Breast-Beating and Myth-Exploding

The wavering course of United States foreign policy and our fumbling initiatives in the world's trouble spots have turned a brighter spotlight upon governmental decision-making in this vital area. Our performances in Iran, Lebanon, and Nicaragua have raised questions about the capacity of our open government to deal with these recurring problems. And neither our relative success in Grenada (Notre Dame vs. the Little Sisters of the Poor) nor the Russian embroilment in Afghanistan has lessened concern about our method of developing and carrying out our national strategies.

Looking back over our recent past, the authors of Our Own Worst Enemy have concluded that "for two decades now, not only our government but our whole society has been undergoing a systemic breakdown when attempting to fashion a coherent and consistent approach to the world." As a result, our power to influence events has declined and we are "taken less seriously (by our friends as well as our adversaries) than at any time since World War II."

This "unmaking of American foreign policy" became critical during the Vietnam War and the "opening up of American society and institutions in the sixties and seventies." Presidents, it is asserted, have increasingly played domestic politics with foreign policy decisions. The Congress has disregarded its...

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