America and the World 1980

America and the World 1980
59, 3

Essays

Essay
Michael Howard

Seldom in recent history has the attention of the world been so closely focused on a single geographical region as it was in 1980. The region was known before the First World War as "the Middle East," to distinguish it from "the Near East," the Levantine countries whose shores were washed by the eastern Mediterranean. It had then loomed large on the maps of British statesmen concerned to protect their Indian dominions and communications in the "Great Game" they were playing against the encroaching power of the Russian Empire. Now that the term "Middle East" has been extended to cover the whole region lying between the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the mountain tableland of Central Asia, a new name has been devised to cover these counties on which attention has been concentrated during the past 12 months--Southwest Asia: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and the oil-bearing states bordering what now must tactfully be termed simply "the Gulf," all constituting a politically seismic zone of incalculable explosive potential.

Essay
George W. Ball

This year was in all respects a very heavy time," wrote the authors of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1097, and we can appropriately use the same phrase to describe 1980. To be sure our country was not engaged in war; the Danes did not raid our coast; America was still rich by world standards; and the harvest was adequate. But a doleful chorus of lamentation was heard not only in our land but throughout the non-communist nations. It had a persistent recurring theme. At a time when the Soviet Union was systematically extending its military reach, the United States was falling into apathy and incompetence. No longer did we Americans seem willing and able to assure the security of our friends and allies. No longer did we display the mastery of events that had given confidence in our economic, political and military leadership.

Essay
George W. Ball

INTRODUCTION: This year was in all respects a very heavy time," wrote the authors of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1097, and we can appropriately use the same phrase to describe 1980. To be sure our country was not engaged in war; the Danes did not raid our coast; America was still rich by world standards; and the harvest was adequate. But a doleful chorus of lamentation was heard not only in our land but throughout the non-communist nations. It had a persistent recurring theme. At a time when the Soviet Union was systematically extending its military reach, the United States was falling into apathy and incompetence. No longer did we Americans seem willing and able to assure the security of our friends and allies. No longer did we display the mastery of events that had given confidence in our economic, political and military leadership.

Essay
Robert G. Kaiser

After the events of 1980 the Soviet Union and the United States both must come to terms with new versions of each other. American hopes for a more reasonable, more conservative Soviet Union finally collapsed, replaced by a new eagerness to contest the Soviets for military superiority and global position. The Soviet leaders discovered both the exhilaration and the pain that accompany the dramatic and unexpected use of power; they were also reminded of the recurring dilemmas that beset any nation that manages a restless empire.

Essay
Seweryn Bialer

Events in Poland since August 1980, the struggle of Polish workers for their rights, constitute a critical turning point in the history of the Soviet imperium. The situation, still completely unpredictable at the onset of the new year, holds much more importance for the future of the world communist movement, the Soviet empire, and the Soviet Union itself than the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Polish revolt of the same year, the Czechoslovak reforms of 1968, and even the Stalin-Tito rupture of 1947-48. Its international implications are no less grave. Poland is the key country in the Soviet bloc in terms of strategic location, military and economic potential, and size of population. A major lasting change there could transform, if not destroy, the Soviet Union's East European empire.

Essay
J.C. Hurewitz

Once again events in the Middle East and adjacent areas dominated the world situation in 1980. To Americans, the inability to obtain the release of the 52 diplomats held hostage in Tehran since November 1979 was particularly dismaying. But of even greater underlying importance was the inability to mount a firm allied or regional response to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, where a grinding and brutal war went on with no sign of ending. In the fall, military conflict broke out between Iraq and Iran, again with no end in sight and with consequences for oil supply that by the end of the year had further tightened market prospects, and caused a new jump in oil prices. Finally, the Camp David process--which the Carter Administration had regarded as its greatest achievement--bogged down over issues of autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza that lay at the core of any hope for settlement of the issues between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Essay
Andre Fontaine

The differences that arise more or less regularly between the nations bordering the two sides of the North Atlantic are customarily laid to "misunderstandings." But the fact that these differences multiplied all through 1980 indicates that there exists between the United States and two of its principal European partners something of a crisis of confidence.

Essay
Harold van B. Cleveland and Ramachandra Bhagavatula

In some ways, the world economic scene in 1980 was a rerun of 1979, with rapidly rising oil prices, a business slowdown in the industrial world, balance-of-payments trouble in developing countries, too little stability in financial markets, and too much inflation. But there was a significant change, too, in 1980, above all in the perception of the world's economic troubles and what to do about them.

Essay
Harold van B. Cleveland and Ramachandra Bhagavatula

INTRODUCTION: In some ways, the world economic scene in 1980 was a rerun of 1979, with rapidly rising oil prices, a business slowdown in the industrial world, balance-of-payments trouble in developing countries, too little stability in financial markets, and too much inflation. But there was a significant change, too, in 1980, above all in the perception of the world's economic troubles and what to do about them.

Essay
Viron P. Vaky

In an interview in 1977, Mexico's President José López Portillo observed of U.S.-Mexican relations that "there are no isolated problems; everything is part of everything else." In 1980 no more appropriate maxim could be found to apply to U.S.-Latin American relations generally.

Essay
Andrew Young

On April 18, 1980, as Lord Soames and Robert Mugabe exchanged compliments, the Union Jack made its final descent on the African continent and the flag of Zimbabwe flew alone after a generation of struggle in the United Nations, on the battlefield, and at the polls. With the independence of Zimbabwe, U.S. policy toward Africa registered an important achievement, and a new period in African-American relations began. Ironically, few policymakers in the Congress or Department of State had believed such an outcome to be possible. However, real African and American interests ultimately prevailed against the anxieties and prejudices which have long limited our thinking about events in Africa and had also blocked a settlement of that long-lived conflict.

Essay
Andrew Nagorski

American optimism about East Asia, in precious short supply only a few years earlier, was abundantly available in 1980. "The arc from Korea through Taiwan and the Philippines, at the very center of great power rivalry for much of this century, is less subject to these strains today than at any time in well over forty years," Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke declared in June. Such pronouncements by U.S. policymakers were understandable: East Asia offered far more possibilities--for diplomatic overtures, for expanding trade--than anyone dared predict during the Vietnam era. But in 1980 enough warning signals were flashing throughout the region to suggest the need for a more balanced--and less buoyant--assessment.

Essay
Daniel Yankelovich and Larry Kaagan

Between Jimmy Carter's election in 1976 and Ronald Reagan's victory in 1980, the outlook of the American people underwent one of those decisive shifts that historians generally label as watershed events. In 1976 the nation was still in the aftershock of Watergate and Vietnam--unsure of its limits as a superpower, agonizing over the moral rightness of the Vietnam War, dreading involvement in foreign commitments that in any way resembled Vietnam, preoccupied with domestic economic problems, intent on restoring the presidency to pre-Watergate levels of integrity, and dependent on détente with the Soviet Union to lighten both the defense budget and the tensions of international relations.

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