The Conduct of American Foreign Policy: A Portentous Year

Courtesy Reuters

In the memory of the American public, three events, or sets of events, stood out in 1983. The first was the September 1 shooting down, by a Soviet fighter, of a Korean Air Lines flight that had strayed into Soviet air space and was carrying 269 civilian passengers, including 61 Americans; in the aftermath, favorable American opinion toward the Soviet Union dropped to a 27-year low, and the incident aborted what had been brief hopes for better communication between Washington and Moscow and some progress at least on minor issues.

Then, in late October, disaster and triumph came hand in hand. On October 23 a terrorist truck-bomb destroyed the headquarters of the U.S. Marine contingent at the Beirut airport, claiming the lives of 241 Marines. It was the very weekend when the President and his advisers were deciding on the occupation two days later of the small island of Grenada in the Caribbean. First called an invasion but later styled a rescue mission, the occupation was a complete military success, relieving fears that several hundred American medical students in Grenada might have been taken hostage by what loomed as an extreme Marxist military leadership. Although criticized abroad, it won the quick and strong approval of the American public, partly because the Administration's reasons for acting appeared to be borne out by subsequent evidence and partly because the action hit a particularly vivid chord in the national memory-that the United States should not again experience anything resembling the 1979-80 hostage crisis in Iran, and especially at the hands of Cuba-backed communists.

And then, on November 22, the West German parliament gave its final approval to the initial deployment of intermediate-range U.S. missiles (INF) in Germany, and the Soviet Union at once responded by breaking off the Geneva INF negotiations-followed shortly by refusal to set resumption dates for the strategic arms talks (START) and those on European force reductions (MBFR). Whether and how arms control negotiations could be renewed was wholly uncertain by the end of the year,

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