Courtesy Reuters

The Conduct of American Foreign Policy: As a European Saw it

Let us put our cards on the table. There are two basic views about President Ronald Reagan's foreign policy. One, the Administration's, appears to be accepted (if the opinion polls are to be believed) by the majority of Americans. It is that the United States, after years of weakness and humiliation, has once again faced the challenge of an aggressive, expansionist Soviet Union, revived the global economy, rescued the Western Alliance and generally reasserted true American leadership in the world. The other view is shared to a greater or lesser extent by much of the rest of mankind, with the possible exceptions of the Israelis, the South Africans, President Marcos of the Philippines and a few right-wing governments in Central and South America. It is that the Reagan Administration has vastly overreacted to the Soviet threat, thereby distorting the American (and hence the world) economy, quickening the arms race, warping its own judgment about events in the Third World, and further debasing the language of international intercourse with feverish rhetoric. A subsidiary charge, laid principally by the Europeans, Canadians and many Latin Americans, but frequently endorsed in the Arab world and the Far East, is that in a desperate desire to rediscover "leadership," the United States under Reagan has reverted to its worst unilateral habits, resenting and ignoring, when it deigns to notice, the independent views and interests of its friends and allies.

It is in my experience almost impossible to convey even to the most experienced Americans just how deeply rooted and widely spread the critical view has become. It is, however, worth recalling at the outset of a review of 1983 that a devastating but entirely reputable opinion poll taken in January of that year showed that no less than 70 percent of the British people lacked any confidence in the judgment of the American Administration.1 This did not mean that they were neutralist or soft on communism or anything of the kind; on the contrary, their answers to another question

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