to fritter its advantages away in search of quick fixes than they.
Mikhail Gorbachev is likely to be around for 25 years, shrewdly keeping his counsel the whole while, whereas the clock is always ticking on American presidents, forcing them to negotiate too hastily and grandstand too often.
Not surprisingly, most of Nixon's observations and nostrums smack of the conventional, though he states his position with his customary lucidity, and without the overly genial bland duplicity that is the hallmark of any U.S. politician who still harbors political ambitions.
"1999" is a statesmanlike book that rises in neither substance nor language to a work of first-class analysis or prophecy. There are too many Bartlett's-redolent quotes from the likes of Frederick the Great, Winston Churchill and Alexis de Tocqueville, and too few concrete historical references to lend context to Nixon's sweeping judgments.