Games Advisors Play: Foreign Policy in the Nixon and Carter Administrations

By Jean A. Garrison | Go to book overview

4

Influence Patterns in a Problem-Solving Environment
Building Jimmy Carter's Deep Cuts Coalition

Many new presidents enter office with the intention to be as distinct as possible from the previous administration. Jimmy Carter was no exception. As a man who had run against the Washington establishment and won, he felt obligated to be as different as possible from "politics as usual." His particular goal was to energize the moral content of American foreign policy through an aggressive human rights policy and through major efforts to halt nuclear proliferation. In his inaugural address, the president pledged "perseverance and wisdom in our efforts to limit the world's armaments. . . . And we will move this year a step toward our ultimate goal--the elimination of all nuclear weapons from this Earth."1 As Cyrus Vance, Carter's secretary of state, notes in his book, Hard Choices, those days were an optimistic time. The principals felt that they were on "the threshold of an important period in American diplomacy. We had the confidence and support of the American people. The president, the vice-president, [Harold] Brown, [Zbigniew] Brzezinski, and I agreed on the shape and direction of our foreign policy. . . . Our approach was to be determined, principled, firm, and flexible." In short, they were launching the country on a bold new course.2 President Carter also had confidence in his ability to change the fundamental process and emphasis in American foreign policy. One way he tried to ensure this was to surround himself with people who he felt shared his beliefs, optimism, and commitment to change in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy.

In retrospect, it is easy to see President Carter's mixed record in foreign policy. His crusade to change the face of U.S. foreign policy and to launch a new course was a limited success. The president's triumphs in the Camp David

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