Something Happened: A Political and Cultural Overview of the Seventies

By Edward D. Berkowitz | Go to book overview

11
The End of the seventies

The seventies come crashing down on Jimmy Carter's head in 1979. One catalyst was a foreign-policy crisis in Iran that reflected the changed nature of American foreign policy in the seventies. During the Second World War, the United States defended Europe against the Nazis and Asia against the Japanese. In the postwar era, the major causes of confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union were disputes over the disposition of the countries that had been reclaimed from German and Japanese influence during the war. The United States and the Soviet Union had a long and tense standoff over the fate of Berlin and used proxy nations to wage war in the former Japanese empire. In the seventies, as oil from the Middle East became a more important commodity in the American economy, the locus of the disputes between the United States and Russia shifted to that region.

As in Asia, the Middle Eastern disputes had internal causes, rather than simply being reflections of world geopolitics and political economy. The civil wars in the Middle East concerned battles between modernizers who looked to the west to develop the economies of their nations and traditionalists who wished to preserve Muslim values in those nations. Because of oil, Cold War politics, and the particular concern of the United States for the survival of Israel, these civil wars became matters of international concern. If in the postwar era the United States fought wars in Korea and Vietnam; in the new era that began in the seventies the United States would stage wars in places like Iraq and Kuwait.

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