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Foreign policy is not ordinarily conducted in controlled laboratory circumstances, but 1982 gave Ronald Reagan that opportunity to an unusual degree. A self-confessed anti-communist, he had come to the White House insisting on the requirement for a hard line, and in his first year he had capitalized on it by winning congressional support for a five-year defense plan of $1.357 trillion (in 1983 dollars)--in peacetime and in a period of economic crisis, no less. On the eve of his second year, there occurred an event--the declaration of military law in Poland--which lent itself well to validating the premise of Soviet menace and mendacity on which the President's whole anti-communist stance rested. In those conditions of evident domestic support for a world view freshly authenticated by the main enemy, Reagan had an excellent chance to prove that his analysis of the central problem of American foreign policy was sound. With one year of experience under his belt, and two years to go before elections, 1982 seemed destined to be a good year.
On June 25, 1982, halfway through the second year of President Reagan's term, the most effective Treasury Secretary of the 1970s (and now a regular golf partner of the present one) was brought in from the fairways to succeed Alexander Haig as Secretary of State. Seen from Europe, that event has the makings of being a watershed in this presidential term.
The financial position is almost irretrievable: the country has lost its way. In the worst of the war I could always see how to do it. Today's problems are elusive and intangible, and it would be a bold man who could look forward to certain success. --Winston Churchill, on returning as Prime Minister in 1951.
Transatlantic disaffections, sturdy perennials since the turn of the decade, continued to sprout luxuriantly throughout 1982. They were nourished by two as yet inchoate forces which, if unchecked, will logically lead to the end of alliance: the trends toward neutralism in Europe and toward unilateralism in America.
Is an East-West policy necessary, and what should it be? Such a question would seem to go without saying and, in the eyes of countless academics and other observers, requires an affirmative response. More vigorously than ever, they are demanding from their governments, and, above all, from the United States, a "clear," "coherent," and "global" East-West policy. The question will become still more pressing in 1983, which will see the playing out of one of the most difficult matches in the game of nuclear arms negotiations since the beginning of the cold war, after the close of a year marked by two major events. In Moscow, the death of Leonid Brezhnev and the rise to power of Yuri Andropov may offer an opportunity for a new approach to old problems, and open up new perspectives on Soviet behavior. In Washington, in 1982, we have seen Ronald Reagan's policies run into their first serious problems in two areas that are supposed to be the main pillars of his "doctrine" regarding the Soviet Union: the philosophy of trade with the communist nations and the rearmament program.
Three wars dominated events in the Middle East, the Gulf and Southwest Asia in 1982. In Afghanistan, the conflict between Soviet occupying forces and the freedom-fighting Mujahedeen continued without resolution. To the west, the sputtering war between Iraq and Iran saw a succession of gains for Iran that pushed virtually all Iraqi forces from its territory; but by the end of the year the prospect of any decisive military breakthrough had faded. And in Lebanon the Israeli invasion in June led to the eviction of the headquarters and principal military apparatus of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and left Lebanon faced with the problem of withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian forces and wrestling anew to establish itself as a coherent national entity.
The absence of major developments in Central America over the past year has wrought important change: no longer are revolutionary movements about to triumph or be crushed, no longer do insurrections or invasions seem imminent. Rather, Central America has gone from being an ulcer that a new U.S. Administration thought it could lance and heal in a matter of months to a running sore that will plague the United States for years to come.
Latin America was a media event in 1982. "The fire next door" in Central America continued to make front-page headlines. In the spring war broke out between Argentina and Britain in the South Atlantic, where space-age weapons were used to fight a conflict that seemed a throwback to the nineteenth century. By the end of the year the debt crisis was center stage, with Argentina, Mexico and Brazil struggling to avoid default on a collective foreign debt of $200 billion.
It has not been a dramatic year in the annals of modern Africa. There have been no superpower confrontations, no new civil wars, no major racial or ethnic upheavals. There have even been some encouraging political signals--an election here, a peaceful handover of power there, and more abortive than successful coups. But, by no means has it been a happy year. A feeling of deep frustration has swept over the continent, caused by the inability of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to hold its annual meeting, the failure to resolve regional disputes, and a quite alarming economic decline. And it coincided with an activist if lopsided American policy that was, as the year drew to a close, far from achieving its declared goals, and thereby added to African suspicions and frustrations.
By contemporary standards, 1982 was another year of economic and political success for most East Asian nations, although a distinctly modest one when compared to achievements of recent times. Their diverse economies continued to grow, in contrast to those of most developing and industrialized nations in other areas. No governments were toppled or seriously endangered by civil strife. No new external security threats appeared, nor did any East Asian country end the year with a significantly increased sense of national jeopardy.