Courtesy Reuters

American in Decline: The Foreign Policy of "Maturity"

Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be; why then should we desire to be deceived?

-Bishop Joseph Butler

Fifteen Sermons (1726)

No. 7, para. 16

The last year of the 1970s confirmed and carried measurably forward the major trends of a decade. Viewed from an American perspective, the principal developments of 1979 registered the continued decline in the nation's international position. The decline was most apparent in the Middle East, the area that apart from Western Europe and Japan represents the center of America's strategic interests.

The revolution in Iran destroyed what had been throughout the decade the principal pillar of American policy in the region. The local power on which the United States had relied for maintaining security of access to the oil of the Persian Gulf was transformed overnight into a determined adversary. Whatever radicalizing influence the Iranian revolution might have on the other states of the region, one thing was virtually certain: the revolution had dramatically increased the instability of the Persian Gulf while markedly reducing Washington's ability to cope with this rising instability by normal diplomatic methods. Whereas the new Iranian regime had no apparent interest in the stability and security of the Gulf-at any rate, none that could be defined in terms compatible with American and Western interest-there was no satisfactory local substitute with the power and will to provide the functions Iran once provided.

Nor is this the only problem created by the Iranian revolution. For a brief period during the winter of this past year Iranian oil production fell to nearly zero. For the entire year it was substantially below normal output. One consequence of this drastic cutback was to set the stage for the sharp increase in oil prices by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in June, and further major increases in December. These evoked anew the question insistently asked at the outset of the oil crisis in 1974: How can the world pay for OPEC

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