The Foreign Policy the US Needs

Discussion in 'Politics' started by 2cents, Aug 30, 2006.

    Volume 53, Number 13 · August 10, 2006

    The Foreign Policy the US Needs
    By Stanley Hoffmann
    (Stanley Hoffmann is Paul and Catherine Buttenwieser University Professor at Harvard. His forthcoming book is Chaos and Violence. (August 2006))

    During the cold war Americans believed that in order to eliminate risks of nuclear war, a policy of edgy coexistence with the Soviet Union was worth pursuing. Few believed that America should prepare for a military showdown with Moscow. In the debates between doves and hawks, everyone assumed there would be a very long contest with the Communist world.

    The rapid collapse of the Soviet Union left the US as the only superpower, or so it seemed. George H.W. Bush talked about a new world order, in which the "real world" of American supremacy and the formal world of the UN Charter would somehow merge. But Bush Senior was soon gone, and Clinton had no large international vision. This may have been a blessing, and relations improved with allies, including France and Germany, which had occasionally been miffed by shrill official statements about the US as the "indispensable nation" endowed with greater foresight than others.

    People such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who had long thought it time to proclaim US hegemony, were enraged by Clinton's failure to do so. When George W. Bush came to power, September 11 provided what seemed an unchallengeable opportunity for a drastic change in strategy and in diplomacy. The "war against terrorism" was now seen as a kind of World War II reborn, yet it was without a clear enemy and without allies comparable to Stalin's Soviet Union, or even Churchill's British Empire. A brief era of American triumphalism—or imperialism—led to but did not survive the disaster in Iraq and the fall in American popularity and influence abroad that the war provoked.

    The US is back to debating what to do next but the setting of this debate is quite different from that of the past. In addition to the familiar world of interstate conflicts, some of the most horrible wars of recent years have been internal; and some of the most spectac-ular acts of violence have been committed by private groups of terrorists not allied to any state. More than a few of the members of the UN—Zimbabwe, Somalia, Uzbekistan—are "failed" or murderous states, whose inhabitants live in a nightmare of chaos and violence. The "realists," i.e., those who believe national interests are fundamental—must now take into account the UN, which for all its flaws serves to certify legitimacy, as the current administration discovered when it defied the predominant opinion of the Security Council in attacking Iraq.

    It is also a world in which globalization—partly under American leadership—erodes effective sovereignty of states (although least for the US) and creates a world economy that offers a very complex combination of permanent competition—especially for oilEand incentives to cooperate, not only for states but for private interests. There is now a transnational society that includes multinational corporations, nongovernmental organizations, criminals, and terrorists. This global economy, with its unprecedented combination of private and state capitalisms, can be immensely destructive, as when it eliminated millions of jobs in developed countries. It deepens inequality—at home and abroad. It lacks an adequate network of regulatory agencies and what international governance exists is stronger for economic relations through such organizations as the IMF and WTO than for political ones. So far, violence between states competing in the global economy has been limited, but in the contest for energy sources military force is already being used, for example in Nigeria, and could well increase. This, then, is the kind of world in which the "sole superpower" (as well as the largest source of global warming) must act: a world that is anything but flat.


    more, much more inside! not recommended for rednecks though :)