John B. Judis, in Grand Illusion: Critics and Champions of the American Century, charts how Nixon transformed his outlook in foreign policy:
Congressman Nixon initially aligned himself with the internationalist wing of the Republican Party… . But within this framework, Nixon pitched to the right. During the Korean War, Senator Nixon favored General Douglas MacArthur’s disastrous plan to advance to the Yalu River. In 1954, , Vice President Nixon advocated sending troops to Vietnam to rescue the French and, if necessary, even using nuclear weapons. In 1957, he urged the Eisenhower administration to back the French in Algeria. During the Vietnam War, campaigner Nixon criticized President Lyndon Johnson for not sending enough troops or dropping enough bombs. He unequivocally called for the United States to maintain its nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union.
Yet sometime in the mid-1960s, while he was practicing law in New York and campaigning for Republican candidates, Nixon began to look more dispassionately on international relations—what he called ‘taking the long view.” It was possible for him to do so because of his distance from political decision making, which allowed him to view the world outside the immediate framework of domestic anti-Communism and missionary moralism. In his method of observing international relations, Nixon was influenced by his favorite among world leaders, French President Charles de Gaulle… . Nixon, who later described de Gaulle in Leaders as “a man of enormous ego and yet at the same time enormous selflessness,” was struck by his ability to look at the world without immediate preconceptions. De Gaulle had granted independence to Algeria, distanced France from the United States, and taken the first steps toward what he called “détente” with the Soviet Union. As France prospered, Nixon saw in the French statesman the rewards of “selflessness” and unconventionality in international relations.
“Taking the long view” and looking dispassionately at domestic policy, as well as foreign affairs, would be a good beginning for aspiring Republican leaders today.