Historians have long recognized that the 1977-8 debate surrounding the Panama Canal treaties constituted a formative moment in the history of the New Right. By closely analyzing the arguments both for and against the treaties, Natasha Zaretsky contends that the debate crystallized a broader struggle between two articulations of U.S. nationalism after Vietnam. Supporters believed that the treaties signaled the development of a post-Cold War, post-Vietnam framework for U.S. foreign policy, one that would reinsert moral considerations into the realm of policymaking. Meanwhile, opponents believed that what they called the “giveaway” of the Canal was symptomatic of a larger pattern of American retreat in the wake of military defeat in Vietnam. The essay traces the contours of the debate among members of the Carter Administration, Congress, grassroots organizers, and ordinary men and women.

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