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So far, the twentieth century has been an age of nationalism. Nibbled at on the one hand by subgroups within it, and on the other by aspirations, concerns, and organizations transcending it, the nation-state goes on as the main engine of organized human action. For more of the world's population than ever before, the nation-state in which they live is one they regard as their own, however much they may dissent from its policies or even suffer its repressions.
There has been much discussion in the last few years about the decline of American power. While American military capabilities remain enormous thanks largely to persistent technological advance and while the American economy remains the most powerful in the world, many observers have noted the discrepancy between capabilities and achievements. As the fall of Indochina, the rise of OPEC and recent events in Angola attest, the United States has had difficulty shaping the movements and outcomes of world affairs.
For three decades Soviet power has obsessed American foreign policy. By it we have judged our own; because of it we have committed ourselves far from home and justified our commitment in terms of the menace it represents; around it we have made a world order revolve. For us, Soviet power has been the ultimate measure and the central threat, a seminal idea and a source of orientation.
Few would doubt that there have been significant changes in the world power structure since, say, the unilateral declaration of American economic independence on August 15, 1971, or even the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Yet what does such a statement mean? Power may be a relatively clear concept, describing the capacity to assert interest effectively, or more simply, to make others do what one wants them to do; but the reality of power is much less clear. Indeed, the same phenomenon occurs both within societies and between nations: those who feel that things are happening to them believe that somebody must have done them and must therefore have the power to do them; whereas those who are thought to have this power realize that much of the time things simply happen. Circumstances and constellations are more important than intentions and actions. Those who feel constrained suspect the hand of those in power; those who have power sense, above all, the constraints under which they are acting.
Iran, in the view of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, has a great imperial past and a greater imperial future. In the next few years it is to assert its dominant role in the Persian Gulf region and the nearby reaches of the Indian Ocean. By 1990 it will attain the status of a Britain or a France in the global hierarchy of powers. Seeing this dream of the future, the Shah is already acting as if it were reality. Meanwhile, his neighbor across the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, talks less of empire but gradually extends its influence through the Arab world. Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the Saudi Minister of Oil and Industry, can virtually dictate the world price of oil as long as he speaks for his king. He can lead the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) or he can break it. He can please the Americans by being "moderate" on the oil price, and at the same time can remind them that he expects them to move Israel toward a settlement acceptable to the Arabs. The United States worries about its rising imports of oil, which increase its vulnerability to the decisions of OPEC, but takes comfort in the fact that it has a friend in Riyadh.
That Western Europe is in a state of disarray has become a commonplace. The headlines proclaim it, the capital flight confirms it. After a generation of unprecedented prosperity and progress, the West European nations, though still remarkably strong, are encountering a network of difficulties that threatens them in various realms and that seems to defy known remedies.
In the early hours of June 3, 1977, the Conference on International Economic Cooperation (CIEC) came to a battered and confused end - more than a hectic day behind its scheduled final ministerial meeting. An 18-month "dialogue" between the rich North and the poor South, which had begun with much enthusiasm and great hope in Paris, finished on a faint and joyless note. A hastily drafted, and uncommonly bland, report was presented for adoption to a glum and exhausted audience at the Conference's last plenary meeting.
I believe it will be possible to withdraw our ground forces from South Korea on a phased basis over a time span to be determined after consultation with both South Korea and Japan. At the same time, it should be made clear to the South Korean government that its internal oppression is repugnant to our people and undermines the support for our commitment there. - Jimmy Carter, June 23, 1976
Foreigners must find it hard to believe that the Canadian people, among the richest and most fortunate on earth, should solemnly consider the destruction of their vast estate sprawling across half a continent. But the crisis now facing them in many forms - constitutional, political, economic and, above all, emotional - has deep roots and lessons for free peoples everywhere.
On June 15, 1977, just a year and a half after the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, Spaniards elected a new, bicameral Cortes with the authority to write a constitution for Spain. It was the first freely contested parliamentary election in Spain since February 15, 1936, and it produced scenes that Franco would have abhorred: Communists brazenly waving red banners, chanting slogans, and singing the Internationale; the young, dynamic leader of the Socialist Workers Party entering rallies with his left hand in a clenched fist salute, his right signaling V for victoria; politicians exhorting Basques in Euskera, Catalans in Catalan, Galicians in Gallego, all forbidden languages a few years before; and newspapers belittling their government and its leader.
On Novy Swiat, a main downtown street in Warsaw, there is a women's lingerie store called Bardotka, a diminutive for the surname of the celebrated French actress. To a Western resident of Moscow (or most other East European capitals) where such establishments tend to have names like Wearing Apparel Store Number Six, the Polish whimsy is remarkable. The observation, however, is not nearly so lighthearted as it may seem at first. There is a growing divergence between the Soviet Union and its largest ally that is understandably a matter of the utmost sensitivity for both countries. Profound differences in the way Poles and Soviets order their worlds in the 1970s start with superficial points of style, but they extend increasingly to fundamental issues of politics, economics and ideology.