(3 of 15)
Apart from Iran and its fallout, 1979 was a year of turmoil highlighted by an occasional upbeat note: hopeful stirrings that offset to a degree the continuing victories of the forces of disruption (see page 34). On a spectacular visit to his homeland of Poland and to the U.S., Ireland and Mexico, Pope John Paul II demonstrated that he was a man whose warmth, dignity and radiant humanity deeply affected even those who did not share his Roman Catholic faith. Despite his rigidly orthodox approach to doctrinal issues, the Pope's message of peace, love, justice and concern for the poor stirred unprecedented feelings of brotherhood.
The election of Conservative Party Leader Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister of Britain was perhaps the most notable sign that many voters in Europe were disillusioned with statist solutions and wanted a return to more conservative policies. At year's end her government could claim one notable diplomatic success. Under the skillful guidance of Thatcher's Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, leaders of both the interim Salisbury government and the Patriotic Front guerrillas signed an agreement that promised—precariously—to end a seven-year-old civil war and provide a peaceful transition to genuine majority rule in Zimbabwe Rhodesia. There were other indications of growing rationality in Africa, as three noxious dictators who had transformed their nations into slaughterhouses fell from power: Idi Amin was ousted from Uganda, Jean Bédal Bokassa from the Central African Empire (now Republic), and Francisco Macias Nguema from Equatorial Guinea.
Southeast Asia, though, as it has for so long, endured a year of war, cruelty and famine. Peking and Moscow jockeyed for influence in the area. China briefly invaded Viet Nam and then withdrew, achieving nothing but proving once again that Communists have their own explosive quarrels. Hanoi's Soviet-backed rulers expelled hundreds of thousands of its ethnic Chinese citizens, many of whom drowned at sea; survivors landed on the shores of nations that could not handle such onslaughts of refugees. In Cambodia, the Vietnamese-backed regime of Heng Samrin was proving little better than the maniacal Chinese-supported dictatorship of Pol Pot that it had deposed. Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians still faced death by starvation or disease as the year ended, despite huge relief efforts organized by the outside world.
In the U.S., 1979 was a year of indecision and frustration. Inflation galloped to an annual rate of 13% and stayed there, all but impervious to attacks by the Carter Administration. The burden of containing inflation eventually fell on the shoulders of new Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. His tough fiscal measures, including higher interest rates and a clampdown on the money supply, do promise to restrain price boosts—but only after a distressing time lag, and at the cost of making more severe a recession that the U.S. seemed headed for anyway in