Osgood, Robert E.
December 1981
Foreign Affairs;1981 Special Issue, Vol. 60 Issue 3
Academic Journal
As the United States revises its estimate of the Soviet threat to its foreign security interests upward and downward, there is an alternation between repeated efforts to close the chronic gap between ever-expanding interests and the available power to support them, and efforts to seek relief from the ardors of containment. The administration led by U.S. president Ronald Reagan has assumed the task of once again augmenting and reaffirming American power, under the impetus of heightened fears of the Soviet threat. The administration led by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter had already substantially reversed its initial policy of retrenchment and self-restraint, but the themes of the new Administration's efforts reflect a vigorous reaction to those that its predecessor brought into office in 1977. A brief review of the previous oscillations of U.S. foreign policy since World War II indicates the magnitude and significance of the task of national revival that President Reagan has undertaken. Given the national trauma inflicted by the war in Vietnam, any succeeding Administration was bound to oscillate again toward retrenchment. The Nixon-Ford-Kissinger regime conceived its first task, after honorable extrication from the war, as bringing American power into balance with vital interests at a reduced level of national effort and a lessened risk of armed intervention.


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