The American Journey Modern Times © 2009

Chapter 16: America in the 1970s

Chapter Overviews

Section 1: Nixon’s Foreign Policy

President Nixon sought to ease Cold War tensions and bring about a more stable world. In 1972 Nixon made the first formal U.S. contact with China in 25 years, and left with an agreement to resume trade. Nixon then went to Moscow where he signed the SALT I treaty and improved relations with the Soviet Union.

Nixon’s foreign policy included an attempt to reduce tension in the Middle East brought about by the “Six-Day War” of 1967, between Israel and neighboring Arab countries. With the aid of an airlift of American weapons, Israel threw back Arab attacks in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In retaliation, Arab states placed an embargo on oil to the United States. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger engaged in shuttle diplomacy to Middle Eastern capitals trying to solve the oil crisis and forge a lasting piece.

The Nixon administration continued the effort to halt the spread of communism in Latin America. In 1973, the CIA backed the military overthrow of the communist Chilean government.

Section 2: Nixon and Watergate

To get tougher on crime, Nixon appointed judges he hoped would create a more conservative Supreme Court. He introduced New Federalism to scale back federal funding and return more power to state and local government. Despite his efforts, Nixon was unable to solve the country’s serious economic problems.

Anxious to win a second term, Nixon approved some illegal activities during his 1972 election campaign. Nixon won the election in a landslide, but his crimes were revealed in Senate hearings in 1973. Before a vote to impeach him was final, Nixon resigned his office in disgrace.

After the Watergate scandal, President Ford wanted to unite the nation, but his pardon of Nixon only stirred up controversy. Ford continued to improve relations with the Soviet Union and China, but he too, was not able to solve economic problems at home.

Section 3: The Carter Presidency

Democrat Jimmy Carter won the presidential election of 1976. During his administration, Carter struggled to revive the still-ailing economy, resolve the energy crisis, and confront the controversy over nuclear power.

In foreign affairs, Carter handed over the Panama Canal to Panama, and brought about an agreement between Israel and Egypt known as the Camp David Accords. Hopes for an arms treaty with the Soviet Union were cut short. Relations with Iran proved very challenging. Americans held hostage in Iran were released the day after Carter lost the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan, who promised to restore national pride.

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