The West in Retreat
INTELLECTUAL confusion, Auguste Comte once wrote, is at the bottom of every historical crisis; the crisis of American foreign policy is no exception. Seen in retrospect, the two or three years prior to 1974-the period of the Paris accords on Vietnam, China’s admission to the UN, SALT, Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, the Nixon trips to Moscow and Peking-will be a source of bewilderment to future diplomatic historians. This was the climax of an era of illusions whose origins are traceable back to the 1960′s. Disgusted with Vietnam, bored with global tensions, eager to return to domestic preoccupations, establishment and radical spokesmen alike announced a virtual moratorium on world conflicts. The global balance of power, military strength, and other such anachronisms were solemnly relegated to the dustbin of history. Mighty common enterprises were ushered in, with Europe, Japan, and China elevated to the rank of superpowers. Politicians congratulated each other on the creation of new structures of peace; political scientists, whose chosen kingdom is not of this world, preoccupied themselves with such recondite details of the putatively emerging world order as the neo-functional analysis of regional integration. It was an exhilarating period, reminiscent of the years after World War I when Woodrow Wilson excluded “autocratic governments from respectable society” and when Senator Borah and Secretary of State Kellogg outlawed war.
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