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October 1989

What Should We Do In the World?
by Stanley Hoffmann

There are periods of history when profound changes occur all of a sudden, and the acceleration of events is such that much of what experts write is obsolete before it gets into print. We are now in one of those periods, which obliges the United States to rethink its role in the world, just as it was forced to do by the cataclysmic changes that followed the end of the Second World War.

For more than forty years American foreign policy has been dominated by the contest with the Soviet Union. The strategy of containment, defined by George F. Kennan in 1946-1947 and applied by all American administrations since, often in a manner that displeased Kennan, may not have been an adequate compass at all times. The Soviet Union found ways of leaping across the barriers that the United States tried to erect, with military alliances and bases, all around the Soviet empire. Moreover, the imperative of containment failed to provide clear guidance for dealing with a host of regional and internal conflicts, especially in developing areas. Nevertheless, containment proved to be an extraordinarily sturdy concept. It was flexible enough to serve such diverse policies as the original strategy of alliance-building and confrontation, the detente of the early 1970s (aimed at providing Moscow with incentives for self-containment), and occasional attempts at "rollback," including the Reagan doctrine. And while there were constant clashes over the Third World between "globalists," keen on interpreting the politics and conflicts of, say, the Middle East, Central America, and southern Africa strictly in terms of the Soviet-American contest, and "regionalism," who believed that we had to deal with the local sources of trouble, the two groups agreed that the main goal of American diplomacy was to prevent the expansion of Soviet influence. In the view of the globalists, this goal required reliance on friendly clients and stern opposition to the Soviet Union and its allies; in that of the regionalists, it required the avoidance of moves that could push local nationalists into the arms of Moscow. Similarly, in the 1970s there were those (led by Zbigniew Brzezinski) who wanted a Washington-Beijing anti-Soviet entente, and those (led by Henry Kissinger) who wanted a triangular game that would allow the United States to be closer to both Moscow and Beijing than the two were to each other. Still, containment of Moscow was the aim of both groups.

The momentous changes of the past three years have done more than any other trends or events since 1947 to deprive U.S. foreign policy of this overriding rationale. The detente of the early 1970s was a limited rapprochement between superpowers that were continuing to arm even while seeking to control jointly some parts of the arms race. It was a shaky convergence of contradictory calculations, in which the United States was trying to impose its version of stability and its own predominance on the Soviets, while the Soviets were hoping for condominium. Despite the defection of China, Moscow was still the center of a powerful empire. Today this empire is in serious trouble, China appears the more repressive and cruel of the two Communist giants, and Mikhail Gorbachev has gone far toward fulfilling the prophecy of Gyorgy Arbatov, the head of Moscow's Institute of USA and Canadian Affairs, who said that the new Soviet Union would deprive the United States of its main enemy.

As if stupefied by the pace of events, many members of the American foreign-policy establishment behave like the orphans of containment--clinging to the remains of an obsolete strategy and incapable of defining a new one. And yet this is the moment coolly to reevaluate American interests in the world. For many years our perceptions (often mistaken) of the Soviet threat drove our policy and defined, or distorted, our interests. Any great power has fundamental concerns, such as survival, physical security, and access to essential sources of energy, raw materials, and markets. In addition it has what specialists in international relations call milieu goals: promoting its values abroad, or at least preserving chances for the flowering of those values, and shaping international agreements and institutions in such a way that the nation's fundamental objectives and values are served.

These very general interests are translated into something that can be called the national interest--a more precise list of concerns that takes into account external factors, such as the distribution of power in specific areas between friends and foes, and internal ones, such as the imperatives and prohibitions set by domestic political and economic forces. In periods of extreme international tension, when there appears to be one global enemy, any move made by the adversary tends to be seen as a threat, creating a national interest in repelling it. A bipolar conflict thus serves as a Procrustean bed: each side's definition of its interests is dictated by the image of the enemy. Now that the enemy recedes, a redefinition of those interests becomes possible, and necessary.

In order to understand what the United States ought to do now, we have to begin by taking stock of where we are--of the main features of the international system in which we operate, and of the main perils it contains.

The Two World Systems

The traditional theory of international relations which professors have taught their students, and which statesmen have practiced, treats international politics as if it were exclusively the strategic and diplomatic game of states as it was played in the days of Thucydides or in the eighteenth century. But the key reality of the post-1945 period is that states play in two arenas. The first is the traditional strategic and diplomatic one, in which there is no broad international consensus, and in which power tends to be used in the way it always has been, usually as a contest in which my gain is your loss. The second is the economic arena, in which a variety of games are played--about trade, finance, energy, raw materials, the environment, and so forth--and most countries, but not all of them, are closely linked; they are interdependent in the sense that even the more powerful and less vulnerable are affected by what happens elsewhere. Here states combine the usual attempts to gain relative advantages with an awareness that this is not a zero-sum game, and that every country has an interest in the prosperity of the global economy and of the other players. Here the logic of anarchy--the fragmentation of the world into sovereign states--is checked by the logic of, and a broad consensus on, an open global economy. While international organizations are all fragile, and none of them has power over the major states, they are more numerous and effective in the second arena than in the first.

Each arena has its own distribution of power. In the strategic and diplomatic arena, we have been blessed or cursed, depending on one's point of view, by bipolarity--by the dominance of the United States and the Soviet Union. The economic arena, however, has been marked for a very long time by American hegemony. This is still largely the case, although increasingly important roles are, of course, being played by West Germany and Japan. What's more, here there are major players that are not states but, rather, regional organizations and multinational corporations, banks, and speculators, whose capital movements, investments, and loans deeply affect the world economy and contradict the efforts of states to preserve, singly or jointly, some control.

Moreover, each arena has its own, unprecedented restraints upon it. In the strategic and diplomatic field restraint has been imposed by nuclear weapons. What is new here, as McGeorge Bundy has shown in his recent book, Danger and Survival, is that above a certain level of force, superiority does not make any difference, because there is nothing one can do with those weapons (as Robert McNamara has been telling us ever since he stopped being Secretary of Defense). Nuclear weapons have restrained the superpowers from all direct military confrontation, which is quite an unprecedented achievement. In addition, these weapons are largely unusable for political blackmail (for it is hard to wrest gains by brandishing weapons that one doesn't want to use), and the result is that on the very field that is dominated by two powers, they are often impotent. What we find, therefore, is a downgrading of the great powers, a relative pacification at the top, and a continuation of the traditional "state of war" among other powers at lower levels, because despite prophecies about the obsolescence of war, nuclear restraints certainly have not eliminated violence altogether

In the economic arena the restraints are different but perhaps even more interesting: they are the shackles of economic interdependence. The economies of the main players have become so thoroughly intertwined that any state that tries to exert its power for competitive, immediate, or hostile gains risks creating formidable boomerang effects, as we have seen, for instance, in the case of OPEC, and may be seeing in the future with Japan. To be sure, there is a constant tension between the forces of protectionism--interest groups harmed by open borders and external competitors, bureaucracies trying to save their fiscal policy and other instruments of domestic control--and the imperatives of the open capitalist economy. But, paradoxically, the fact that the agenda for this arena is set by the demands of domestic consumers and producers tends to make those imperatives prevail over the occasional domestic backlash against interdependence or the occasional temptation of states to use their economic power belligerently. This is so because very few states, including the biggest ones, are capable of reaching their economic objectives by what has been the basic principle of international affairs: self-help.

Finally, the internationalization of production--the fact that when you buy a product these days it is hard to know what its nationality is--and the global nature of financial markets result in even more restraints on the manipulation of economic power by any given state. Because the use of force is irrelevant in this realm, its politics are, in fact, an unstable hybrid of international politics without war and domestic politics without central power.

The Diffusion of Power

These features have been visible for a while. But some changes have taken place only in recent years. On the strategic and diplomatic front the most interesting trend has been the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Some of the reasons for this trend are external, or international, the main one being the extensive limitations on the effectiveness of force to which I have already alluded. In addition to the nuclear restraint, we must consider the increasing capacity for resistance among the victims of external force, especially if those victims get support from the outside, as usually happens, or if, like the Palestinians in the occupied territories, they fight at a level that makes successful repression difficult. Here recent experiences are telling. We have witnessed remarkably parallel American experiences in Vietnam and Soviet experiences in Afghanistan; the Israelis have been thwarted in Lebanon (which also gives Syria much trouble); the Vietnamese are calling it quits in Cambodia; and so on. Plainly there exists a wide inability to use force abroad for the control of a foreign people. These frustrations lead one to a conclusion once expressed by a former French Foreign Minister (a very shrewd man who liked to talk in apparent banalities): if you can't win a war, you might as well make peace. Thus the bizarre epidemic of peace in 1988. There is another external reason for the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Over time, inevitably, there had to be some loosening of the two blocs that have confronted each other; the compression of all the internal divergences and conflicts within them could not last forever. It was largely artificial: they were compressed as long as there was a cold-war condition, a kind of mimicked state of war; once it became clear that war was being postponed indefinitely, there was no reason for the blocs to remain as rigid as they once had been.

Of course the dominant reasons for the ending of the Cold War are internal. In the United States, apart from economic factors to which we will come, there is what is quite improperly called the Vietnam syndrome, which is simply the marked reluctance of the American public to become engaged in protracted, uncertain wars for unclear purposes in secondary parts of the world. After all, Ronald Reagan, a rather popular President, did not succeed in getting the U.S. public to support the contra war against Nicaragua, nor did the American public support the presence of the United States Marines in Lebanon, once the awful cost became visible. In the Soviet Union the internal situation is far more serious, and there is a rather desperate need for retrenchment because of the economic predicament.

In the realm of economic interdependence, the evolution of recent years has two main characteristics. One is that despite the considerable difficulties of the past two decades, the economic relations among the advanced countries have developed successfully. To be sure, there has been a creeping erosion of the international principles of free trade established after the Second World War. Nevertheless, a relatively open and growing international economy has been preserved despite the economic shocks of the 1970s--no mean achievement, especially if one compares this with the situation that prevailed between the wars. The second trend, which is much more disturbing, has occurred in North-South relations; there we have not been so successful. An increasing differentiation has taken place between the developing countries that have been able to join the industrial world, and whose economic take-off has been spectacular, and the many other countries that have failed, and have fallen more and more deeply into debt. Between the latter countries and the rest of the world the gap has grown ever wider.

Behind this evolution in both fields there is one very important trend, which concerns the distribution of power. The surface manifestation is a diffusion away from the superpowers. But we are not moving back to the traditional world in which SEVERAL great powers had reasonably equal weight. In the strategic and diplomatic field we now find a coexistence of weakened global superpowers and regional balances of power, which are often unstable and where an important role is played by what are sometimes called regional influentials. In the arena of interdependence an increasing role is being played by a tightening European Community, by Japan, in some areas by Saudi Arabia. The aspect of this diffusion of power that is most significant for us here is the relative decline of the United States, to use the obligatory cliche of the past two years (after all, a cliche is simply a truth that too many people have uttered and that many resist). Many public officials and academics have wrapped themselves in the American flag in the long debate on decline. They keep saying, quite rightly, that--if one compares the United States in the world today with the United States in the world of 1945-1950--a major part of this decline is not only normal but has been planned by the United States. Since 1945, when, after all, the world situation was completely abnormal, the United States has done its best to help the economies of Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan; as a result the American share of world GNP was bound to decrease.

However, there is more to it than that. The United States has become a debtor nation that depends on the willingness of others to provide the funds necessary to finance its budget deficit; we are going to be burdened for a long time by that debt. The United States has also seen its competitiveness decline for reasons that are largely internal and that cannot simply be dismissed by referring to the inevitable growth of other countries. The phenomena of overconsumption and underinvestment; insufficient industrial productivity; rigidity, waste, and shortsightedness in industry; and the problems in American education, particularly technical education, which have been much discussed though not much has been done about them, are the main culprits here. As a result the United States is simply no longer the leader in a number of key sectors in the world economy. Granted, this is less significant than it would have been in past international systems, where declining in key sectors meant a dangerous advantage for a major new military challenger. In the current system the United States faces no military challenger that is in better shape than it is. Nevertheless, this decline means that the American capacity to mold the international system of the future is not what it used to be, insofar as technological predominance often leads to wide influence abroad, and technological decline reduces the dependence of others on American civilian and military goods.

Beyond the Cold War

Given these features and the trends of the world of the late 1980s, what ought American foreign policy to be? The point of departure must be the recognition of a paradox. The United States remains the only "complete" great power, the possessor of the largest military arsenal and of the most powerful economy in the world. On the other hand, both the diffusion of power in recent years and the partial impotence of military and economic power because of the restraints on its uses make it much more difficult for the United States to impose its will on others and to shape outcomes according to its preferences. We can still lead, toward goals that have a reasonable chance of being deemed by others compatible with their own interests. But we can no longer rule. Games of skill must replace tests of will. Our waning power to command and control needs to be supplemented by the new kind of power that the international system requires: the power to convince and to deal. In order to be effective, we have to define our national interest in a way that has a chance both of preserving a national capacity for steering toward world order (not because we are wiser than other nations but because there is no other candidate for the job) and of persuading others that their long-term concerns and ours mesh.

We cannot replace a fading vision--that of containment--with mere short-term management and avoidance of trouble, because the present offers opportunities for a decisive change in direction, and because there are simply too many dangers ahead to allow us to stumble from issue to issue in a "pragmatic" way. Nor can we follow the advice of neo-isolationists who believe that the United States ought not only to reduce its commitments and its military presence abroad, now that the Cold War is ending, but also to transfer to other powers the responsibility for dealing with the world's perils. That a great deal of what some call "devolution" needs to take place is not in doubt, but there is a gap between devolution and abdication. The truth is that only our continuing involvement is likely to draw other powers into an effort for world order, precisely because our past predominance has led others to rely on our initiatives and has led us to hug political control even as we rhetorically deplore the costs and burdens that come with it.

We have to define first our goals, then our strategy. Our first goal ought to be the rearrangement of our relationship with the Soviet Union, away from both the old Cold War and the rather misleading exchange of misunderstandings that was the detente of the 1970s. This new relationship will inevitably be partly competitive, because our two nations will continue to have conflicting interests in many parts of the world, but it ought to be competitive without excessive militarization, and partly cooperative on issues in which there will be or already are converging interests.

A second goal ought to be to facilitate a transition to a world in which major new threats to world order will be neutralized. One is the threat of fragmentary violence resulting from sharp internal conflicts in many of the weak countries of the world--conflicts in which others will be tempted to intervene--and from the regional conflicts that still rage in many parts of the world. Some conflicts are likely to surface or to worsen once the discipline exerted on each camp by the Cold War is no longer there, once often centrifugal or nostalgic nationalisms (in Eastern Europe, for instance) replace artificial and defunct ideological solidarities. Another new threat is the threat of chaos in world economic relations, because of mismanagement by states (of the huge problem of Third World debt, for instance), or because of a victory of economic nationalism over the constraints of interdependence, or because of states' lack of control over the economic activities of private parties whose moves could provoke financial panics. Therefore, our third goal ought to be to bring about more order and more justice--to coin a phrase, a kinder and gentler world.

The domestic precondition for these new foreign-policy goals must be, of course, putting our economic house in order. What needs to be done in this sphere is too familiar from books and articles for me to repeat it here. I would only point to the price that our continuing budget crisis exacts from the pursuit of U.S. interests abroad. In Poland, for example, the pace and reach of reform will be less than if we had been able to make more money available to promote political pluralism and a market economy. Goals are easy to describe. What matters more is a strategy for reaching them.

The Gorbachev Opening

Even though the Bush administration appears to have emerged from its inauspiciously long initial phase of skepticism toward Gorbachev and grudging annoyance at the pace of his moves, much of what calls itself the enlightened public remains extraordinarily hesitant about what to do with the Soviet Union. The doubt takes two forms: fear that Soviet efforts at reform are still very much reversible, and questioning whether the United States really has an interest in "helping" Gorbachev. My answer is that of course much is reversible--in human affairs many things always are, and in politics nothing, not even totalitarianism, is ever definitive--but a great deal of the new thinking about foreign affairs which is going on in the Soviet Union is not tied exclusively to Gorbachev. It appears to be shared by much of a political generation, because it corresponds to almost desperate domestic necessities that are being proclaimed by a large number of Soviet people who have, by traveling around the world and by reading foreign works, been able to compare the Soviet performance with what goes on abroad. This is one of the interesting, welcome, and unexpected by-products of the detente of the 1970s. Also, the new thinking corresponds to a realistic reading by many Soviet leaders and experts of an international system in which the traditional Soviet mode of behavior--the attempt to impose political control and ideological conformity on others by force--yields limited results, often at exorbitant cost; in which the arms race and the logic of "absolute security" lead only to a higher, more expensive plateau of stalemate and to new forms of insecurity; and in which, in particular, the contest with the United States for influence in the Third World has turned out to be extraordinarily unrewarding. Thus, while Gorbachev may ultimately fail and be replaced, while some of his daring foreign-policy moves may be reversible, and while we may have only limited leverage over what happens in the Soviet Union, the important question is whether it is at all in our interest to undermine Gorbachev's innovations. The answer is obviously no, because the alternatives that one can think of are worse: a return to the militarized foreign policy that prevailed in the years of Leonid Brezhnev or a domestic triumph of the sort of Russian fundamentalism--anti-Western, chauvinistic, anti-Semitic, nationalist--that would make any kind of cooperation with the USSR much more difficult.

Thus it would be foolish for the United States to contribute to Gorbachev's fall, even if the contribution took the form of merely responding too grudgingly to some of his initiatives, and especially if it took the form of setting intemperate or untimely preconditions about internal changes or external retrenchment which could only embarrass and help derail him. Moreover, if Gorbachev should succeed, the result would not be a Soviet Union so much more efficient that it was more dangerous than the one we have known; in fact it would be less dangerous. Glasnost and perestroika are likely to produce a more open society, with a better informed and less manipulable public, with a greater role in the arena of interdependence and a smaller role in the military arena--precisely what we have always said we really wanted. Moreover, should Gorbachev fail after the United States had tried to cooperate with him, we would still have the means to return to our second nature--the Cold War--especially if we preserve our alliances while pursuing a new policy.

Therefore, it is in our interest to respond to Gorbachev's overtures, for all kinds of reasons. First of all, it is probably the best way of preserving the Western alliance; as the instructive few weeks before the NATO summit last spring showed, the more we drag our feet, the more divided we will be from at least some of our major allies--West Germany in particular.

And, then, we should respond in order to prevent the Soviets from getting too far ahead of us in a competition that Gorbachev seems to understand is more important than the classic military contest or the struggle for physical control of governments, peoples, and resources: the competition for influence. We should, when we celebrate the end of the Cold War as a victory for our past strategy and for our values, be careful not to nurture the illusion that Gorbachev wants to preside over the shrinking of Soviet foreign influence and the liquidation of the Soviet empire. In Europe, in the Middle East, in his relations with China, he acts like a man who understands that his country's best chances for affecting the course of world affairs lie in shedding counterproductive or fruitless burdens and attracting broad support, so that even suspicious powers (say, Israel and South Africa) will be willing to acknowledge a Soviet role. U.S. passivity would only play into his hands. Also, we have a chance, while Gorbachev is in power, of achieving with the Soviet Union not only a nonhostile relationship, which already would not be so bad, but also a number of cooperative arrangements in several areas.

Finally, we and the Soviets have a remarkably convergent interest in reducing the burden of arms that are very difficult to use and whose main purpose is to deter the other side from doing something that it has no particular desire to do. First, in arms control, the time has come to close the famous grand deal on strategic nuclear reductions that we might have obtained toward the end of the Reagan Administration, and that a large number of players in that administration wanted. It was blocked by the President, because he could not give up his Star Wars dream, even in exchange for drastic cuts in Soviet offensive weapons. The Strategic Defense Initiative may have been a clever bargaining chip, which contributed to Gorbachev's reversal of previous Soviet positions on verification and on cuts in heavy missiles, but the time has come to agree to limits on SDI in exchange for these reductions. Such limits would amount simply to recognizing the fact that the "Astrodome" concept is unrealizable, that no reliable deployment is conceivable for many years anyhow, and that there are ways of preserving land based missiles that are cheaper and better than antiballistic defenses. A START agreement has also become snagged on the issue of sea-launched cruise missiles. The United States should agree to the Soviet proposal to limit these weapons, which might otherwise multiply threateningly and without any foreseeable possibility of verification. And the two sides should agree to ban antisatellite weapons.

The reduction of NATO and Warsaw Pact conventional forces, which experts have tended to present as a formidably difficult undertaking, appears far less so since the Soviets' agreement to the framework proposed by NATO and President Bush's decision to accept the inclusion of aircraft, on which the Soviets had insisted. The coming negotiations are still likely to be complicated, if only because of the number of parties engaged in them and the disagreements on the types of aircraft to be included and on the number of states that will have to reduce their armed forces. But the two sides have agreed to concentrate on those forces that are capable of surprise attack and on those weapons--such as tanks and armored personnel carriers--that are primarily offensive, and they have agreed to try to stabilize the restructured alliance forces at levels much lower than the present ones.

As for regional conflicts, whether in Afghanistan, the Middle East, or Central America, the imperative is clear: we must continue to cooperate with the Soviet Union in resolving them without being handicapped by the needless fear that by engaging the Soviets in such negotiations we legitimize their presence in those regions. They are there anyhow, whether we legitimize them or not. The "Finlandization" of Eastern Europe--the granting of internal autonomy in exchange for continuing membership in the Warsaw Pact--is not a fit subject for Soviet-American negotiations: the Soviets appear already to have granted Poland and Hungary the right to proceed in this direction, and evolution in East Germany and Czechoslovakia depends on the domestic situations there more than on Soviet, or Soviet-American, decisions. As for another suggestion that is sometimes made, that we negotiate the neutralization of Eastern Europe with the Soviets, it is most unlikely that they would accept this, and its necessary consequence, a total withdrawal of Soviet forces, without asking for at least a partial neutralization of Western Europe--including West Germany--and the departure of American troops and weapons. It would be unwise for us to accept this, because American forces would be even more difficult to send back to Europe in case of a crisis than Soviet forces would, and because neither great power has much interest in severing the ties that bind "its" Germany to it and to the other countries of its alliance. (Also, could two neutralized Germanys remain separate for long? And would not a reunified Germany, even if formally neutralized, be a far more powerful and unpredictable independent actor than, say, a neutral Austria or Switzerland is?)

In the economic realm, the real question is not whether we should provide our chief military rival with high-tech goods and military technology; obviously the answer is no. But what the Soviet Union mainly needs is consumer goods, and the kinds of industries that can produce consumer goods. These are not strategically dangerous goods and industries, and are something we ought to be able to provide, in exchange for evidence of progress toward a more decentralized economy. If we don't act in this realm, our allies will anyhow. Finally, we should take advantage of the Soviets' cooperative strategy in order to involve them more, as they say they are willing to be involved, in international and regional organizations--including those that promote human rights.

Against Violence

In the long run, strategy on the global front outside the Cold War is likely to be most important, and needs to become our main foreign-affairs priority. Much of what we will need to do between now and the end of the century can be grouped under three headings. The first of these is "Against Violence" in international affairs. Here the most urgent task ought to be the liquidation of the acute, dangerous, and lasting regional conflicts that are still with us.

In Central America we are a major part of the problem; we should leave the initiative as much as possible to the regional powers themselves. With respect to Nicaragua they seem to be doing a little bit better than we have done: our goal has been to overthrow the Sandinista regime, and it appears that we have finally given up on it, whereas President Oscar Arias Sanchez, of Costa Rica, and his colleagues can be counted on to keep applying pressure for democratization. In El Salvador it is up to us to make further military aid to the government contingent on the elimination of human-rights violations and the opening of serious negotiations with the opposition; the alternative is endless war and horror.

In the Middle East we are perhaps not a major part of the problem, but we are certainly a major part of the potential solution. There will be no solution if we continue to exert only mild pressure on Israel. The Israeli government's proposal for elections in the occupied territories is one more detour to avoid negotiating with the Palestine Liberation Organization and reaching a comprehensive settlement by means of an international conference. But if we want such elections, they will have, in order to be acceptable to the PLO, to include East Jerusalem and to occur in the absence of Israeli military control and without crippling restrictions being placed on the role of the elected representatives. If we succeed in obtaining free and open-ended elections, we will still ultimately need an international conference, because it is only with such a conference that some of the decisive parties--the PLO and Syria--could be involved and that each superpower would have an opportunity to exert some moderating influence on its allies or clients. If there should finally be a settlement of the Palestinian issue, which inevitably will be a Palestinian state (for the choice is either continuing occupation, repression and violence and the internal corruption of Israel, or a Palestinian state), the other American role will be to provide security guarantees for Israel after the state is established.

Another important priority in the area of violence will be to try to limit the risk of contagion from the fragmentary violence described earlier. This means taking more seriously, and backing with collective sanctions, the reinforcement of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, signing and enforcing a treaty against chemical warfare, and gradually negotiating both with the Soviet Union and with our allies (the latter being likely to prove resistant) limitations on the indiscriminate export of high-tech conventional weapons and missiles. These exports are already making even more dangerous a world in which many states have reached the stage of producing their own weapons--something about which we can do little. Both dynamics of the arena of economic interdependence--the traditional drive of states for comparative economic advantage and the logic of an open market that treats the trade in lethal goods like any other trade threaten to make the strategic and diplomatic arena more deadly. Contrary to Kant's prediction, commerce detracts in this respect from the pacification of world affairs, which Kant thought would result from economic interdependence and the increasing horror of modern war.

Against Injustice

Under this second heading, "Against Injustice," we have a double mission. Some of what we should do derives from self-interest. In matters of distributive justice among states, economic interdependence means that we have an interest in the progress toward prosperity of many of the poorer societies, for they can provide us either with markets or with refugees. Moreover, if their states should collapse under the weight of debts, our international financial system might collapse also. But some of our duties go beyond self-interest. We have values, and it is perfectly normal to seek to promote them. In an increasingly open world of instant communications the claim of states to exert unlimited jurisdiction over the lives of their subjects is anachronistic and repugnant, because there is a connection between such a claim and the external behavior of a government, and because there is a constant demand by the American public in the realm of human rights abroad--an unease with any amoral foreign policy. This demand sometimes (as currently, with China) conflicts with the cold calculations of realpolitik, or else absolves the United States of its own exactions abroad, yet it cannot be ignored by American statesmen who seek legitimacy at home for their diplomatic course. We do not have to be apologetic about a human-rights policy as long as it is pursued without either hubris or illusions.

The main areas of policy against injustice would be the following: First, we continue to face the problem of the debt of numerous developing countries; here what is needed is, in the short term, extensive relief measures that will allow developing countries to concentrate on exports and to afford imports, rather than having to spend their resources on servicing their debt. We also need a reform of the conditions ritually imposed by the International Monetary Fund, because those conditions have so often turned out to be politically disastrous and recessionary. Any American policy on human rights must seek to be an international strategy; the United States cannot by itself redress injustices against human beings all over the world. If we look at South Africa, we realize quickly how limited American leverage is: American sanctions are not insignificant, but by themselves, they are not very effective. The United States can stop providing military and economic support to, or encouraging its companies to invest in, countries where serious human-rights violations take place. Moreover, there are many parts of the world where the United States by itself can have a considerable influence on the fate of human rights: those areas where it continues to be dominant and where it could use the tools of policy at its disposal to prod clients toward democracy and freedom.

For a More Balanced Order

Under this last heading, "For a More Balanced Order," come the steps we must take in the 1990s to resolve numerous problems resulting from changes in the global distribution of power over the past fifteen or twenty years. We ought to adjust our burdens and privileges to our (relatively shrinking) power, and encourage others to play the roles and carry the responsibilities their power now requires. We should encourage the Western Europeans to develop and strengthen their identity. Whether or not they succeed in establishing a unified market by 1992 is a detail; it is not the timetable that matters but the process itself. It may take a little longer, because the issues of pooling sovereignty over money, taxation, and fiscal policy, for instance, are very complicated, and because Margaret Thatcher exists, but even without Thatcher the issues would be difficult, and what counts is that things are again in motion. Fears that a "Fortress Europe" will exclude American goods are not justified; many powerful forces in Europe, including Great Britain and West Germany, and many multinational businesses operating in Europe, will not allow this to happen. It is in the American interest, in the long run, to encourage the European Community to play a larger role in diplomatic and security affairs, an arena where progress among the twelve members has so far been very limited. If we succeed in lowering the level of armaments in Europe, in agreement with the Soviets, the moment will come when we will indeed be able to withdraw a part of our forces. The NATO alliance will then become more of an even partnership between the United States and its European associates. They are more likely to cooperate with one another on defense if the level of defense is lower overall than the present one. The situation that President Dwight D. Eisenhower, many years ago, thought would come very quickly will finally arrive: we will be able to disengage somewhat, and our allies will engage more. Western Europe has an extremely important diplomatic role to play in the eastern half of the continent. There the American and European objective ought to be to encourage as much Finlandization as possible. Each country in Eastern Europe is different, and it is much easier for the Western Europeans to pursue a discriminating policy--helping with economic ties and cultural agreements those countries that liberalize most convincingly--than it has ever been for the United States.

We should encourage Japan to be more active in international organizations, particularly in world institutions of assistance, development, and finance. Greater Japanese efforts at helping the developing countries would allow a partial reorientation of Japanese trade away from the developed world, where resistance to the volume of Japanese exports has been growing. Japanese consumers are likely to demand that their nation's economy also shift from the conquest of new external markets to the satisfaction of long-repressed domestic needs.

The last part of a policy toward a more balanced order should consist of deliberately strengthening international and regional organizations. Their decision-making machinery--especially that of world economic and financial organizations--needs to be reformed, so that the distribution of power, which now reflects the realities of the 1950s, will express the realities of the 1980s and 1990s. This means more power for Japan and Western Europe in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. We will need international and regional organizations as peace-keepers in areas of conflict. We will need them for information and for inspection. And we will need them on all the economic fronts, where self-help no longer gets one anywhere. There, such collective frameworks for bargaining are likely over time to affect the way in which states define their interests--by injecting a concern for the long term and for the survival of international institutions. A collective defense of the environment is inconceivable without them. But we will also need to strengthen and spread such institutions in the field of security, in particular, for the prevention and limitation of regional conflicts and the monitoring of agreements against the proliferation of conventional and nuclear arms.

A Public Ahead of the Establishment

There are formidable domestic obstacles to the policy I have sketchily described here. One--with us for so long that it is pointless to pin the blame on any administration--is the disjointed way in which American foreign policy is made. We can deplore this, but we could also try to do something about it, so that the amount of disorganization and fragmentation that inevitably results from our constitutional system is minimized. This requires a strongly engaged President (not one like Reagan, who concentrated on only a few, largely ideological concerns), a State Department that tries to balance the need to pursue a strategy abroad and the need to cooperate with Congress (instead of sacrificing one to the other), and a National Security Council staff that can effectively coordinate, but avoids making, policy. It also requires a sharp reduction in the covert role of the Central Intelligence Agency, a role that not only creates more bad will than successes abroad but also often threatens to divert American policy into uncontrolled, harebrained schemes.

Another obstacle is the disorientation of the foreign-policy establishment. It has become accustomed to American predominance and to the comforting ideas that only the United States has a sense of "world responsibility" and that it has a single permanent enemy and a number of reliable but dependent allies. A world that is more fluid, in which we remain "No. 1" but without the ability to control, is unsettling. A world in which the main perils are abstract--damage to the environment, the risk of a global recession, the possibility of regional arms races--is less easy to understand than a world dominated by a contest between two countries representing rival value systems. The Bush Administration is largely made up of conservative men, whose formative experiences occurred from the 1950s to the 1970s, and while their pragmatism has been evident, they seem, as in the case of the NATO summit, to have been pushed and pulled into the new world, rather than to have devised a coherent and long-term strategy for dealing with it.

However; there is at least one element favorable to the redirection of American foreign policy, and it has to do with the public. If one looks at opinion polls, one sees that the public, while quite wisely cautious toward the Soviet Union, is less mired in old modes of thinking than it has been in a long time. It is sufficiently worried about domestic economic trends to believe that the first priority is indeed putting our house in order. The shackles that opinion sometimes puts on the perceptions of leaders are not apparent for the time being.

In conclusion, in the world we have entered there will be many things that the United States can do nothing about. We should accept this state of affairs and, incidentally, perhaps even be grateful for it. It is a world in which war is no longer the principal and often inevitable mode of change; change comes more often now from domestic revolutions, about which we can and should do very little, because usually we do not understand the political cultures and trends of other countries and often we make mistakes. Change also, now that the pressures exerted by the Cold War are easing, comes from the rebirth of nationalisms. Many of the new forces of nationalism may lead to explosions and revolutions, about which, again, there will be very little that we or anybody else in the West can do. The task therefore is not to eliminate trouble everywhere in the world. Instead, we must devise what could be described as a new containment: not of the Soviet Union (although this will be part of it, insofar as conflicts of interest with the Soviets will continue) but of the various forms of violence and chaos that a world no longer dominated by the Cold War will entail. It is a complicated agenda, but it is at least different from the agenda we have had for so long.

If, as I have indicated, statesmen and citizens now operate not in a single international system but in two different fields, with different logics, actors, and hierarchies and tools of power, the question remains whether this duality can persist. An imperative for the United States is to prevent it from ending in the wrong way, as in the 1930s, when economic power was widely used for either self-protection or aggression. This is why we need to strive for the devaluation of hostile forms and uses of power in the strategic and diplomatic arena, and against a major recession in the field of economic interdependence. Our new strategy must aim at spreading the sense of common interests in the former and at strengthening it in the latter. It will require more "internationalism" than before, and the novel experience of cooperating widely with associates who are no longer satellites or dependents--as well as with the enemy of the past forty years.

Volume 264, No. 4, pp. 84–96