The Limits of American Power.
The 1970s demonstrated, more clearly than in any other postwar decade, the limits of American power abroad. After the longest war in American history, the United States was unable to win in Vietnam and settled in 1973 for a peace treaty that functioned as little more than paper justification for a failed Asian policy. American dependence on foreign oil left the United States at the mercy of two oil shortages during the decade; the United States suffered continuing trade imbalances and witnessed a sharp decline in its domination of world markets caused by increased Japanese and European activity. There was little the United States could do to alter its oil imbalances or trade deficits. Military power was irrelevant, and economic pressure was ineffective. Similarly, efforts to acknowledge the changed status of the United States on the world stage, to conduct a less ambitious foreign policy, also failed. President Jimmy Carter's human-rights policy undermined American economic interests abroad; his friendly relations with Latin America failed to temper the endemic social turmoil south of the border. Carter's inability to halt Soviet incursions in Africa and, at the end of the decade, in Asia badly compromised his presidency. These illustrations of American impotence paled in comparison to the 1979 seizure of American diplomats by Iranian militants. No more striking...
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