The Carter Years: Toward a New Global Order

By Richard C. Thornton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
The Unraveling of American Strategy: SALT II and Iran

I n the fall of 1978 American foreign policy entered a very delicate and complicated phase. Policies pursued by the United States and the Soviet Union clashed in climax at several points as the superpowers sought to neutralize each other through deterrence diplomacy, to enable achievement of geopolitical ends without provocation of superpower confrontation. For the United States, the result was partial geopolitical success at the cost of strategic failure.

Five main policy trends converged in the fall of 1978, four in two interrelated theaters -- the Middle East-Southwest Asia and EastSoutheast Asia -- and one of global significance, the SALT II negotiations. In the Middle East-Southwest Asian theater, what was expected to be a three-month treaty negotiation between Egypt and Israel following Camp David dragged on for six months, finally requiring a virtual capitulation by the United States to Israel to reach conclusion. In Iran, on the other hand, Washington's attempt to guide the shah through a transition from autocracy to constitutional monarchy failed utterly, opening an opportunity for the Soviet Union to make its most significant geopolitical advance since World War II.

In Asia, Washington sought to employ the looming conflict between Vietnam and Kampuchea -- in which Beijing was determined to intervene on Phnom Penh's behalf -- as leverage in the normalization negotiations to establish diplomatic relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China. In providing the materiel and diplomatic support for Hanoi's invasion of Kampuchea, Moscow

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