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American peacekeeping turned into American bloodletting in 1983. More than any event since the war and oil embargo almost exactly ten years earlier, the October 23 suicide bombing of Marine headquarters in Beirut brought the Middle East conflict home directly to vast numbers of Americans stunned by the carnage that eventually claimed 241 lives--more casualties than in any other single incident since the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam.
Current diplomatic fashion tempts us to label 1974 the Year of the Sea. Negotiators from nearly every country are about to assemble in Caracas to revise comprehensively the principles and rules that have guided ocean affairs for several hundred years. The convening gavel at the Law of the Sea Conference, however, will signal both the denouement of intensive pre-Conference diplomacy and the arrival of the new era of ocean politics. The fashioning of a new public order for the oceans, adaptive to technological, economic and political developments now emerging, can hardly be accomplished by one conference or wrapped up in a single treaty. This effort will occupy statesmen for most of the remainder of the century, for it has become deeply entangled with the chronic international problems of the post cold-war period: reconciling national security requirements with the need to contain the arms race; finding rational, just and peaceful ways of allocating the world's supply of energy, food, and industrial raw materials; searching for syntheses between the competing demands of economic development and ecological care; narrowing the economic and political gaps between the poor and the affluent peoples; and, in general, managing the growing ability of nations to affect one another for ill or for good.