American Global Strategy

February 6, 1976

Report Outline
Detente and Stability After Vietnam
Issues of Isolation and Involvement
Global Policy in Age of Transition
Special Focus

Detente and Stability After Vietnam

New Concern Over American Power and Prestige

Three years after the U.S. withdrawal from Indochina, many Americans seem concerned that their country's power and prestige in the world is declining and that the Soviet Union is emerging as the dominant superpower. This concern has given rise to a debate about America's global strategy in the post-Vietnam era. Some insist that there is no consistent strategy and that the United States merely reacts to world crises. Others contend that detente, or relaxation of tensions between the two superpowers, is only a slightly more sophisticated version of the old containment-of-communism doctrine. Still others argue that détente is a dangerous and onesided American effort that gives the Soviets what they could not otherwise obtain.

To those worried about America's global policy, the U.S. position in the world might be summarized as follows: “The United States cannot afford another decline like that which has characterized the past decade and a half. Fifteen years more of a deterioration of our position in the world…would find us reduced to Fortress America in a world in which we had become largely irrelevant. Our leadership is being questioned even by our allies….Periods of so-called flexibility identified with personal diplomacy ended with American prestige at an unprecedented low.”

Ironically, those words were written 15 years ago by Henry A. Kissinger in his book The Necessity for Choice (1961). Many of the same criticisms that Kissinger directed at American foreign policy after World War II are now falling on the Secretary of State's personalized conduct of world affairs. His policy of detente with the Soviet Union, it is said, has led to a deterioration in U.S. relations with traditional allies and has done little to encourage Russian restraint.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Cold War
U.S. at War: Cold War