The Conduct of American Foreign Policy: The Revitalization of Containment

Courtesy Reuters

The Reagan Administration is repeating the first beat of a familiar rhythm of America's international and political life. Each newly elected Administration of the alternative political party launches its foreign relations with themes that were developed during the national campaign in opposition to the policies of its predecessor. But then comes the down beat: unexpected domestic and international conditions contradict (or appear to contradict) the underlying premises of the "new" foreign policy. Then either the Administration abandons or modifies its themes (in substance, if not in rhetoric) or it takes uncontested credit for the transformation. This phenomenon began with the Eisenhower Administration. It has deep roots in the American political system and the American approach to the outside world.

Beneath this familiar rhythm the continuities of American foreign policy are always greater than the political claims to innovation would have one believe. The greatest discontinuities spring from responses to unanticipated

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