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The Reagan Administration took office in 1981 committed to rebuilding American military power. We are encouraged by the results of the past four years. The Reagan defense program is having its intended effect on the Soviet Union.The sequence of annual Soviet aggression against new targets that began in the mid-1970s in Angola, and culminated in the invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979, has ceased. After walking out of the Geneva negotiations in protest over NATO's deployment of theater nuclear weapons in November 1983, the Soviet delegation is back at the bargaining table. Just prior to the recent meeting between President Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviets began for the first time to talk seriously about deep cuts in strategic offensive forces. Indeed, the Soviet Union now appears to be moving toward President Reagan's "zero option" proposal for eliminating land-based intermediate range nuclear forces-a proposal that was dismissed in 1981 by most American arms control advocates as a propaganda ploy.
On a long hot day last June and then three straight days in early July, American foreign policy clicked into a new phase whose implications the nation is only beginning to explore. In rapid succession, the House of Representatives, dominated by the Democrats and until then an off-and-on check on the bent of a Republican President and Senate, took four signal votes.
Over the past five or six years, and particularly since the death of Leonid Brezhnev in November 1982, a wide-ranging reassessment has been taking place in elite Soviet policy circles concerning the Third World.
Future historians may well mark the mid-1980s as the time when Japan surpassed the United States to become the world's dominant economic power. Japan achieved superior industrial competitiveness several years earlier, but by the mid-1980s its high-technology exports to the United States far exceeded imports, and annual trade surpluses approached $50 billion a year. Meanwhile, America's trade deficits mushroomed to $150 billion a year. By late 1985, Japan's international lending already exceeded $640 billion, about ten percent more than America's, and it is growing rapidly. By 1986 the United States became the world's largest debtor nation and Japan surpassed the United States and Saudi Arabia to become the world's largest creditor.
The talk today is of the "changing world economy." I wish to argue that the world economy is not "changing"; it has already changed--in its foundations and in its structure--and in all probability the change is irreversible.
The most startling surprise in the international economy during the 1980s has been the fulfillment of prophecies made five years ago--often voiced, seldom believed--that oil prices would decline significantly from their peak price of over $40 a barrel in 1980-81. Prices have, in fact, fallen to less than $12 a barrel on the spot market this past winter.
Chile today faces a familiar situation: a government attempting to rule the country and implement its program with the support of only a minority of the population. But the present case is different from the country's minority governments of 1964 and 1970, and far more serious. First, General Augusto Pinochet has much less popular support now than was enjoyed by either previous government. Second, Pinochet's authoritarian government, armed with a monopoly of force, is seeking to extend his rule to 1997, and to ensure military control over future governments. The 1980 constitution, rejected by opponents and widely criticized by independents as undemocratic in substance and virtually unamendable, is invoked as the legal foundation and source of legitimacy of this official scheme to cripple Chilean democracy permanently.
The recent collapse of personalist dictatorships in Haiti and the Philippines has served to remind Americans that since World War II, some of our most grievous foreign policy wounds have been inflicted not by adversaries but by self-styled (and self-seeking) friends. Though nothing is inevitable, and no two situations are exactly alike, it is difficult to ignore the intimate, indeed inextricable, relationship between the collapse of Chiang Kai-shek and the rise of Mao Zedong in China; of Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro in Cuba; of Anastasio Somoza and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
The British government has invited the Irish government to share in the burden of administering the troubled province of Northern Ireland. This is the unique invitation spelled out in an agreement signed on November 15, 1985, by the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland, Margaret Thatcher and Garret FitzGerald. If put into practice, this Anglo-Irish agreement will be the most important development in relations between the two countries since 1922, when the south of Ireland received independent dominion status as the Irish Free State while Northern Ireland remained within the United Kingdom.