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The Vision Thing: Sustaining the Unsustainable

Author(s): Benjamin Schwarz


Source: World Policy Journal, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Winter, 1994/1995), pp. 101-121
Published by: The MIT Press and the World Policy Institute
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REC#NSIDERATI#NS
Benjamin
Schwarz is an
analyst
in the international
policy department
at RAND.
The Vision
Thing
Sustaining
the Unsustainable
Benjamin
Schwarz
This
president's foreign policy
is
gravely
lacking.
It is marked
by "drift," by
"a series
of reactions to events
shaped increasingly by
other
countries," say
seasoned and sober
jour-
nalists,
think-tank
analysts,
and the
foreign
policy
mandarins of both
political parties.
With the end of the Cold
War,
we are
told,
the United States needs the kind of broad
foreign policy
vision of Dean
Acheson,
George
Marshall,
and those other
demigods
who created America's last
postwar policy,
but this resident has
utterly
failed to
"put
foward a coherent vision of America's role in
the world" and "to exert the domestic and
international
leadership" necessary
to "estab-
lish a viable
system
of
global security."
He
flits from crisis to
crisis,
never
stepping
back from the crush of events to
design
"structures," "frameworks," "overarching"
concepts,
and "architectures." The Econo-
mist's
magisterial
verdict
encapsulates,
as it
always
does,
the conventional wisdom: when
it comes to
foreign policy,
the
president
is
"by
nature reactive.... He is not
good
at
strategy
and
forethought."1
This
might
be a
pretty
accurate sum-
mary
of
expert opinion regarding
President
Clinton's
foreign policy, except
that the
Economist and the other
journals quoted
above
{Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy,
New
York Review
of
Books,
and Current
History)
were
assessing
the
foreign policy
of
George
Bush.
Although potential Republican presi-
dential candidates
(especially
those who
served in his
administration)
portray
Presi-
dent Bush's
foreign policy
in a
nostalgic,
golden light,
it was at the time
regarded
with enormous
disappointment.
To be
sure,
the
foreign policy
establishment conceded
that President
Bush, Secretary
of State
James
Baker,
National
Security
Adviser
Brent
Scowcroft,
and
Secretary
of Defense
Dick
Cheney
were all
steady foreign policy
professionals
-
as
they displayed during
the
Gulf crisis
-
but there was a consensus that
mere
competence
would not do. Given the
foreign policy experts'
belief that the
post-
Cold War world demanded that America
build and lead a new world order and all its
attendant
structures, frameworks,
and archi-
tectures,
the administration's
foreign policy
would be
judged
not
by
its skill at
carpen-
try,
but
by
the
imagination
and
creativity
of
its
design, by
the breadth and
depth
of, yes,
its "vision." The
foreign policy
Brahmins
wanted not a talented
artisan,
but a Mies
van der Rohe. On this score
they agreed
that
Bush
failed,
as
they
now
agree
that Clinton
is
failing.
Unfortunately
for the
foreign policy
community,
Bush's
foreign policy
failure
-
as Clinton's shows
-
was the
shape
of
things
to come. As we shall
see,
Bush and his suc-
cessor do in fact share a
foreign policy
vi-
sion. Their critics
among
the
foreign policy
cognoscenti
-
who hold this same vision
-
no doubt find it
comforting
to believe that
if
only
the state were
guided by
a leader
with the
requisite eyeglass prescription,
the
second half of the American
Century
would
be secured. These critics would rather not
face the truth that
presidents
who in fact
share their vision are
increasingly
unable to
realize it
-
that Bush's and Clinton's frustra-
tions can't be ascribed to
myopia,
but,
like
Gatsby's,
result from an excess of
vision,
The Vision
Thing
101
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from an
attempt
to
reify
a brilliant vision
that is
already
behind them.
Do We Want a Vision?
The
apparent necessity
of a new vision for
the
post-
Cold War world
nostalgically
im-
plies
that America's
foreign policy during
the Cold War was itself informed
by
a vi-
sion.
Perhaps
it was. But to the extent that
the Cold War
foreign policy
vision was a re-
sponse
to the Soviet threat
(the
disappear-
ance of which would be the
only
reason to
come
up
with a new
vision),
it would not
pass
the test of
today's
vision-seekers.
First,
the
strategy
of containment was
(according
to the conventional
wisdom)
responsive
and,
as
such,
lacked the activist
quality
vision en-
thusiasts
require. Nothing
seems less
likely
to stir the hearts of visionaries than a strat-
egy
that,
for 40-odd
years,
consisted of sit-
ting
on a static line drawn down the middle
of
Europe
and
slowly, steadily spending
the
Soviet
empire
to death.
Second,
a vision
must
apparently
be consistent. But with the
exception
of the above
sitting-and-spending
strategy applied
in
Europe,
containment
was, thankfully, anything
but consistent.
Communism was contained
here,
but not
there,
"rollback" was tried
there,
but not
here.
Policymakers
deemed it tolerable that
all of
Country
X
go
to the
Communists,
but
only
half of
Country Y,
and none of
Country
Z.
The essence of statecraft is discrimina-
tion on the basis of
power, interest,
and cir-
cumstance. In
calling
for a
vision,
the for-
eign policy
mandarins in fact demanded
that Bush
(and
now
Clinton)
forsake state-
craft. In a world that
before,
during,
and af-
ter the Cold War demands caution and flexi-
bility,
those
calling
for visions demand a
slavish
consistency.
Harvard's
Stanley
Hoff-
mann,
for
instance,
ignoring arguments
re-
garding
the different U.S. interests
per-
ceived to be at stake and the different risks
involved,
complained
in
1992 of the Bush
administration's
differing
treatment of
Iraq,
on the one
hand,
and Serbia and
Haiti,
on
the other. Hoffmann thus concluded that
the chief weakness of Bush's
diplomacy
was
its
"inconsistency"
and that the administra-
tion's
foreign policy
was hence "more a mat-
ter of
improvisation
than
strategy."2
In
retrospect,
is it
really
fair to fault
Bush,
as Leon
Sigal
of the New York Times
Editorial Board did in
1992,
because "he
failed to devise a
foreign policy squaring
na-
tional self-determination with state sover-
eignty
and
minority rights,
to stanch blood-
letting
in
Bosnia,
and to
prevent
the
prolif-
eration of all
arms,
not
just weapons
of mass
destruction"?3 This is a
pretty
tall
order,
whose first
part
demands a
single, absolute,
and hence
dangerous foreign policy
formula
and whose second and third
parts appear
to
betray
the belief that the United States is
nothing
short of
omnipotent,
a
proposition
that would seem to have been
put
to rest
long ago.
Such
requirements
would con-
demn
any president's handling
of interna-
tional affairs to be
judged
a failure. A clean
and consistent vision is
incompatible
with
the
push
and
pull
of
policy;
in the world in
which
presidents act,
ideas are forced to
fight
a
grinding
battle with
necessity.
A
foreign policy
vision is a
good
deal
more than a set of
general guidelines.
Brit-
ain's traditional
foreign policy
aim to ensure
a balance of
power among
the states of west-
ern
Europe,
for
instance,
has never
appealed
to visionaries. Otto von Bismarck's or Gus-
tav Stresemann's
foreign policy strategies,
which amounted to adroit
maneuvering
among
the Continental
powers
to allow for
the safe accretion of German
strength,
were
really
tactical
fine-tuning
on a
grand scale,
informed
by
no more
alluring
a vision than
the stark
glare
of
realpolitik. Furthermore,
the
grander
the
foreign policy vision,
the
more a state is
trapped
within a
tyranny
of
its own construct. At its
worst,
a "vision" is
a
straitjacket
for
policy,
which is
why
most
of
history's great statesmen,
who have
prized
practicality
and
opportunism,
reached for
their revolvers
upon hearing
the demands of
visionaries.
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Those who
castigated
Bush
-
and now
Clinton
-
for a visionless
foreign policy
ne-
glected
to ask whether in fact America
would benefit from a vision.
They
also for-
got
that, historically,
secure and satisfied
powers
have
generally
remained immune to
the vision
thing.
After
all,
until the First
World
War,
America's
visionary
and
expan-
sive
foreign policies
were the manifestation
of a
growing power
that wanted
something.
America's most ambitious
foreign policy
vi-
sions
-
Manifest
Destiny
and the
imperial-
ism of the late nineteenth
century
-
both
sprang
from
complex
sets of
racial,
eco-
nomic,
and
strategic
motivations,
but at bot-
tom,
both arose from a sense of
inadequacy
and
insecurity,
deserved or not.
Similarly,
Britain's
late-nineteenth-century imperialist
vision was
motivated,
not
by
confidence,
but
by
fear;
Britain's
vision,
note historians
Ronald Robinson and
John Gallagher,
"grew
more and more committed to the
warding
off of
hypothetical dangers by
the
advancing
of frontiers."4
American
foreign policy
visions in this
century
have
been,
or have been
publicly
portrayed
as,
the
ideological products
of
grand
coalitions in
pursuit
of a common en-
emy
-
Wilsonianism
(a
response
to the
threats of both German
imperialism
and so-
cialist
revolution);
Roosevelt's and Chur-
chill's shared vision of an antifascist world
order articulated in the Atlantic
Charter;
the internationalist and containment
poli-
cies of the
postwar period;
the current sum-
mons to crusade in the name of the "West"
versus the rest. Visions are hence most often
negatively
defined,
and the more all-encom-
passing
the
threat,
the more
all-encompass-
ing
-
the more
"visionary"
-
the vision. If it
is
lucky,
then,
a state doesn't need a
foreign
policy
vision.
Nevertheless,
Bush's critics were intent
upon foisting
a vision on a
mostly
uninter-
ested America. The
great irony
of the cri-
ticism that Bush endured for his lack of
vision is
that,
while circumstances made fol-
lowing
a
foreign policy
vision
extremely
dif-
ficult for his
administration, Bush,
in
fact,
had
quite
a consistent
vision,
one that
would have been
praised by
most of his in-
ternationalist
critics,
if
only
he had been
able to
pursue
it
fully.
Bush's Vision
With the
collapse
of the
enemy
that had os-
tensibly
defined American
foreign policy
for
over 40
years,
much was made of Bush as
the first
president
since Truman who didn't
have an
enemy
thrust
upon
him.
(To
be
sure, many
of America's Cold War
presi-
dents had been able to tweak the dominant
vision of containment a bit
-
Carter in one
direction, Reagan
in the
other,
for in-
stance
-
but their various doctrines were
slight
variations on a
single
theme.)
All
Cold War
presidents operated
within a con-
struct that demanded that America assume
a certain role in the
world,
even if
(in
Lyn-
don
Johnson's
case,
for
example) they
re-
sented
leading
the
country
in that role. To
those who believed that American
foreign
policy
since 1947
was
essentially
the
story
of the U.S.
response (paranoid, clumsy,
or
prudent)
to the threat of a
superpower
rival,
Bush had the first
opportunity
in 50
years
to define a
fundamentally
new
foreign pol-
icy
vision.
But Bush didn't see it that
way.
It was
not that Bush was bereft of
vision,
it was
just
that he continued to be
possessed by
the
very
vision that had animated American
foreign policy
since the Second World War.
He believed it vital that America contine to
play
its familiar world role
and,
more than
anything
else in his
professional
life,
he
wanted to lead America in that effort.
In the first
year
of his
presidency
ob-
servers
painted
a
picture
of the Bush
foreign
policy
that,
while
crude,
nonetheless en-
dures.
According
to this
view, Bush,
a
prod-
uct of the Cold War
years,
could not divorce
himself from "Cold War
thinking"
and was
thus unable to craft a
fundamentally
new
foreign policy
vision. While this
argument
is
true,
it is
completely wrong
in the
way
The Vision
Thing
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that these observers understand it. The
prob-
lem lies in its terms of reference. As conven-
tionally understood,
this
argument
rests on
a
gross oversimplification
of America's Cold
War
foreign policy.
What these observers
would like to think of as a
"fundamentally
new"
foreign policy is,
in
fact,
a
foreign pol-
icy
in which the essentials of Cold War
pol-
icy
remain inviolate
(and
is
precisely,
in
fact,
the vision that Bush
pursued).
The standard
argument
maintains that
Bush was
very well-prepared
to
preside
steadily, firmly,
and
pragmatically
over the
seemingly
eternal U.S.-Soviet
rivalry,
but
when the Soviets left the
field,
Bush didn't
know what to do. He could
tidy up
the de-
tails from the old
agenda
-
ease the Soviets'
retreat from Eastern
Europe
and reach broad
arms control
agreements
with
them,
for ex-
ample
-
but he was at a loss when it came to
defining
a "new"
agenda
for a "new" world.
Bush, however,
did not
spend
his life
merely
preparing
to
manage
the
superpower compe-
tition. He had been
preparing
for a far
grander assignment,
one that transcended
the Soviet Union's
collapse.
Despite
the
pork
rinds and
practiced
Texas
twang,
Bush
-
the scion of
responsi-
ble
Republican
internationalism
-
was
America's first Eastern Establishment
presi-
dent since FDR.
Inspired
to enlist in the
navy when,
as a senior at
Phillips
Andover
Academy,
he heard
Secretary
of War
Henry
Stimson address his
class,
Bush was a
genu-
ine hero in the war that established the
American
Century.
His
opponents
sneered
that the
political
offices on Bush's
polished
resume were almost
exclusively appointive
foreign policy positions; they
failed to under-
stand that to Bush and his
class,
these were
the
only political jobs
worth
holding
and
foreign policy
was the
only policy
worth
making. Perhaps
Bush lacked
imagination,
but that has never been a
prized quality
within the
foreign policy community.
(Nothing
brilliant has ever
emerged
from a
postwar
Council on
Foreign
Relations
study
group.) Obviously,
Bush was
perfectly pre-
pared
to
preside
over the Cold War. But
that
gives
him too little credit.
By
virtue
of his outlook and
experience,
no man in
America was more
qualified
to direct his
country's foreign policy.
The
important
point
is that
Bush,
reflecting
the
viewpoint
of the
community
from which he
emerged,
did not conflate Cold War
policy
with the
internationalist
foreign policy
of the Eastern
Establishment.
In this
respect,
the contrast with his
predecessor
could not have been
stronger.
As vice
president,
Bush was often
dismayed
that Ronald
Reagan equated
American for-
eign policy
with the
struggle
with the So-
viet Union. He believed that
Reagan,
who
saw
foreign policy solely
in
ideological
terms,
neglected
the broader
purposes
of
that
policy.
Bush's uneasiness with
Reagan's
embrace of Mikhail Gorbachev stemmed
less from
suspicion
of Moscow's motives
than from the fear that
Reagan's willingness
to abandon the U.S.-Soviet
rivalry
would
jeopardize enduring
American interests that
were unrelated to that
rivalry.
(In
the same
way,
Bush was revolted
by
some of his fel-
low
Republicans'
Manichean
understanding
of
foreign policy,
which led them to believe
that,
with the defeat of the "evil
empire,"
America could now come
home.)
The arcane
outlook of Bush and his fellow
high-interna-
tionalists is well characterized
by
a
descrip-
tion of the makers of British
foreign policy
in the nineteenth
century: "Striving
to
keep
grand conceptions
of world
policy...
their
purposes
were
usually
esoteric and their ac-
tions were
usually inspired by
notions of the
world situation and calculations of its dan-
gers
which were
peculiar
to the official
mind."5
The internationalist mind's
peculiar
vi-
sion of American
foreign policy
saw in the
end of the Cold War more of a threat than
an
opportunity.
Central to Bush's
foreign
policy
vision was an obsession with leader-
ship.
In
dealing
with
nearly every foreign
policy
issue
-
from
low-intensity conflict,
to
global
defense
planning,
to
U.S.-European
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relations
-
and on
nearly every occasion,
President Bush and his advisers
passionately
spoke
of what his
secretary
of
state,
James
Baker,
has
recently
called "the
imperative
of
American
leadership."
To
them,
U.S. involvement in interna-
tional affairs was
synonymous
with this
global leadership
role;
America
engaging
in
the world meant America
playing
the
pre-
dominate role in the world.
Thus,
Bush
characterized his notion of American
post-
Cold War
foreign policy
as
"peacetime
en-
gagement,"
which he defined as
nothing
less than a continuation of the
leadership
role America had assumed since the Second
World War.
This
was,
and
remains,
far more than
globalist
rhetoric. After
all,
without an
evil
empire, politicians largely
lost the do-
mestic
political mileage
to be
gained
from
an
internationally
activist
stance,
and
many
of Bush's fellow
Republicans
had no diffi-
culty abandoning
it.
Bush,
on the other
hand
-
even
during
the dark
days
of the Pat
Buchanan
insurgency
and the
nasty
battle
against
Ross Perot
-
repeatedly
lectured to a
public
that was at best
impatient
and at
worst hostile to his "obsession" with
foreign
affairs that "international
leadership"
was
"more
important
than ever."
Foreign policy
was not an
important
issue in the 1992
cam-
paign,
but had it been
-
had,
for
instance,
Bush run
against
a candidate whose isola-
tionist stance
proved
a
vote-getter
-
it is im-
possible
to
imagine
that
Bush,
an otherwise
notoriously unprincipled campaigner
who
has said that he would do
anything
to
win,
would
not,
on this
issue,
have risen to the
occasion and
heroically fought
a
losing
bat-
tle, exhorting
the voters to
reject
a dimin-
ished international role for America. It is
equally impossible
to conceive of Bush fall-
ing
on his sword over
any
other
issue,
or
even
caring very
much about
any
other
issue.
In this
way,
his few
public passions
-
an
abiding
belief in internationalism and a real
hatred of isolationism
-
did seem anachro-
nistic for a
politician
in the last decade of
the twentieth
century.
His
party's right
wing,
and the
electorate,
knew that the
president's pandering concerning
the issues
about which Americans
today
feel
deeply
-
taxes, abortion,
crime and
capital punish-
ment,
affirmative
action,
prayer
in the
schools
-
was for Bush
merely duty,
not
passion.
After his
1992 defeat,
when he was no
longer required
to
expatiate uncomfortably
about
family
values and
tax-and-spend
liber-
als,
Bush
spent
much time and effort
pro-
ducing
a
pair
of heartfelt farewell
addresses,
his
bequest
to the
nation,
meant to be his
equivalent
to
Washington's valedictory
in-
junction against "entangling
alliances"
and Eisenhower's
parting warning
about
the
"military-industrial complex."
Bush's
speeches
at West Point and Texas A&M
invoked a vision identical to
Stimson's,
which had so moved the
president
50
years
earlier.
Speaking
of "America's
purpose
in the
world,"
Bush could not have more
closely
echoed his own detractors within the for-
eign policy community
in his insistence
that the cause of international
stability
and
global capitalism
demand that America "an-
swer
history's
summons to lead." As his
strongest passions
transformed the most in-
consequential
nuisance into
nemesis,
the
archinternationalist
president
returned to
his fixation with
finding
isolationists under
beds, confusing
the battles of the
1940s
with those of the
1990s.
Again conflating
primacy
with
participation,
Bush warned
that "a retreat from American
leadership,
from American
involvement,
would be a
mistake for which future
generations,
in-
deed our own
children,
would
pay dearly."
The
greatest
mistake the
country
could
make,
he
argued,
would be to heed the coun-
sel of those who maintained that America
should,
after the Cold
War,
become
"passive
and
aloof,"
a combination that
many
be-
lieve, astonishingly,
sums
up
Bush's
foreign
policy.
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"Leadership"
Past and Present
This
impression
is
especially
ironic
given
Bush's
repeated arguments
that America
must not
only
be active and
engaged,
but
that it must "lead." To the
uninitiated,
the
notion that the United States must continue
to lead when the
superpower
threat
against
which it was
ostensibly leading
has vanished
seems
puzzling.
But neither Bush nor his
critics
among
the
foreign policy cognoscenti
ever conceived of the need for American
leadership
in terms of that threat. In
fact,
what is
popularly thought
of as the Cold
War was
merely
an instrumental
part
of
America's
larger postwar strategy.
As Sen.
Arthur
Vandenberg
said in
1949,
in "scar-
ing
the hell out of the American
people,"
the U.S.-Soviet
rivalry helped
secure domes-
tic
support
for
Washington's
international-
ist
agenda:
the creation of a U.S.-dominated
world order.
To Bush and the other leaders of U.S.
foreign policy,
the fundamental aim of
America's
foreign policy
-
during
and after
the Cold War
-
has
been,
in the words of
NSC-68,
the National
Security
Council's
1950
blueprint
that defined
Washington's
broader Cold War
strategy,
"to foster a
world environment in which the American
system
can survive and flourish"
-
a
policy
that,
NSC-68
maintained,
"we would
prob-
ably pursue
even if there was no Soviet
threat." This aim
ultimately
dictated that
America dominate
-
or,
to be
politic,
"lead"
-
the international
system.
The vision that has
possessed
American
statesmen from Cordell Hull to
James
Baker
-
a
cooperative
economic and
political
order
among
the world's advanced industri-
alized states
-
was a machine that would not
go
of itself. In
1949,
John
Foster Dulles ex-
plained
to a closed Senate
panel
that an
American-led
NATO,
as
opposed,
for in-
stance,
to an
exclusively European security
system
on the
Continent,
was
necessary
to
counter the basic obstacle to
achieving
the
kind of international order believed neces-
sary
for America's
-
and the world's
-
peace
and
prosperity.
To build a successful interna-
tional economic and
political community,
Dulles
reasoned,
Germany's integration
with Western
Europe
was
imperative.
The
problem,
the future
secretary
of state main-
tained,
was that the Western
Europeans
were "afraid to
bring
that
strong, powerful,
highly
concentrated
group
of
people
into
unity
with them."
Similarly,
as
Dulles,
Dean
Acheson,
and other
policymakers
un-
derstood,
a
strong Japan
was at once essen-
tial for
building
a
prosperous
international
order and intolerable to its
neighbors.
Since the
1940s (and
arguably
since
1917),
the fundamental
challenge facing
U.S.
diplomacy, then,
has been to foster a
world order within an international
system
characterized,
as David Hume
recognized
250
years ago, by
"the narrow
malignity
and
envy
of
nations,
which can never bear to see
their
neighbors thriving,
but
continually
re-
pine
at
any
new efforts toward
industry
made
by any
other nation."6 The
only
solu-
tion,
for Bush and his
postwar predecessors,
was to alter international
politics by impos-
ing
a Pax Americana
-
that
is,
American
global leadership.
Containing
the Allies
America's Cold War
policy
is best under-
stood,
not
by
its
communism-containing
rhetoric,
but
by
its
ally-containing
deeds.
By providing
for
Germany's
and
Japan's
se-
curity
and
by enmeshing
their
military
and
foreign policies
into alliances that it domi-
nated,
the United States contained its erst-
while
enemies,
preventing
its
"partners"
from
embarking upon independent (and, by
Washington's thinking, potentially danger-
ous)
policies.
This stabilized relations
among
the states of Western
Europe
and
East
Asia,
for
by controlling Germany
and
Japan,
the United States "reassured" their
neighbors
that these most
powerful
allies
would remain
pacific.
Freed from the fears and
competitions
that had for centuries
kept
them
nervously
looking
over their
shoulders,
the West Euro-
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peans
(and
East
Asians)
were able to
cooper-
ate
politically
and
economically.
A return to
a world of
independent
states
jockeying
for
power
and
advantage
seemed,
to this
logic,
a
return to the international
political
and eco-
nomic
fragmentation
of the
1930s.
It
was,
after
all,
an
independent
western
Europe
that had
toppled
the Pax Britannica and its
beneficent
global
order.
Recognizing
that
Europe
and East Asia could not be left to
their own devices in the
postwar
world,
or
once
again
the weak would fear the
strong
and the
strong
would fear each
other,
Wash-
ington pursued
not balance and
diversity,
but
hegemony.
The same concerns fed the Bush admini-
stration's fears of a world without American
predominance.
For
example,
the Bush ad-
ministration's
deputy
assistant
secretary
of
defense for
policy,
Alberto
Coll,
painted
a
harrowing picture
in
1992
of a world in
which America's international
leadership
had declined. He foresaw "a
Europe
break-
ing
its Atlantic ties and
plunging
into
unabashed
mercantilism,
a Middle East
heading
toward
catastrophe,
a Pacific Rim
riven
by
resurrected
political jealousies
and
arms races."7 To Bush's
Pentagon,
America's
leadership
in
ameliorating
others'
security
problems
-
manifest in its Cold War alli-
ances
-
continued to be vital even with the
Soviet Union's demise.
After
all,
the now infamous draft of the
Pentagon's
1992
"post-Cold
War"
Defense
Planning
Guidance,
which
gave
the
public
an
unprecedented glimpse
into the
thinking
behind
Washington's security strategy,
merely
restated in somewhat
undiplomatic
language
the
logic
behind America's Cold
War
strategy.
The United
States,
it
argued,
must continue to dominate the international
system by "discouraging
the advanced indus-
trialized nations from
challenging
our lead-
ership
or even
aspiring
to a
larger global
or
regional
role." To
accomplish
this,
the
United States must
keep Japan
and the for-
mer
great powers
of western
Europe firmly
within the constraints of the U.S.-created
postwar system, by providing
what one
high-ranking
Bush
Pentagon
official termed
"adult
supervision."
America must
protect
the interests of
virtually
all
potential great
powers
so that
they
need not
acquire
the ca-
pabilities
to
protect
their interests them-
selves,
that
is,
so that
they
need not act like
great powers.
The
very
existence of
truly independent
actors would be intolerable to the United
States,
for it would
challenge
American
pre-
dominance,
the
key
to a stable world. The
draft
Defense Planning
Guidances
post-Cold
War
preponderance strategy
reflected what
historian
Melvyn
Leffler defines as the im-
perative
of America's Cold War national se-
curity policy:
that "neither an
integrated
Europe,
nor a united
Germany
nor an inde-
pendent Japan
must be
permitted
to
emerge
as a third force."8
America's
partners
were
understandably
troubled
by
the
impolitic language
of the
draft
Planning
Guidance,
so the Bush Penta-
gon
issued a
sanitized,
unclassified version
in
January
1993
as a
"posterity
document."
While this revision
may
have been less offen-
sive,
its
message
was the same. American
leadership,
it
asserted,
sustains the world
economy upon
which
global prosperity
rests.
By,
in
effect,
imposing
a
military pro-
tectorate in East Asia and
Europe,
America's
Cold War alliances ensure "a
prosperous,
largely
democratic,
market-oriented zone of
peace
and
prosperity
that
encompasses
more
than two-thirds of the world's
economy."
This made
maintaining
these alliances
America's "most vital"
foreign policy prior-
ity.
The central
goal
of Bush's
foreign pol-
icy,
then,
was to maintain the
global
"leadership"
role that America had
played
for 50
years,
the sine
qua
non of the "zone of
peace
and
prosperity."
The Swan
Song of Leadership:
The
Gulf
War
To dismiss Bush as a visionless
pragmatist
is
to misunderstand his motives in what
every-
one now
regards
as his administration's
greatest foreign policy
success: its
handling
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Thing
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of the Gulf crisis. That the Bush administra-
tion
had,
at
first,
a
tough
time
publicly
ar-
ticulating
what it
perceived
to be the
important
U.S. interests at stake in the Gulf
does not mean that it lacked its own under-
standing
of those
interests,
based on a com-
prehensive
view of America's role as the
guarantor
of international economic and
po-
litical
stability. Aspects
of the Gulf crisis
were influenced
by post-
Cold War
develop-
ments: with the Soviet Union no
longer
ca-
pable
of
exercising
a
restraining
influence on
its former
clients,
the United States would
have to
play
a
larger
role in
pacifying
cer-
tain
regions,
such as the Gulf and eastern
Europe. But,
as Bush
recognized,
the vision
that dictated the need to
pacify
those re-
gions
was also irrelevant to the Soviet Un-
ion's demise.
Many
cite Bush's
logic
for intervention
in the Gulf as an
example
of his inconsis-
tency.
Bush's rhetoric
concerning Iraq
was
shrill and
overblown;
it
was,
of
course,
ab-
surd to
portray
Kuwait as a democratic vic-
tim and to assert that the United States was
involved in the
Gulf,
in Bush's
words,
"in
defense of freedom." But those who
sug-
gested
that Bush's
foreign policy
was incon-
sistent because he
ostensibly
led a crusade
on behalf of
democracy
and freedom in
Op-
erations Desert Storm and
Just
Cause while
he
ignored
assaults on the same in
China,
Haiti,
and Bosnia were
conflating
motiva-
tion with
justification. (Did
these critics re-
ally
believe
that,
unlike
every
other U.S.
president's,
Bush's
cloying justifications
should have been taken at face
value?)
To ac-
knowledge
that the vision Bush
professed
was not the
motivating
force behind his
pol-
icy
in the Gulf is not to
deny
that that
pol-
icy
was nonetheless motivated
by
a view
considerably
broader than a desire for
cheap
gasoline
at the
pump.9
The vision of U.S.
global leadership
Bush embraced
-
in essence a U.S.
protector-
ate over the advanced
capitalist
states
-
never meant that America had to intervene
anywhere
and
everywhere.
(The
notion that
it does has for
years
been an anti-interven-
tionist straw
man.)
Involvement in sub-Saha-
ran
Africa,
for
example,
has
always
been
optional
-
springing
from anticommunist or
other
ideological
or humanitarian considera-
tions
essentially
irrelevant to the central con-
cerns of U.S.
global strategy
-
rather than
obligatory. (Thus, James Baker,
in
speaking
recently
on what he believes to be the abso-
lute
requirement
of U.S.
leadership
to
guar-
antee
stability
in
Europe, impatiently
dis-
missed what he termed "second order
prob-
lems" like Haiti and
Somalia.)
While it is
difficult to believe that the dictates of world
leadership
will ever
require
intensive in-
volvement
in,
for
example,
Burkina
Faso,
the same does not
-
and,
of
course,
did not
-
hold
for,
say, Vietnam,
since that state is lo-
cated within a
region
of enormous economic
dynamism
and
potential great-power compe-
tition. The
logic
of America's
leadership
strategy
that dictates occasional intervention
in the Third World has been determined
by
perceptions
of how events there will affect
what
Henry Kissinger
in
1973 called "the
axis of
history
[that]
starts in
Moscow,
goes
to
Bonn,
crosses over to
Washington,
and
then
goes
to
Tokyo."
As
John McNaughton,
a chief aide of
Secretary
of Defense Robert
McNamara,
observed in
1966,
"It takes
some
sophistication
to see how Vietnam
automatically
involves our vital interests."
Much
misunderstanding
in debates
about U.S.
foreign policy
derives from the
mistaken
apprehension
that American states-
men are concerned
primarily
with threats to
America's
security.
In
fact,
Washington
is
less driven
by
its
globalist
rhetoric than
by
an arcane
conception
of the national interest
that
barely
touches on the
question
of the
military
defense of the
country.
For in-
stance,
while
many "pragmatic" opponents
of U.S. involvement in Vietnam's war ar-
gued
that America's
security
would not be
endangered regardless
of the outcome of the
conflict,
policymakers
were driven
by
a com-
plex
calculus that
ultimately
involved con-
taining
America's allies as well as its com-
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munist "enemies." In
1970, Undersecretary
of State
Eugene
Rostow admitted that "the
major
concern
-
at least
my major
concern
-
in this miserable affair is the
long-range
im-
pact
a
[U.S.]
withdrawal would have on
Japanese policy."10
The stakes that the Bush
administation saw involved in Kuwait were
similarly
arcane.
Bush was exhilarated
by Operation
Desert Shield. For a man whose
conception
of U.S.
foreign policy
rested on the belief
that America's and the world's
happiness
and
prosperity depended
on
maintaining
U.S.
global leadership,
on a
strategy
of
American
preponderance,
the situation in
the Gulf was both crisis and
opportunity.
At a time when
Washington's major
indus-
trialized allies were
increasingly asserting
their
independence,
when America's relative
power
was
declining,
and, consequently,
the
apparently dangerous
world of
multipolar
international
politics
threatened to reasssert
itself,
Bush made
Iraq's
invasion of Kuwait
the occasion for
reminding
the world of the
need for American
hegemony. Assembling
and
leading
an international coalition of un-
precedented
size was a marvelous
way
of re-
asserting
the Cold War
strategy
of allied
containment and
global predominance,
bet-
ter known as U.S.
leadership.
The Gulf War was to a
great
extent the
manifestation of the Bush administration's
Defense Planning
Guidances
injunction
that
America must do
nothing
less than "retain
the
preeminent responsibility
for address-
ing...
those
wrongs
which threaten not
only
our
interests,
but those of our allies or
friends,
or which could
seriously
unsettle in-
ternational relations." For
example,
Secre-
tary
of State
James
Baker's
assertion,
which
many
found
dismaying,
that the United
States had to counter
Iraq's
invasion of Ku-
wait to save American
jobs
reflected the
official
(if
oversimplified) opinion
on the
importance
of Persian Gulf
security
to
America.
During
the Gulf
crisis, Washington
as-
serted that
Baghdad's
control of Kuwaiti oil
would
provoke
a worldwide
depression
devastating
to the U.S.
economy.
Econo-
mists and critics of American
policy
countered that the effects of even a worst-
case scenario
-
that
is,
Iraqi
control of the
oilfields not
only
of
Kuwait,
but of Saudi
Arabia and of all the Gulf Emirates
-
would
have cost the U.S.
economy
less than what
America was
paying
in defense costs to
ensure access to
"cheap"
Persian Gulf oil.
But such criticism could not dissuade
policy-
makers because their real fears of the eco-
nomic risks of
instability
in the Gulf were
far more
complex
than their rhetoric
suggested.
Baker did
not,
in
fact, greatly
fear the di-
rect economic effects of
instability
in the
Gulf for the United States. While
Washing-
ton
appreciated
that the
diversity
of the
U.S. oil
supply
ensured that no
single
coun-
try
could
put
a
stranglehold
on
it,
the Bush
administration was nevertheless
wary
of the
psychological
and
political
effects that even
a
temporary
oil
price
shock in
Europe
and
Japan might
have had on the liberal interna-
tional
system
America had to maintain. Be-
lieving
that
tranquility
and
democracy
in
Germany
and
Japan
are
fragile,
U.S. officials
have
always
feared that a sudden economic
downturn in these states could cause a re-
peat
of the 1930s:
recession and
unemploy-
ment would
bring
extreme nationalist forces
to the fore in
Germany
and
Japan;
this in
turn would
intensify political
tensions
among
the states of
Europe
and of East
Asia; defense, foreign,
and economic
policies
in the countries of these
regions
would be
"re-nationalized";
and the
open
economic
system
would slam shut and the world
would crash into
depression.
As a
high-
ranking
State
Department
official
argued,
"no matter
what,
the United States has to
make sure
Europe
remains stable. Given the
political vulnerability
of
Europe
and the fact
that
instability
there would
bring
a
depres-
sion
everywhere,
we have no choice but to
guarantee [Europe's]
access" to Persian Gulf
oil.
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Thing
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At the same
time,
consistent with the ad-
ministration's
leadership strategy,
America
could never allow these countries to
protect
their own interests in the Gulf
-
that
is,
de-
velop
naval, air,
and
ground
forces
capable
of
global "power projection"
-
since such ac-
tions would lead to the
nightmare
scenario
in
which,
when the United States no
longer
keeps Europe
and
Japan
on a
tight political
and
miltiary leash,
the world of
power poli-
tics returns. The
problem,
which reflected
the
increasing
constraints on Bush's
global
strategy,
was that the
president's
insistence
that the allies he was
containing pay
the
cost of the means of their containment
showed that
leadership
was no
longer
a com-
modity
America could afford.
The
process leading
to the war
against
Iraq
is now seen as fixed in stone. When
we look
back,
America's
response
to
Iraq's
aggression
seems a
foregone
conclusion.
In
fact,
America
leading
an international
coalition into
battle,
forcibly expelling
Iraqi
forces from
Kuwait,
and
rendering
impotent Iraq's military
threat to its
neigh-
bors was far from the most
likely
scenario.
Bush
correctly
saw the Gulf crisis as a test
case of America's
ability
and
willingness
to continue
playing
its
leadership
role.
The continuation of that role
was,
for
Bush,
the most
important
issue at
stake;
it
was,
however,
far from clear that the world
would fall in line
or,
more
important,
that
Americans would care to
carry
on with
a
50-year-old
role that had now exhausted
them.
Immediately following Iraq's
invasion
of
Kuwait,
only
38
percent
of the U.S.
public
favored the use of American
military
force to
eject
the
Iraqis.
While
popular
support
for intervention increased as the
crisis
continued,
the
public
was
always
qualified
in its
approval
of
intervention,
pre-
ferring
even the most unrealistic
options
that
ostensibly
offered an honorable resolu-
tion to the
president's consistently tough
line. Political
opinion
was even more am-
bivalent
-
on the eve of the U.S. air war
against Iraq,
the Senate resolution
support-
ing
the American use of force
passed by
a
mere two votes.
Bush deserves credit for
taking
a
princi-
pled
and
politically courageous
stand in the
name of a
foreign policy
vision in which he
believed.
Moreover,
his critics
-
with the ex-
ception
of
equally principled pacifists
and
isolationists
-
shared his vision. Their con-
ception
of a world
order,
no less than
Bush's,
was inconsistent with
permitting
Iraq's aggression
to stand. Unlike
Bush,
however, they
refused to bite the bullet. It is
inconceivable that economic
sanctions,
their
policy
alternative,
could have
dislodged
Iraqi troops
from Kuwait.
(And
the admini-
stration's
argument
that a
long period
of
sanctions without war could have led to the
unraveling
of the
unwieldy
coalition,
while
not
irrefutable,
was nonetheless
strong;
given
the stakes
involved,
dragging
out the
crisis
posed unnecessary
risks.)
At
best,
Sad-
dam Hussein
might
have
negotiated
a
par-
tial retreat that would have left his
power
and
prestige
intact,
an outcome that was
equally unacceptable
to Bush and to his
Democratic and other critics.
Bush and his advisers
recognized very
early
in the crisis what
many
of his critics
only
now
acknowledge:
American
interests,
as
nearly universally defined,
could
only
be assured
by forcibly expelling
Saddam
Hussein's forces from Kuwait.
(The
Bush ad-
ministration,
in
fact,
carefully
maneuvered
U.S.
opinion
and
diplomatic
events to en-
sure this
outcome.)
While Bush's critics
shared with the
president
the belief that
America must continue to "exercise leader-
ship" by depriving
Saddam Hussein of the
fruits of his
aggression, Bush,
unlike his crit-
ics,
squarely
faced the
requirements
and
po-
tential costs of that
leadership.
Near the end of the Bush administra-
tion,
foreign policy analyst Terry
Diebel
wrote that a sucessfiil American
foreign pol-
icy strategy required
a firm sense of
priorities...
[and]
an abil-
ity
to concentrate the
government upon
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them.... There must be a kind of fore-
sight,
an
unforgiving
sense of the con-
nection between
today's
actions and the
nation's
position,
not
just
in the next
year
or
two,
but in the next decade and
beyond.
Across all these
areas,
there
must be a
capacity
for bold
leadership
and an
ability
and
willingness
to con-
vince the
country
to sacrifice and take
risks.11
The Bush
foreign policy,
Diebel
concluded,
failed to
display
these
qualities,
a verdict
many experts
shared. But in the Gulf
crisis,
the
defining
moment of his
presidency,
these were
precisely
the
qualities
Bush
displayed,
as he translated his vision of
American
leadership,
which,
to
him,
was
synonymous
with the
long-term
interests of
the United States and the world at
large,
into a set of
specific
-
and intricate
-
diplo-
matic and
military policies.
Leadership
Hits a
Stumbling
Block: Moscow
Bush was
undoubtably guilty
of
caution,
prudence,
and, indeed, passivity,
in his
ap-
proach
toward the
collapse
of the Soviet em-
pire;
but that
approach
-
which amounted
to
following
Dean Acheson's
maxim,
"Don't
just
do
something,
stand there"
-
is the as-
pect
of his
presidency
of which Bush should
feel most
proud. Just
as the direction U.S.
policy
took
during
the Gulf crisis was not a
foregone
conclusion,
neither was the Soviet
Union's bloodless and smooth
relinquish-
ment of Eastern
Europe.
That this
process
-
which
perforce
involved the
very passions
and insecurities that had made Moscow's
stranglehold
on Eastern
Europe
so intracta-
ble and the U.S.-Soviet
rivalry
on the Conti-
nent so
dangerous
-
had such a
happy
outcome is in no small measure thanks to
George
Bush. In
response
to what was the fi-
nal crisis of the Cold War and the most im-
portant
series of international events of the
second half of this
century,
Bush,
true to his
best
self,
offered not shrill
exaltation,
but
circumspection.
At the
time,
some of the more
ideologi-
cally
driven conservatives were frustrated
by
the
president's
lack of
public
enthusiasm re-
garding
the
1989
revolutions and lack of
public support
for the revolutionaries.
(Rea-
gan
administration assistant
secretary
of
state Elliott
Abrams,
for
instance,
wrote of
Bush's behavior that
"altogether lacking
was
an effort to make the end of the cold war a
great victory
for freedom. Mr. Bush
sug-
gested
that we not
gloat
at the Soviet col-
lapse
when
gloating
and
rejoicing
were
just
what the
country,
and the Bush
campaign,
needed.")12
But
by eschewing
an activist
pol-
icy
and
sedulously avoiding embarrassing,
threatening,
or otherwise
provoking
Mos-
cow,
Bush
helped provide
the
necessary
con-
dition for those revolutions: Moscow's
willingness
to tolerate them. Gorbachev was
clearly
the
towering figure
in these
events,
but Bush was his invaluable silent
partner.
Such
farsightedness
seemed
unlikely
at
the start of Bush's
term,
and his critics are
justified
in their
charge
that his administra-
tion was at first unable or
unwilling
to
grasp
the
magnitude
of the
changes
in Mos-
cow's
thinking.
Bush came to the
presi-
dency believing
that his
predecessor,
while
at first too bellicose toward
Moscow, had,
in
his last
years
in
office,
become somewhat im-
prudent
in his relations with Gorbachev.
Cooling
the ardor and
slowing
the
tempo
of
relations with
Moscow,
the Bush administra-
tion undertook a
months-long strategic
re-
view of U.S.-Soviet relations.
During
this
time,
the administration was
guarded
and
noncommittal in its attitude toward Mos-
cow, failing
to
respond
to a number of sub-
stantive Soviet initiatives. To his
critics,
this
was evidence of Bush's lack of
leadership
and vision. But while Bush's initial
ap-
proach
was
inappropriate,
it resulted in
op-
portunities delayed,
not
squandered. By
the
time the Malta Summit was announced in
October
1989,
Bush was on the course he
would follow to the end of his
presidency:
engaging
the
leadership
in Moscow with
a
vengeance,
a course that culminated in
The Vision
Thing
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START
II,
the most
sweeping
arms control
agreement
in
history.
Initially
faulted for his too-cool
response
to
Gorbachev,
Bush was soon criticized for
embracing
the Soviet leader too
rapturously,
at the
expense
of relations with Boris Yelt-
sin,
and was later criticized for
"betting
everything"
on the
latter,
at the
expense
of
relations with the other former Soviet
repub-
lics.
(Similar
criticism is now leveled at Clin-
ton.) But, given
the fluid situation with
which Bush was
(and
Clinton
is)
confronted
in
Russia,
in which America is unable to
control the internal
political
and social
forces at
work,
betting
on the
wrong
horse
is a distinct
-
and unavoidable
-
possibility.
In this situation it would seem reason-
able
(unless
attempting
a
provocative,
and
unwise,
encirclement
strategy)
to
give prior-
ity
to relations with the most
powerful
and
important
of the former Soviet
republics,
since it
possesses
the
greatest
means of
threatening
U.S.
security, and,
as
diplo-
matic convention
warrants,
to
give priority
to relations with the
existing
head of
state,
as Bush did. After
all,
despite
the fears of
squandering good
relations with Yeltsin
by
sticking
with
Gorbachev,
when Yeltsin be-
came
(de
jure
and de
facto)
the man with
whom to
deal,
he and
Bush,
out of mutual
interest,
soon achieved a
highly
effective
rapport.
Other criticisms of the Bush administra-
tion's
policy
toward the Soviet Union and
its successor states also seem either inconsis-
tent or
excessively
harsh. For
instance,
many
U.S.
foreign policy observers,
using
a
logic
that the Bush administration
shared,
argued
that
Washington
had to
provide
massive
economic aid to the Soviet Union to forestall
the economic and social chaos that
they
be-
lieved would otherwise break out there.
Such
chaos,
they maintained,
might bring
nationalist-extremist forces to the
fore,
en-
gendering
a situation
they
feared would
pose
a
grave security
threat to America.
But
many
of those same observers criti-
cized what
they
held to be the Bush admini-
stration's
overly
cautious attitude toward in-
ternal
developments
in the
crumbling
So-
viet Union.
They pointed
to such evidence
as the
president's
refusal to
impose
eco-
nomic sanctions
against
the Soviets in re-
sponse
to their crackdown
against
the
independence-seeking
Baltic
states;
to his
unwillingness
to
press
the Soviet leader too
hard when Gorbachev slowed down eco-
nomic reform and
brought
some
old-style
Communists back into his
government;
and
to his
discouragement
of
separatist
forces in
the
republics.
(Bush's
stance on these issues
was,
of
course,
similar to his refusal to
pun-
ish China
harshly following
the Tiananmen
Square
massacre and
betrayed
his
emphasis
on
maintaining good working
relations with
the
great powers
over
pursuing ideological
concerns.) However,
the American interfer-
ence in Soviet
-
and, later,
Russian
-
domes-
tic
affairs,
which these critics
advocated,
would seem more
likely
to have led to the
emergence
of fascist/nationalist forces
(most
U.S.
foreign policy
observers use the two
terms
interchangeably)
hostile to the United
States than would the
niggardly
U.S. eco-
nomic
policy
toward the Soviet Union that
they
bemoaned.
(Imagine
for a moment how
Americans
-
and not
just
ultranationalist
Americans
-
would react if
they,
defeated in
the Cold
War,
were met with a Soviet Un-
ion
encouraging separatist
elements here
and irredentist sentiment in Mexico. It
would be
hoped
that reasonable elements in
Moscow would
argue
that the United States
was still a
great power
and that it is
danger-
ous to kick such a
power, especially
a nu-
clear-armed
one,
when it is
down.)
That Bush
thought
it more
important
to
avoid
destabilizing, frightening,
or
provok-
ing
Moscow than to
pursue
the cause of self-
determination or to
champion
American
ideology
is not to
say
that he was a calculat-
ing practitioner
of
realpolitik.
He
believed,
no less than his somewhat more
expansive
critics,
that the United States had the
oppor-
tunity
to
reintegrate
a reformed Soviet Un-
ion/Russia into the world
community.
This
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rather
paternalistic
vision dictated a new
partnership,
albeit one in which the
junior
partner
-
Moscow
-
would
increasingly
accept
the
preferences,
and the economic
and
political
beliefs,
of the senior
partner
-
Washington.
This
vision,
as well as the "Weimar Rus-
sia"
argument
favored
especially by
Na-
tional
Security
Adviser Brent
Scowcroft,
necessitated an ambitious
program
of eco-
nomic and technical
aid,
as well as the even
more
far-reaching
assistance efforts
proposed
in the administration's "Freedom
Support"
legislation.
The
purpose
of such efforts was
not
only
to forestall immediate economic
disaster in Russia and its
presumed political
consequences,
but,
in the
long
term,
to con-
vert Russia into a
polity
in which those
feared
political consequences
-
anti-West-
ern, anticapitalist,
antidemocratic senti-
ments
-
would not take root.
At the
time,
this
proposed
U.S. role in
transforming
a totalitarian
system
and ma-
jor
central command
economy
was often
characterized as a "new Marshall
Plan";
however,
Bush and his advisers took as
their model not so much the effort
designed
to
help
restore the economies of
capitalist,
democratic Western
Europe,
but the far
broader and
deeper
role the United States
had
played
in
postwar Germany
and
Japan,
a
project designed
to
impose democracy
on
previously
hostile terrain. This latter
effort,
of
course,
had
required
not
merely
doling
out assistance funds and
providing
technical
training,
but
occupation
and di-
rect rule.
Clearly,
Bush had enormous
aspirations
regarding
U.S.
policy
toward the former So-
viet Union. These
aspirations
were shared
by
the entire
foreign policy community
-
not since the
beginning
of U.S. involvement
in Vietnam had that
community
reached
such a consensus on the need for the United
States to undertake a massive
foreign policy
effort
(even
if there was no consensus on
how, precisely,
to
go
about the
effort).
It
united
"responsible"
Democrats and
Repub-
licans
(Bush's
opponent
Bill Clinton and for-
mer
president
Richard
Nixon,
for
instance),
who knew that
anyone
who knew
anything
would
agree
with them. All looked on with
dismay
as the
public
failed to
grasp
the
world historic
significance
of the
issue,
and
(consequently)
the
apparently necessary
ef-
fort failed to be undertaken then or sub-
sequently.
The
gap
between the
policy
dictated
by
a vision of U.S.
global
leader-
ship
and the means available to
pursue
that
vision frustrated the
experts
(as
it must have
frustrated Bush and his
team),
and
they
re-
sponded by blaming
the
president
for fail-
ing
to
provide
the
leadership
needed to
rally
public support.
Bush,
in the
end,
did not
put
his
politi-
cal
weight
behind the "Freedom
Support"
bill,
but it was clear that
Congress
would
not act on it
and,
to
Bush,
with his
eyes
on the
polls,
it was
equally
clear that the
electorate was hostile to aid at
anything
near the levels that the
experts
deemed
necessary.
Critics like to cite the Truman ex-
ample, pointing
out
that,
on the
question
of
the Marshall
Plan,
the
president
was
years
ahead of
public opinion
and
yet
coura-
geously
took the
political
heat. In
lauding
Truman's role in
mustering support
for the
Marshall
Plan, however,
Bush's
(and
Clin-
ton's)
critics fail to consider
that,
in
pressing
for that internationalist
project,
Truman
could invoke
-
or create
-
a
living,
breath-
ing enemy,
not
just
a
potential
one, which,
as Senator
Vandenberg
understood,
made all
the difference.
Bush wanted to
pursue
an activist course
in the former Soviet Union and eastern
Europe.
But,
as with other issues dear to the
president
and other
internationalists,
he
found
-
as would Clinton
-
that the weari-
ness of a
post-Cold
War American
public,
the
growing
reluctance of
post-
Cold War al-
lies to follow U.S.
leadership,
and the limits
of American
power
and resources in an in-
creasingly
recalcitrant
world,
had made
America's
global
burden more and more dif-
ficult to take
up.
The Vision
Thing
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Preserving Leadership:
NATO and the
German
Question
The Bush
foreign policy
vision held
that,
aside from the direct
physical security
of the
United
States,
America's most essential for-
eign policy objective
was
perpetuating
the
liberal international economic and
political
order that America and the advanced indus-
trialized states had
enjoyed
for 50
years.
American
leadership
was the
key
to this
pro-
ject. Consequently,
all
foreign policy
efforts
were subsumed
by
the
imperative
to main-
tain that U.S.
leadership
and the chief in-
struments of that
position
-
America's Cold
War alliances with Western
Europe
and
Ja-
pan.
A
high-ranking Pentagon
official en-
capsulated
the fears that drove the admin-
istration's
thinking
on this issue.
Arguing
for the vital
importance
of
preserving
those
alliances,
he
asked,
"If we
pull
out,
who
knows what nervousness will result?" Fol-
lowing
this
logic,
since America could never
know,
it would
always
have to
stay. Bush,
the first
post-Cold
War
president,
faced a
unique challenge:
he had to ensure that
America would
stay
even after the raison
d'etre of those
alliances,
as understood
by
the
public,
had
disintegrated.
One solution was to
keep
that raison
d'etre alive
by portraying
the Soviet Union
as a threat for as
long
as
possible.
While at
first Bush and his entire
foreign policy
team
voiced
suspicion
of Moscow's
intentions,
as
relations with the Soviet Union
warmed,
this task fell
mainly
on
Secretary
of Defense
Dick
Cheney, who,
it
seemed,
reminded
any-
one who would listen that the Soviet mili-
tary
remained a formidable
adversary,
even
as that force was unable to
pay
its soldiers.
But
by 1990,
the Atlantic idea itself was
increasingly
under assault.
France,
long
bri-
dling
under American
European leadership,
argued that,
with the demise of the Soviet
threat,
the U.S. role in
Europe
should be
substantially
diminished
and,
in
fact,
that
all American forces should leave the Conti-
nent
by
the
century's
end.
Germany, too,
was
showing disquieting signs
of an inde-
pendent spirit, reaching agreement
with
Moscow over the
timing
and tactics of reuni-
fication without
consulting
its senior
part-
ner and
aligning
itself with the French in
support
of two
proposals
to create
European
defense forces
independent
of NATO. These
moves
dismayed
the Bush
administration,
which
sincerely
believed
-
as had
every
ad-
ministration since the
1940s
-
that if the
West
Europeans
didn't want American lead-
ership, they
didn't know what was
good
for
them,
since
Europe
on its own would ulti-
mately lapse
into that same old bad habit
that NATO had
prevented: power politics.
Bush made this case at the
1991 NATO
Summit,
arguing
that the alliance
guarded
against "uncertainty
and
unpredictability"
on the
Continent,
that it therefore did "not
need a Soviet
military
to hold it
together,"
and,
finally, stating flatly
that it could not
be
replaced
"even in the
long
run."
(Similar
arguments
were made at the time
regarding
the U.S. role in Northeast
Asia,
with Bush's
assistant
secretary
of state for East Asian and
Pacific
affairs,
Richard
Solomon,
maintain-
ing
that "were the Soviet
presence
to
disap-
pear tomorrow,
in the
emerging security
environment,
our role as
regional
balancer
and honest broker
would,
if
anything,
be
more
important
than
ever.")
Far more
impor-
tant than its
words, however,
were the ad-
ministration's deeds on behalf of U.S.
leadership
in
Europe.
In
dealing
with the
breakup
of the So-
viet Union's Eastern
European empire,
Bush
departed
from his
passive
role
only
to ad-
dress two
issues,
issues that were central to
maintaining
his
conception
of U.S.
global
hegemony. During
the turbulent
year
of
1990,
the
president
never lost
sight
of two
interrelated
objectives:
to ensure that
NATO
-
the
primary
means of U.S.
prepon-
derance
and, hence,
allied containment
-
survived in a
post-Cold
War
Europe,
and to
ensure that a reunified
Germany
would be
enfolded in the alliance.
(Most
contempo-
rary
and
retrospective
accounts discuss
Bush's aim of
ensuring
that a reunified Ger-
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many
"remain" in NATO. That
verb,
how-
ever,
is
misleading.
East
Germany
was in
the Warsaw Pact and West
Germany
was in
NATO,
so a reunified
Germany
would have
to be
brought
into
NATO,
not "remain"
there,
since it was never there to
begin
with.)
In
pursuit
of these
objectives,
Bush and
Baker
proved remarkably
skillful
diplomats,
since as the Cold War wound
down,
attain-
ing
the second
objective,
and hence the
first,
was
by
no means assured.
Although George
Kennan and Walter
Lippmann
had
long ago
envisioned a
possible
end to the Soviet occu-
pation
of Eastern
Europe, they
could not
imagine
that this would not
require
a mu-
tual
superpower disengagement
or,
at the
very
least,
the neutralization of
Germany.
Of
course,
neither
Lippmann
nor Kennan
foresaw a Soviet leader like Gorbachev or
anything
like the events that occured in
1989-90. However,
their belief that no So-
viet state would ever allow a reunified Ger-
many
to become a member of NATO seemed
correct as late as
February
1990,
when Gor-
bachev and Soviet
spokesmen
asserted
strenuously
that while a reunified Ger-
many
-
ominous
enough
in
political
and
economic terms
-
might
be
inevitable,
it
would have to be a neutral
state,
for if it
were to become a member of the
alliance,
it
would
upset
the East- West
strategic
bal-
ance, threatening
Soviet
security.
(Russia
makes much the same
argument today
re-
garding
the
prospect
of NATO's further ab-
sorption
of the states to
Germany's
east.)
Bush and Baker
spent
the next six
months
wheedling, cajoling,
and
appeasing
the Soviets into
accepting
German member-
ship
in NATO. Since
maintaining
the instru-
ment of U.S.
predominance
in
Europe
was
their first
priority, they
were
eager
to con-
vince Moscow that it was safe to make this
major
concession; this,
in
part, explains
their hands-off and
conciliatory approach
to-
ward the Soviets on all other issues. This
process
culminated in the
July
1990
London
Declaration,
in which the
president,
to
help
Gorbachev
accept Germany's
unification
within
NATO,
convinced the North Atlantic
Council to reassure Moscow
by announcing
to the Warsaw Pact that "we are no
longer
adversaries." Since the alliance was no
longer
directed
against
the
Soviets,
the dec-
laration
pledged
a
major
revision of NATO
military stategy, including
a much-reduced
reliance on nuclear
weapons.
With the
way
thus
paved,
West German chancellor
Helmut Kohl and Gorbachev worked out
the
agreement
on German reunification two
weeks later.
While much was made of Kohl's
diplo-
matic
victory,
few observers
properly
cred-
ited Bush for his
foreign policy design.
As
historian
Timothy
Ireland concludes in his
account of the
origins
of
NATO,
since the
1940s
the
underlying purpose
of American
leadership
in
Europe
had been "to
prevent
German domination
by securely binding
the
Federal
Republic
to
larger European
and
Atlantic frameworks."13 These
constraints,
however,
were in
danger
of
corroding
in
1989-90
because of the
collapse
of the Cold
War order in
Europe.
Out of this fluid situ-
ation,
Bush and Baker ensured the continu-
ation of
Washington's enduring goal
of
enmeshing Germany
and
thus, they hoped,
ensured the
perpetuation
of the Pax Ameri-
cana on the Continent.
Lessons
of Leadership: Yugoslavia
Shortly
after this successful effort to main-
tain the
requirements
of American
hegem-
ony
in
Europe,
however,
came the Bush
administration's failure to address the
poten-
tial threat to the Pax Americana that arose
from the
fighting
in the former
Yugoslavia.
In its
policy
there,
the Bush administration
apparently
failed in an endeavor that was
central to its vision. In its
inability
or un-
willingness
to
provide leadership,
the Bush
administration
seemingly damaged
NATO's
role as the
guarantor
of
stability
in
Europe.
It failed in its avowed
objective
to remain
preeminently responsible
for
addressing
those
wrongs
that threatened not
only
U.S.
interests,
but those of its
allies,
or those
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wrongs
that could destabilize international
relations.
What could account for this failure? To
be
sure, given
the
assumptions underpin-
ning
U.S.
policy,
the
fighting
in the former
Yugoslavia is, apparently,
"the
problem
from
hell,"
as
Secretary
of State Warren
Christopher
has described it. This would be
true for
any
administration. While some
Democrats blame the situation there on
some
gross mishandling
on Bush's
part (just
as some former Bush officials claim that the
mess is now somehow attributable to Clin-
ton's
flip-flops),
the truth is that
(assuming
either administration would have otherwise
chosen to
intervene)
most of the same con-
straints that now hem in the Clinton ad-
ministration also hemmed in the Bush
administration: the
many pitfalls
involved
in
any military intervention,
which are mul-
tiplied by
intervention in a civil
war;
con-
testants in a war
who,
regardless
of where
the
guilt primarily
lies,
are
equally
uninter-
ested in
compromise, leaving precious
little
room for Western
"peacemaking";
an under-
standable concern about Russia's reaction to
NATO
intervention;
allies who
drag
their
feet;
and
-
perhaps
most
important
-
a
very
reluctant U.S.
public
that is not
privy
to the
reasoning
that
purports
to
explain
how tur-
moil in the Balkans relates to its own
pros-
perity
or
security.
(Rather
than
snipe
at one
another,
Republican
and Democratic
policy-
makers
might
offer one another some
sympa-
thy, especially
since no one else
will.)
Still,
the Bush administration's
policy
toward the former
Yugoslavia
is bewilder-
ing. Perhaps,
since the
fighting
was con-
fined within the borders of what was once a
single state,
the administration did not see
it as a threat to
European stability.
U.S.
interests,
according
to this
view,
dictated
that the
fighting
be
quarantined,
rather
than stanched.
Thus,
Bush's Christmas
1992
warning
to
Serbia,
which
clearly
threatened a unilateral U.S.
military
re-
sponse against
that state in the event of its
intervening
in Kosovo
-
a Serbian action
that was
widely
believed could
provoke
a
"wider Balkan war"
-
was
perhaps
all that
was considered
necessary
to
prevent
a series
of events that could
endanger
U.S. leader-
ship
in
Europe. Clinton,
of
course,
has reiter-
ated Bush's Kosovo
policy and,
consisent
with that
policy,
sent a U.S.
brigade
to
Macedonia to forestall war
among
Mace-
donia's
neighbors.
Bush's "failed"
Yugoslav policy might
also be
interpreted
as a success
according
to
his
vision,
but this would almost
certainly
credit the administration with far too much
subtlety
-
and
cynicism.
In
1991,
Bush's At-
lantic
vision,
as discussed
above,
was under
attack
by
an
increasingly
self-assertive west-
ern
Europe.
As a
part
of their effort to di-
vorce themselves from NATO
domination,
France and West
Germany
were keen for the
European Community,
not
NATO,
to take
the lead in
handling
the
Yugoslav
crisis.
Throughout
the fall and
spring
of
1991,
the
United States had been
actively
involved in
attempting
to hold the
Yugoslav
Federation
together.
With the failure of Baker's mis-
sion to
Belgrade
in
June 1991, however,
the
United States knew that
fighting,
which
would break out the
following week,
was in-
evitable. It also knew that the
disintegration
of
Yugoslavia
would be
extraordinarily
vio-
lent, given
the
long-simmering
hatreds and
the
availability
of
weapons there,
and that
the contestants would be unamenable to
compromise. (Indeed,
this is
why Washing-
ton had worked so hard to avoid a
breakup.)
At this
point,
the Bush administration
quite explicitly signaled
that it was
pre-
pared
to let the
Europeans
do what
they
had
said
they always
wanted to do
-
handle their
own
problem. Perhaps falling
into the
trap,
Luxembourg's foreign minister,
speaking
for
the
European Community,
hailed the
oppor-
tunity
as "the hour of
Europe."
The results
of the
European Community's peace
efforts
were disastrous.
Later,
Germany attempted
a solution to the
Yugoslav
crisis
by recogniz-
ing
Croatia and Slovenia. Its
European part-
ners were somewhat reluctant to follow this
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course, but,
having just signed
the Maas-
tricht
Treaty, they
were
eager
to
engage
in a
common
European
endeavor.
Washington
seemed
just
as
eager
to see such an endeavor
fail.
"It was
European unity
time,"
Baker re-
called in
disgust,
"a lot of confidence in
Europe
that
they
could and should take care
of matters on their own
doorstep."
Ger-
many's
actions were
clearly
hubristic and ill-
considered,
and
Washington protested,
but
not too
strenuously,
no doubt confident that
the sad results of
Europe taking
care of mat-
ters on its
doorstep
would soon be
obvious,
as indeed
they
were.
It was no
suprise
that the French and
Germans failed
throughout
the crisis in the
former
Yugoslavia, having
been
discouraged
by Washington
for decades from
building
the
very
kind of
independent
West Euro-
pean political
and defense
systems
that
they
now needed.
(It
was rather
hypocritical
of
the Bush administration to "welcome" Euro-
pean leadership
in
handling
the crisis in the
former
Yugoslavia
while it
squelched
the
proposed
West
European
Union
rapid
reac-
tion force and the
"Eurocorps,"
which would
have made that
leadership possible.)
Western
Europe's
failure, however,
was
a
gain
(whether
deliberate or
not)
for the
American
leadership
-
and
European
infan-
tilization
-
so desired
by
the Bush admini-
stration. That failure reminded
Europe
and
the United States that
"Europeans,
left to
themselves,
tend to
mismanage European
se-
curity,"
as David
Gompert,
Bush's former
National
Security
Council chief for
Europe,
argues, revealing
his
contempt
for America's
"partners."14
Bush and his
foreign policy
offi-
cials, during
and after his
presidency,
have
used the
fighting
in the former
Yugoslavia
as a
negative
lesson and the Gulf War as a
positive
lesson, illustrating
the
point
made
by
Dick
Cheney
last
year:
it is a
"myth,"
he
asserted,
that "other nations can take
over the United States' traditional role in
global security....
There isn't
anybody
else
to do it."
Although Cheney,
who has
emerged
as
the
Republicans' foreign policy
attack
dog,
would
deny it,
the Clinton administration
has come around to his
point
of view on
American
leadership. During
the
presiden-
tial
campaign,
candidate Clinton excoriated
the Bush administration for what he charac-
terized as Bush's
timid,
pragmatic approach
to international affairs and advocated the
sweeping
internationalist
foreign policy
agenda traditionally
associated with Ameri-
can
leadership.15
Clinton, however,
also
called for a multilateralist
foreign policy,
which would
essentially require abandoning
American unilateralism and
closely tying
U.S.
foreign policy
to the United Nations.
Clinton,
of
course,
has
spent
his first
18 months in office
backing away
from his
more ambitious
foreign policy goals.
He
has also learned that even his more modest
goals
are
impossible
to achieve without the
United States
taking
the lead. A
truly
multi-
lateralist
foreign policy
means
abandoning
a
vision of world
politics
that can
only
be real-
ized
through
the exercise of U.S.
leadership.
As the
president
has
steadily
retreated from
his earlier multilateralist sentiments to the
safe and familiar
ground
of American he-
gemony,
he has
begun
to sound
very
much
like
George
Bush on
Kuwait, asserting
that
"we are the
only superpower.
We must lead
the world."
Can America head?
There was
something
at once
poignant
and
obtuse in Baker's recent comment
that,
be-
cause President Clinton's
foreign policy
lacked
consistency
and
firmness,
"for the
first time since the Second World
War, Ja-
pan
is not
delivering
an automatic vote for
the U.S.
position." Sticking
his head into
the sand while
reciting
his
mantra,
the for-
mer
secretary
of state and
probable
future
presidential
candidate claimed that such
problems
could be obviated "as
long
as
America leads.... We have to lead."
Japan's
actions are
certainly
related to a decline in
American
leadership,
but that decline isn't
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due to what Baker would characterize as
Clinton's weak
foreign policy.
That
policy
is
a
reflection,
not the
cause,
of the decline.
America,
no matter who is in
charge
of
its
foreign policy,
is less and less able to
"lead." Baker seems to have
forgotten
that
America's
leadership
in the Gulf War was
only possible
because its allies
agreed
to
pay
the tab. It is no
surprise
that
given
such
"leadership,"
once subservient
partners
are
increasingly going
their own
way. Prepon-
derance cannot
simply
be
asserted;
it must
reflect a
position
based on
power.
When
that
position
shifts
enough, preponderance
-
leadership
-
is, by definition,
lost.
Some
foreign policy observers,
aware of
the international
political consequences
of
America's relative economic
decline,
have re-
cently
shed their traditional indifference to
domestic affairs. If the United States is to
lead
abroad, they say,
it must
get
its eco-
nomic house in
order;
encapsulating
the
prism through
which
they
view economic is-
sues,
Michael Mandelbaum of the Council
on
Foreign
Relations
explains
that "deficits
reduce America's
capacity
to lead."16 While
there are
surely many things
the United
States should do to
repair
its
economy,
these
sensible actions won't
permit
America to re-
gain
the
predominant position
that had al-
lowed it to exercise international
leadership.
The
problems
are structural.
The Pax Americana
depended upon
America's massive
strength
in the decades
following
the Second World War. But his-
tory
affords no more remarkable reversal of
fortune in a
relatively
short
period
of time
than the erosion of American
hegemony
in
the late twentieth
century.
"Decline" is
rarely
absolute
-
a
hegemon
does not be-
come
poorer
or weaker than it was before its
rise to
preponderance. Instead,
decline is
relative,
in that a
hegemon
is overtaken
by
challengers
who rise faster or further. While
the United States has accelerated its fall
(most
notably by
an
astonishing
rise in do-
mestic
consumption
relative to
savings
and
investment),
the worldwide economic
sys-
tem that America has
protected
and fostered
has, itself,
largely
determined the
country's
relative decline
-
and therefore its decreas-
ing ability
to
manage
the world
-
even as it
has contributed to its
prosperity.
The
problem
with economic interde-
pendence
is that it has worked all too well.
Through trade,
foreign investment,
and the
spread
of
technology
and
managerial exper-
tise,
economic
power
has diffused from the
United States to new centers of
growth.
With a shift in the international distribu-
tion of economic
strength,
American
hegem-
ony, perforce,
has been undermined.
Thus,
a
global economy
bites the
hegemon
that
feeds
it,
for economic
interdependence,
which
depends upon
the
stability
the
hegemon provides, disperses power
and
thereby eventually destroys
the
hegemon's
relative dominance.
As America's relative decline
continues,
as its
leadership
becomes more and more
tenuous,
it is
important
to remember that
the architects of the American
Century
did
not
pursue leadership
as an end in
itself,
but for the international conditions it en-
gendered.
Bush and Clinton both
recognize
this,
as
do,
perhaps
less
explicitly, nearly
all their critics within the
foreign policy
establishment who share their vision of a
stable,
international
capitalist
order in
which the
community
of advanced indus-
trialized countries is free of the
economic,
political,
and
military
manifestations of
power politics.
These
pundits believe,
no less than do
America's two
post-Cold
War
presidents,
that
despite
the end of the Cold
War,
Amer-
ica must
play
a
leadership
role to reassure al-
lies and their
neighbors,
to
prevent power
vacuums,
and in other
ways
to
shape
a favor-
able
strategic
environment. The
foreign pol-
icy
visions that these critics
say
are needed
for a
post-
Cold War America are thus new
in name
only,
for those visions seek the
same
goals,
and even
employ
the same in-
struments,
that have characterized American
foreign policy
for
nearly
half a
century.
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Bush, Clinton,
and their establishment
critics, then,
all
essentially
believe that
America is
holding
the wolf of interna-
tional
politics by
the
ears;
if America were
to let
go,
if it were to
relinquish
its
hege-
monic
role,
the order
among
the
capitalist
powers
would
shatter,
with disastrous conse-
quences.
But
given
the inevitable decline in
America's
hegemonic capabilities,
a decline
already
well under
way,
the
strategy
of
pre-
ponderance,
or
leadership,
is in fact not a
strategy
at
all,
since it is dedicated to sus-
taining
the unsustainable.
Most who call themselves "multilateral-
ists"
ultimately
hold to Bush's
vision;
when
push
comes to
shove, they
fall back on the
need for U.S.
leadership
to foster and
pro-
tect an international environment conducive
to the liberal economic and
political
values
they prize. Very
few American
foreign pol-
icy
thinkers
actually
embrace a trilateralist
vision in which the United States does not
form the
apex.
(Thus, Zbigniew
Brzezinski,
the
guru
of the Trilateral
Commission,
calls
for
Washington
to
develop
"a more
coopera-
tive
partnership"
with
Tokyo,
even as he
asserts that America must continue to domi-
nate
Japan
on
security
matters.)
American multilateralists
really fudge
the
question
of
hegemony
and
stability.
They optimistically
hold that America can
reap
the reward of
leadership
-
world or-
der
-
without
incurring
the costs and risks
of
leadership. According
to this
argument,
America can
lead,
but
only
in
partnership
with other like-minded states. This
oxymo-
ron seems
suspiciously
like an Orwellian for-
mula
advocating
the maintenance of U.S.
preponderance.
But to the extent to which
it is an honest
alternative,
it fails to take se-
riously
the
logic
that has dictated American
strategy
since the late
1940s.
The
driving
force behind U.S.
security
policy
is the
perceived
need to ensure
global
order
by exercising hegemony
in
regions
composed
of
wealthy
and
technologically
so-
phisticated
states and to take care of such
nuisances as Saddam
Hussein,
Kim II
Sung,
and Slobodan
Milosevic,
so that
potential
great powers
need not
acquire
the means to
take care of those
problems
themselves.
Thus,
"shaping
the
strategic environment,"
to use
post-
Cold War
Pentagon jargon,
re-
quires today,
as it has for the
past
45
years,
maintaining
the
ability
to
deploy large
and
technologically
advanced U.S. forces. Amer-
ica must convince others not
only
that it is
committed to the
security
of their
regions,
but that it is
capable
of
acting
on that com-
mitment. In
defense,
you get
what
you pay
for,
and America's "adult
supervision"
strat-
egy
means that
-
if it is
lucky
-
it must
pay
forever.
In
short, stabilizing
the international
system
is an
exhausting proposition.
While
retrenchment from these
positions may
seem
economically
attractive,
it
would,
fol-
lowing
the
logic
of American
security
strat-
egy, carry
enormous risks. "The United
States,
as a
great power,
has
essentially
taken on the task of
sustaining
the world or-
der,"
former Defense
Secretary James
Schlesinger concisely explained.
"And
any
abandonment of
major
commitments is diffi-
cult to reconcile with that task."
Pericles,
ad-
dressing
downhearted Athenians in the
midst of the
Peloponnesian
War, put
it
more
simply:
"You cannot decline the bur-
dens of
empire
and still
expect
to share its
honors."
The liberal
foreign policy
commentator
Walter Russell
Mead,
who in the
past
has
called for the diminution of America's com-
mitments
abroad,
has advocated that the
United States
pursue
a
cooperative,
rather
than a
dominant, relationship
with its allies.
But Mead seems to have learned Pericles'
lesson.
Reflecting
on the dilemma of Ameri-
can
security policy,
he is unable to reconcile
America's need to
lighten
its international
burdens with his
recognition
of the
danger-
ous economic and
political consequences
of
America
abdicating
its
leadership
role. The
United
States,
Mead
asserts,
cannot even
allow its
"partners"
to assume
primary
re-
sponsibility
for
quelling
the
instability
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that,
after
all,
most affects them. Main-
taining
that a "closed
Europe
is a
gun
pointed
at America's
head,"
Mead
argues
that:
In a well-intentioned effort to stabilize
Eastern
Europe,
Western
Europe,
led
by
Germany,
could establish
something
like
Napoleon's projected
Continental
System.
Eastern
Europe
and North Af-
rica would
supply
the raw
materials,
cer-
tain
agricultural products,
and
low-wage
industrial labor. Western
Europe
would
provide capital
and host the
high-value-
added and
high-tech
industries.... A
Europe
of this kind would
inevitably
put
most of its
capital
into its own back-
yard,
and it would close its markets to
competitors
from the rest of the world.
It would
produce
its VCRs in
Poland,
not
China;
it would
buy
its wheat from
Ukraine,
rather than the Dakotas.17
Since the actions
Washington's
allies would
take to forestall
instability
in the absence of
American
leadership
would
apparently
lead
to U.S. economic
disaster,
it seems that the
United States must forever remain
-
in
Bush's words
-
the world's "sole
super-
power."
Mead seems to
acknowledge,
as Bush al-
ways knew,
that multilateral
enterprises,
from
juries
to U.N.
police actions,
require
a leader. It would seem that the
indispen-
sable foundation of
cooperation
and
integra-
tion in the Western
security
and economic
systems
was
-
and remains
-
American
hegemony.
The rather strident assertions
of
every
American
president
since Truman
of the need for American
preeminence
in
European security affairs,
for
instance,
stem
less from an
overbearing
chauvinism than
from a realization
that,
as Acheson wrote in
1952,
arguing
for the
necessity
of the NATO
alliance,
"unity
in
Europe requires
the con-
tinuing leadership
of the United
States;
without it
[western]
Europe
would
split
apart."
To hold that America can
safely
relin-
quish
its
preponderant
role because the
po-
litical, economic,
and
military cooperation
among
the
great powers
now ensures stabil-
ity
and
peace
is to
put
the cart before the
horse.
Stability
in western
Europe
and East
Asia,
guaranteed by
American
hegemony,
was the
precondition
for
cooperation,
not
vice versa. There is little reason to believe
that,
without this
guarantor, stability
will
take on a life of its own. "To
look,"
as Alex-
ander Hamilton
warned,
"for a continuation
of
harmony
between a number of inde-
pendent
and unconnected
sovereignties,
situ-
ated in the same
neighborhood,
would be to
disregard
the uniform course of human
events and to set at defiance the accumu-
lated
experience
of the
ages."
The multilater-
alist solution
seems,
in the
end,
no more
realistic than Bush's.
George
Bush and his advisers were
mired in a Cold War
vision,
committed to
maintaining
the fundamental means and
ends of U.S.
foreign policy
that have existed
for
nearly
half a
century.
Their frantic asser-
tions of America's continued
ability
to lead
increasingly wayward
allies and an increas-
ingly multipolar
world resemble
nothing
so
much as
Gatsby's willfully
blind
protesta-
tion: "Can't
repeat
the
past? Why
of course
you
can!" But those who hold that the reali-
zation of that vision
-
the
cooperative
world
order
-
will somehow outlast the
declining
American
"leadership"
that Bush and Clin-
ton have striven to maintain
are,
it
seems,
just
as blind.

Notes
1.
Terry Diebel,
"Bush's
Foreign Policy,"
For-
eign Policy,
no. 84
(Fall 1991), p.
9.
2.
Stanley Hoffmann,
"Bush
Abroad,"
New
York Review
of Books,
November
5, 1992, pp.
58-59.
3. Leon V.
Sigal,
"The Last Cold War Elec-
tion,"
Foreign Affairs
71 (Winter 1992/93), pp.
3-4.
4. Ronald Robinson and
John Gallagher,
with
Alice
Denny, Africa
and the Victorians
(New York:
St.
Martin's, 1961), p.
466.
5.
Ibid., p.
288.
120
WORLD POLICY
JOURNAL
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6.
Christopher Lasch,
The True and
Only
Heaven:
Progress
and Its Critics
(New
York:
Norton,
1991), p.
121.
7. Alberto
Coll,
"America as the Grand Fa-
cilitator," Foreign Policy,
no. 87
(Summer 1992),
p.
64.
8.
Christopher Layne
and
Benjamin Schwarz,
"American
Hegemony
-
Without an
Enemy,"
For-
eign Policy,
no. 92 (Fall 1993), p.
10.
9.
In one
important respect,
Bush's
policy
to-
ward
Iraq
was inconsistent
-
it is clear that the
Bush administration's
signals
to Saddam Hussein
before the invasion were
ambiguous
-
but this was
out of understandable fear of Iran. Before
August
1990, expert opinion
was unanimous that
Iran,
not
Iraq, posed
the
greater
threat to U.S. interests in
the Gulf and
beyond;
a tilt toward
Iraq
in an effort
to contain Iran
was,
so the
thinking
ran, entirely
sensible.
10. William
Whitworth,
Naive
Questions
About War and Peace
(New
York:
Norton, 1970),
pp.
36-39.
11.
Diebel,
"Bush's
Foreign Policy," p.
9-
12. Elliott
Abrams, "Goodbye
to the New
World Order: The Real Failures of the Bush For-
eign Policy,"
National
Review,
November
30, 1992,
p.
45.
13.
Timothy Ireland, Creating
the
Entangling
Al-
liance: The
Origins of
NATO
(Westport,
CT: Green-
wood, 1981), p.
228.
14. David
Gompert,
"How to Defeat
Serbia,"
Foreign Affairs
73
(July/August 1994), pp.
30-47.
Gompert's
sentiment echoes
Kissinger's
1974 re-
mark that
"Europe's
misuse of
power
was the foun-
dation of America's
responsibility
to
keep
the
peace."
15. See
Benjamin Schwarz, "Morality
Is No
Mantra,"
New York
Times,
November
28, 1992,
for
a discussion of Clinton's
foreign policy
views before
he assumed office.
16. Michael
Mandelbaum,
"The Bush
Foreign
Policy," Foreign Affairs
70 (America
and the World
1990/91), p.
19.
17. Walter Russell
Mead,
"An American
Grand
Strategy,"
World
Policy Journal
10
(Spring
1993), p.
21.
The Vision
Thing
121
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