by Eric Klinek

The Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy (CENFAD) has selected Debbie Sharnak of Vassar College as the winner of the 2007 Edwin H. Sherman Family Prize for Undergraduate Scholarship in Force and Diplomacy. She received $1,000 for her paper "The Perception of Strategic Alliances: Carter's Failure to Normalize Relations with Vietnam." In her paper, Sharnak argues that Carter did not normalize diplomatic affairs with Vietnam in the late 1970s because his administration chose to develop a strategic relationship with China in opposition to the Soviet Union. She explains that Carter, upon taking office, sought to establish a new world order based on stability and justice. The majority of her paper examines the competing policies of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. Vance did not believe that Moscow controlled local affairs and uprisings throughout the Third World, and he advocated using diplomacy instead of overt military force. He sought détente with the Soviet Union and worked to normalize relations with Vietnam. Brzezinski, in contrast, was a staunch anti-Soviet who believed that America must counter every Soviet move. He believed that Moscow followed a systematic Cold War policy, and he called for a military response to perceived Soviet aggression. Moreover, Brzezinski was against normalizing relations with Vietnam and instead advocated the creation of a strategic relationship with China. Carter pursued Brzezinski’s policy, as he feared that normalization with Vietnam would have damaged the US-Chinese relationship.