Here we have a story with amazing relevance to our world today. Not just because of Egypt, Syria and the Middle East but also because of South Africa as evidenced by the above recent NY Times article, articulating the painful process that led to the end of apartheid. That that process did not lead to civil war could be counted as one of its successes, but the time, effort and struggle, and the hypocritical stance of America and American investment (though “small” by Ambrose’s accounting) need to be judged in some way as a great failure. Not until Jimmy Carter, mentioned briefly here, would we have a promise of a US Foreign Policy based on human rights interest, and not national interest, but the failure of that policy, in the upcoming chapter, would bring no real new results, and frankly bring about substantial challenges which will lead to his resounding defeat by Reagan in 1980 and a three term (Reagan, Reagan, George HW Bush) conservative Republican ascendancy along, broken only by Clinton in ’92 (with the help of Ross Perot) who then faced the “Contract with America” defeat in ’94.
So Ambrose begins by illustrating the Middle East as decidedly indifferent to the Cold war. That two NATO allies could attack each other (Turkey and Greece over Cyprus) is great evidence that the bipolarity of the Soviet – American conflict held little sway in other parts of the world. That Egypt, under Sadat would at one moment have Soviet advisers in his country, and in the next be appealing for American aid, goes to show how difficult this terrain was to navigate with the lens of the Cold War. Furthermore in this time the Middle East is emboldened by the initial success of Egypt and by the success of the oil embargo which resulted in long long lines in the US, cars wrapped around the block waiting for gas at the few stations that had it, a quadrupling of gas prices, the end of Detroit, the ascendance of the Japanese automotive industry and the federal government’s imposition pictured before, of a nationwide federal speed limit of 55mph to assure maximum efficiency of all cars on the road.
Hint: if you consider yourself a card carrying environmentalist check your mpg driving normally for a tank of gas, then fill the tank and keep your speed at 55 or below, treat the gas pedal like an eggshell leaving stops (avoid stops) and you will be amazed at the difference.
On to South African we have there an excellent example of national interests in conflict with any legitimate view of human rights, civil rights, equity that serve to show terrible contradictions with America as either a beacon or crusader. Read the above linked article for a South African view on the lurching policy of America in those years.
Questions to pose here for your comments might include an assessment of why the Cold War didn’t matter in Africa, what was going on in Portugal and Angola and why that matters to this story and anything else you find interesting, confusing, or curious.