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The main objectives of President Jimmy Carter's foreign policy in his second year in office were clear enough. Toward the East he sought to maintain the momentum of détente. Toward the West he sought to preserve the coalition of liberal democracies and - in line with the prescriptions of "trilateralism" - to engage them in more intimate forms of economic consultation. In the vast and amorphous areas of the so-called South, where the Soviet Union and the Western powers do not meet in direct confrontation, his impulse was to treat the forces of change as rooted in indigenous developments rather than in superpower rivalry and to work with rather than against them.
The year 1978 was one of solid accomplishments, multiple frustrations and varied crises for American diplomacy. It saw neither great debacles nor spectacular "breakthroughs." The only event that came close to deserving this qualification - the Chinese-American announcement of the normalization of diplomatic relations - was the logical consequence of the rapprochement begun by President Nixon and Henry Kissinger. The other major event, Camp David, was the necessary - though far from inevitable - product of President Sadat's 1977 visit to Israel.
As 1978 ended, the United States and the Soviet Union were still short of a final agreement on their new strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT II). Yet the negotiation of this agreement, and Western discussion of its meaning, certainly dominated the year's events in the field of arms control. President Carter never wavered in his conviction that the achievement of a good agreement was an objective of top priority, and his optimism on the prospect of relatively early agreement seemed unshakable.
Nothing the Carter Administration has done has excited more hope, puzzlement and confusion than the effort to make human rights a primary theme in the international relations of the United States.
While the stridency that has increasingly characterized North-South economic relations was somewhat muted in 1978, the tensions that have troubled economic relations between the industrialized nations in recent years were sharpened. This increase in tensions was largely a spillover into the international arena of unresolved problems of domestic economic management. Slow growth, sluggish investment and persistently high rates of unemployment and excess productive capacity continued in most major industrialized countries; only the United States sustained its recovery pace of growth from the sharp recession of 1974-75.
As has been true of practically all American presidents since World War II, Jimmy Carter entered the White House with high hopes of effecting a major and salutary breakthrough in our relations with the Soviet Union. Also evident was the President's determination to achieve some substantial success in this direction quite early in his first term in office. The new Administration believed, as new administrations are prone to, that, unlike its predecessor, it had some special qualifications and opportunities to establish a more satisfactory rapport with the Kremlin.
In the 30 years following the enunciation of the Truman Doctrine in March 1947, promising military aid to Greece and Turkey, America's relations with her Western European allies have been subject to many tensions and fallen into many vagaries, but the alliance has been underpinned by a clear perception of common interest at the most fundamental levels of strategic argument. For the United States, Western Europe has represented not only a vital extension of the American economic system but also a bulwark against geopolitical encroachments on that system by the Soviet Union. For Western Europe, the United States has been not only the sole credible source of military security but - notwithstanding Europe's increasing prosperity - the ultimate provider of her economic security as well.
The establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China on New Year's Day 1979 dramatized an extraordinary year in which East Asia experienced an array of other significant political, social and economic changes. This transformation had been building up over the past decade, gradually sweeping away many of the myths and dogmas on which American policy and practice were predicated for so long. But if history can be said to be marked by decisive moments, 1978 was such a climax. In both its domestic dynamics and attitudes toward the world, the region appears to be entering a fresh phase that will require the formulation of new strategies tailored to new realities.
Throughout 1978 the Middle East was at or near the top of the Carter Administration's foreign policy agenda. For the first time in 30 years an Arab-Israeli peace settlement - at least a partial one - was a practical possibility once President Sadat's visit to Jerusalem in November 1977 had opened the door. As the year began, it was clear that the parties would need mediation and help to reach the promised land of peace and that the United States, the old friend of Israel and new friend of Egypt, was admirably placed to escort them there. The Soviet Union, on bad terms with both Israel and Egypt, was out of the picture. The signs for productive American diplomacy were favorable.
Developments in Africa - and in the capitals of the great powers - made that continent an important testing ground for the foreign policies of the Western nations and the Soviet Union in 1978. While clearly still the dominant foreign influence in Africa, the Western countries were thrown on the defensive and groped for new ways of protecting their interests there. In the open diplomatic confrontation with the Soviet Union and Cuba, the West came off worst in the Horn of Africa but continued to maneuver actively in southern Africa. In neither area were the Western powers able to discourage the Soviet Union and Cuba from intervening militarily in the continent's internal affairs.
Latin America was very much on the agenda during the first months of the Carter Administration. During that period, visits to, analyses of and speeches about Latin America emerged from the new Administration at a rate not seen since the early days of the Kennedy presidency.1 Addressing the Organization of American States less than three months after taking office, the President spoke boldly of a "new approach" based on "a high regard for the individuality and the sovereignty of each Latin American and Caribbean nation, . . . our respect for human rights, . . . [and] our desire to press forward on the great issues which affect the relations between the developed and the developing nations."
For many years, public attitudes toward foreign policy leadership in the United States could be summed up as "President knows best." Virtually throughout the Vietnam War, up to its very end, the public gave the President - whether Kennedy, Johnson or Nixon - the benefit of the doubt. A President, any President, was presumed to possess vital information unavailable to others, and therefore to be in the best position to judge what actions were in the nation's interest. Several years ago I calculated a pre-Watergate, 50 percent "automatic support" factor for presidential decisions in foreign policy. Analyzing a number of public opinion polls taken before and after presidential decisions in foreign policy, I calculated that the President could count on adding up to 50 percent of the electorate to his support column once he had made a decision, almost regardless of the policy initiative in question. So untroubled was public confidence in executive legitimacy in foreign affairs that people simply assumed the President must have access to knowledge and wisdom denied to ordinary citizens.