Katzenbach, Nicholas deB.
October 1973
Foreign Affairs;Oct73, Vol. 52 Issue 1, p1
The article addresses the question of what kind of foreign policy will arise from the ashes of Watergate, and how it can gain the public consensus without which no foreign policy can hope to succeed. In foreign policy there is no substitute for presidential leadership in formulating and administering foreign affairs. In recent history--especially in regard to Vietnam and related events in Southeast Asia--the effect of broadly held public views on U.S. foreign policy has been very great indeed. As as a touchstone of domestic politics, this policy had its vices as well as one great virtue--the capacity to unify Americans behind an expensive, tough, far-flung foreign policy. Any foreign policy--and certainly one as global as that of the U.S.--involves inevitable trade-offs among the various costs that the nation pay for security and well-being. Thus, since China and the McCarthy aftermath, no president has been politically willing to question the basic objective of no loss of territory to communist regimes--to admit that such an objective cannot be absolute and that it may involve excessive risks of nuclear war or unacceptable costs of limited war. The general public and congressional perception of the cold war--and, incidentally, of an exaggerated American power to influence and control events--made it virtually impossible for any president to be candid about the costs and risks of U.S. foreign policy.


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