After the Cold War

AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY IN THE 1970S -- IN the years since the end of the Second World War, American foreign policy has consisted primarily of the effort to cope with two immensely difficult problems which the events of that war brought into being, neither of which had been adequately anticipated and which the discussions among the victor powers at the end of the war failed to solve. One was the question of how should be filled the great political vacuums created by the removal of the hegemonies recently exercised by Germany and Japan over large and important areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The uncertainty and emerging disagreement over the attendant questions concerned not only much of Central and Eastern Europe but also parts of East Asia that had been overrun by the Japanese, including-alas-Indochina; and the settlement of the Asian aspects of the problem came to involve not only the United States and the Soviet Union and the inhabitants of the affected territories themselves but also, with the completion of the Chinese Revolution, the new communist power in China.

The second great problem with which American policymakers of the postwar period had to struggle was one for which they were equally unprepared: what to do now, in time of peace, with the fearful new weapon of mass destruction they had created during the war and had used, at the end of the struggle, against the Japanese. The problem was effectively without precedent. It might well be argued (the writer himself adheres to this school of thought) that it should not have taken the nuclear weapon to persuade people that war, as a method for resolving conflicts among industrially advanced great powers, had become inordinately costly, dangerous and self-destructive. The First World War, one might say, should have been adequate evidence of this. But the nuclear weapon involved a change in degree of destructiveness so great as to be in effect a change in kind; and the questions as to how-or whether-it

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