The Carter Years: Toward a New Global Order

By Richard C. Thornton | Go to book overview

Preface

T his volume is the second of three analyzing American strategy and foreign policy during the period 1968-1988. The first was The Nixon-Kissinger Years: Reshaping America's Foreign Policy, 1968-1976. Although the current volume stands by itself and can be read independently of the first, the reader will gain a greater sense of the continuity and change in American foreign policy by reading this volume in conjunction with the preceeding one.

The thesis of this volume is that while the administration of Jimmy Carter came into office fully agreed and prepared to carry forward the general strategy of a new global order initiated by Henry Kissinger in 1973, a major Soviet strategic weapons breakthrough almost immediately forced its reconsideration. Indeed, the basic dynamic within the Carter leadership for virtually his entire term in office was heated debate over the viability of Kissinger's strategy as opposed to a return to some modified form of containment. The result was strategic indecision and policy vacillation.

Containment is best understood in its structural sense as the forward American position on the Eurasian landmass around the periphery of the Soviet bloc. American power provided the essential security shield, and included the political-military-economic relationships to sustain it. The new international order involved the shift of American military power from its forward "containing" positions around the Soviet periphery to a more secure posture created by the establishment and strengthening of collective security structures to ensure stability in the absence of a direct United States presence, and appropriate changes in the political-military-economic relationships.

-xiii-

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