Courtesy Reuters

The urge to teach someone a lesson seldom inspires sound policy. The lessons learned are too often one's own. So it is with President Carter's 1980 grain embargo. Soviet food supplies have been little affected. U.S. illusions about its own "food power" have been properly dispelled.

The idea of U.S. food power over the Soviet Union was an inevitable diplomatic by-product of U.S. grain sales to the Soviet Union, which had grown very large over the past decade, seemingly in proportion to large and growing Soviet needs. The President finally decided to use this putative power on January 4 of this year, when he suspended delivery of all U.S. grain sales to the U.S.S.R. in excess of the eight million tons guaranteed under the terms of a 1975 bilateral agreement. His announced purpose was to punish the Soviet Union for its military occupation of Afghanistan, begun

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  • Robert L. Paarlberg is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College, and Research Associate at the Harvard University Center for International Affairs.
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