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

By John Lewis Gaddis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
ELEVEN
Epilogue:
Containment after Kissinger

Jimmy Carter, upon taking office early in 1977, appeared determined to reverse the preoccupation with containment that had dominated American foreign policy for the past three decades. The time had come, he announced in his first major speech on international affairs, to move beyond the belief "that Soviet expansion was almost inevitable but that it must be contained," beyond "that inordinate fear of communism which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in that fear," beyond the tendency "to adopt the flawed and erroneous principles and tactics of our adversaries, sometimes abandoning our own values for theirs," beyond the "crisis of confidence" produced by Vietnam and "made even more grave by the covert pessimism of some of our leaders." "It is a new world," Carter stressed, "but America should not fear it. It is a new world, and we should help to shape it. It is a new world that calls for a new American foreign policy—a policy based on constant decency in its values and on optimism in our historical vision." 1

And yet, less than three years later, Carter was describing the state of Soviet-American relations as "the most critical factor in determining whether the world will live in peace or be engulfed in global conflict," reviewing with approval past efforts at containment from the 1940's on, calling for steps toward reconstituting the military draft and lifting "unwarranted restraints" on intelligence collection capabilities, expressing a determination to make the Russians "pay a concrete price for their aggression," and even proclaiming his own "Carter doctrine": that "any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be

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