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The only inflation these days is in the Fed's fear of rising prices. Open global markets will keep prices down. Interest rate hikes will only dampen economic growth. The Fed must unleash the American economy.
Land mines, the deadly remnants of so many civil wars, kill and maim thousands of innocent civilians throughout the world each year. Only a concerted international effort will end this purposeless bloodshed.
A blurring of roles at the United Nations has badly tarnished the organization's prestige. When it comes to the use of force, leave the secretary general out of it.
Rash budget cuts threaten to silence Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other U.S. agencies. Public diplomacy proved invaluable during the Cold War, and it remains an essential weapon against today's new threats.
President Clinton has tried to pursue a foreign policy agenda even more ambitious than his predecessor's. But as international realities and domestic priorities become clear, he has been forced to retreat in area after area of policy. The resulting flips and flops of policy toward Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, North Korea, and China have undermined U.S. credibility. But more important, they risk making Americans turn inward in dismay, forsaking the prudent internationalism that has characterized American foreign policy since World War II. Let us abandon a kind of leadership we are not prepared to exercise on behalf of a world order the price of which we have no intention of paying.
Its diplomatic debacles in the past few years demonstrate one thing: the United Nations cannot mediate. It has too many mouths to speak with one voice, lacks the resources needed for political leverage, and diminishes the credibility of its own promises by its incoherence. Those problems are ingrained in the nature of international organizations, and no amount of revamping the United Nations will correct them. Instead, the United Nations should encourage self-interested states to mediate those conflicts they have the best chances of resolving. That is the best way to salvage the organization's steadily diminishing prestige.
The Western perception of Russia as a destitute country on the verge of collapse or of falling into the hands of fascists could not be further from the truth. Much of the Russian economy has been successfully privatized and is now relatively strong. Russia possesses the basic political and economic institutions to oversee the final stages of its transition to a market economy. It must now move to combat crime and to control inflation by finally adopting a full-fledged economic stabilization program. Even if they don't quite know it yet themselves, the Russians have already turned the corner on success.
Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia should be watched closely as barometers of Russia's progress toward better relations with the West. Besides their strategic borders with Russia, these nations have been the historical harbingers of Moscow's intentions abroad, as their early revolts presaged the collapse of the Soviet empire. The Baltic states are still subject to a "demographic occupation" by postwar Russian immigrants, even if Russian soldiers have finally left. For those in Moscow who still harbor designs on the "near abroad," a greedy eye will focus on these newly independent nations first. Western nations, particularly the United States, must steel their resolve and preserve the place of the Baltic states in the new Europe.
Rwanda is only the latest example of what happens when small arms and light weapons are freely sold to countries plagued by ethnic, religious, and nationalist strife. These weapons cause the most death and destruction in local wars and are closely tied to human rights abuses and other violations of international law. Yet the world has focused predominantly on controlling the proliferation of major weapon systems. It is time to establish a viable mechanism to monitor and control small arms transfers. The United States should take the lead in this difficult but increasingly urgent task.
The World Bank Group was a child of World War II, conceived to help developing countries build infrastructure, establish the foundations of economic self- sufficiency, and indirectly nurture political stability. But it should not retire at the age of 50. The bank's mission should be revised to benefit from the colossal growth of private sector financial resources and to help coordinate the work of nongovernmental organizations. A good first step would be more openness about its work.
Germany, the grandmother of social welfare states, is being forced to take a hard look at its long tradition of generous social benefits for workers (and now for eastern Germans as well). Lengthy paid vacations, guaranteed jobs, cash-heavy unemployment benefits, and labyrinths of regulations are conspiring to set up daunting hurdles to a competitive economy. Starting a new business is laborious; hiring workers is expensive compared with elsewhere; and the country's once-renowned education system is stagnant. Even worse, when German baby boomers are ready to claim their hallowed pensions, the money may not be there. Germans will have to pen a new social contract for the 21st century.
Reviews & Responses
Even as Japan struggles to redefine itself, the nation's future may look a lot like its past. Excellent new books by James Fallows, Richard J. Samuels, and John W. Dower find that Japan's passive foreign policy, "technonationalism," and economic chauvinism are likely to endure.