Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy

By John Lewis Gaddis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
TEN
Implementing Détente

The extent to which Kissinger's strategy succeeded had become the subject of sharp debate, though, by the time the Ford administration left office. Critics in the intellectual-academic community, never quite prepared to forgive Kissinger's association with the distasteful Nixon, charged him with conceptual inconsistency, a proclivity for show over substance, and a tendency to view the world from a myopic "Sovietocentric" perspective. 1 Leading Democrats, eager to find an issue with which to regain the White House, accused Kissinger of having allowed American military strength to decline, on the one hand, and of insensitivity to human rights on the other. 2 Right-wing Republicans echoed the same complaints, and even managed to incorporate them into their 1976 platform, over the objections of their narrowly selected nominee, Gerald Ford. 3 Détente was very much on the defensive, therefore, when Kissinger relinquished the direction of American foreign policy early in 1977; as had so often been the case in the past, criticisms developed during the campaign would become, in large part, the basis upon which the new administration of Jimmy Carter would define its approach to the world in the years that followed.

These charges boiled down to four major points, although not all critics gave equal weight to each of them: (1) that "linkage" had not produced the results the administration had promised; (2) that the global military balance had been allowed to shift in favor of the Soviet Union; (3) that excessive concentration on relations with Russia and China had led to the neglect or distortion of other pressing issues; and (4) that no attempt had

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