My predominant concern during Watergate was not the investigations that formed the headlines of the day. It I was to sustain the credibility of the U.S. as a major power. We could—and did—take diplomatic initiatives; we could— and did—utter warnings against threats to our security. But the authority to implement them was beginning to seep away.

This erosion affected not only adversaries; it blighted as well relations with our friends. In August, Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore, interrupted a meeting of Commonwealth leaders in Ottawa to fly to New York for...

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