Courtesy Reuters

The Conduct of American Foreign Policy: A View from Abroad: Consistency Under Pressure

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.

In the course of the year developments within the United States and in the external world threatened to knock President Carter off course, but by and large he remained faithful to the main lines of his policy. Despite the rise in America of a belligerent public attitude toward the Soviet Union and difficulties created for him by Soviet policies in Africa, Carter kept America committed to the pursuit of a second agreement in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). Despite the challenge of widening economic conflict within the Western world, the policy of close collaboration among the liberal democracies was maintained.

In southern Africa, the policy of working with the forces of change was complicated by Soviet intervention, and even more by the inescapable and diametric opposition that existed between these forces and established Western positions. In Latin America, the long passage through Congress of the Panama Canal treaties underlined the difficulties America was experiencing in adjusting to the post-colonial era. In Iran - where the United States was caught unawares by forces of change now arrayed against its influence - Western policy seemed about to suffer a disaster. In relation to the Arab-Israeli dispute President Carter registered his most spectacular diplomatic triumph of the year in the Camp David agreements, but these did not lead - at

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