Source: SECRETARY OF STATE HENRY KISSINGER EXPLAINS THE MEANING OF DETENTE
We were making progress, if slowly and painfully, toward peace in the Middle East. But we could not forget that our ultimate task was to strengthen peace in the world. The American people expected it from their leaders; the nuclear age imposed it as a moral and practical necessity. . . . We could resist aggressive policies best from a platform of peace; men and women of goodwill and decency could be enlisted only in support of a policy of positive aspirations. . . .
In the light of America's historical experience, relations with the Soviets were a difficult challenge. . . . [To the] American perception of international affairs . . . [relations] among states are either peaceful or warlike-there is no comfortable position in between. Periods of peace call for goodwill, negotiation, arbitration. . . . In war the attitude must be one of unremitting hostility. Conflict is perceived as "unnatural"; it is caused by evil men or motives and can thus be ended only by the extirpation [removal] of the offenders.
Americans traditionally have seen foreign policy less as a seamless web than as a series of episodic events or discrete self-contained problems each of which could be dealt with by the application of common sense and the commitment of resources. . . . This belief derived in part from our geographic remoteness from the center of world affairs, which enables us to shift to other countries the burden of maintaining the global balance of power. The perception would thus have become impossible to sustain in any event when the growth of Soviet power ended our invulnerability and forced us to abandon isolationism. . . .
The Soviet Union is a tyranny and an ideological adversary, thus fulfilling our traditional image of irreconcilable conflict between good and evil.
But Soviet ideological hostility translates itself into geopolitical rivalry in the manner of a traditional great power, seeking gains any one of which might be marginal but whose accumulation will upset the global equilibrium. Emotionally committed to facing an overall moral challenge in an apocalyptic confrontation, we thus run the risk of floundering [in regard to] more ambiguous Soviet attempts to nibble away at the balance of power. At the same time, the postwar world was nuclear; statesmen now no longer risked their armies but their societies and all of mankind. . . .
The most important task of the second Nixon Administration was therefore psychological: to educate the American public in the complexity of the world we would have to manage. The United States as the leader of the democracies had a responsibility to defend global security even against ambiguous and seemingly. marginal assaults. We would have to do this while simultaneously exploring the limits of coexistence with a morally repugnant ideology. We would have to learn that there would be no final answers. I was convinced then - and remain so-that we cannot find our goals either in an apocalyptic showdown or in a final reconciliation. Rather, we must nurture the fortitude to meet the Soviet challenge over an historical epoch at times by resistance, at times by negotiation.