In the early 1960s, détente with the USSR had resolved major issues of the Cold War and had allowed Americans to respond to only minor irritations in foreign policy. The Kennedy and Johnson administrations had thus moved into Southeast Asia – but with disastrous results. After 1989, the collapse of the Soviets also encouraged diplomats to expand American interests, first into Eastern Europe, then into the Middle East. As had happened with LBJ in Vietnam, Americans searched for a new mission, again with doubtful results. At the same time, Reagan’s patriotic victory over Russia had initially muted the cultural conflict that the 1960s had produced. By the late 1990s that conflict had returned and, more rancorous in the new century, competed for attention with foreign policy difficulties. The announcement of “the end of history” had been premature.
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