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The peso may collapse and Barings fail, but financial markets sail along, confirming the success of international regulatory efforts begun in the 1970s.
As economic strength becomes the new currency of national power, theft of high-tech secrets is displacing old-fashioned spying. The United States must protect its companies, but it should not join in this euphemism for mercantilism.
President Clinton's foreign policy, rather than protecting American national interests, has pursued social work worldwide. Three failed interventions in 1993--in Bosnia, in Somalia, and the first try in Haiti--illustrate this dramatically. Preoccupied with "helping the helpless," the administration alienated vital allies, changed direction repeatedly to repair Clinton's sagging image, and let special interest groups harm U.S. policy toward Japan and Russia. With his domestic policy stalled, Clinton's opponents may end up painting him what he never wanted to be: a foreign policy president.
The United States is spreading its aid and efforts too thin in the developing world. It should focus on a small number of "pivotal states": countries whose fate determines the survival and success of the surrounding region and ultimately the stability of the international system. The list should include Mexico, Brazil, Algeria, Egypt, South Africa, Turkey, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia. A discriminating strategy for shoring up the developing world is a wise way to address traditional security threats and new transnational issues; it might be thought of as the new, improved domino theory. If effective, it could forestall the move in Congress to wipe out nearly all foreign aid.
Humanity is on the move as never before, and most of those who leave home seeking a better life head for a city. The most explosive growth has been in the Third World, which has 213 cities of more than a million people and some 20 at the 10-million mark. Megacities breed megaproblems--pollution, disease, and desperation. With the fate of urban areas increasingly determining the fate of nations and regions, how these overburdened poorer cities handle the influx will affect us all.
After wiping out smallpox and winning other battles against the microbes, modern medicine ran into the aids virus. With urbanization and jet travel bringing people together in greater concentrations and more rapidly, infectious diseases are enjoying new opportunities to spread--and to evolve drug-resistant and more lethal strains. Advances in genetics make the threat of biological warfare even more threatening. It is time to write a better prescription for public health.
Central Asia is central to Eurasian security despite its seeming remoteness. Blessed with natural riches, it nevertheless has two wars in progress, ethnic and religious tensions, a limited amount of democracy, and far to go in development. Whether Central Asia consolidates its independence or slides into chaos will help determine whether Russia develops as a normal nation free from regional insecurities and imperial longings. Uzbekistan may be an island of stability and a potential anchor.
The Persian Gulf War, in which the Iraqi army stood at the border and Scuds fell on Riyadh, was a turning point for Saudi Arabia. The alliance between the royal family and the clergy that has been the key to the kingdom is being challenged by dissidents who ask where the oil money and Islamic purity have gone. The princes warn that they will silence the malcontents by force. But in this conformist land, calls for change--perhaps any change--are intoxicating.
Ignoring worldwide protests, France conducted the first of several scheduled nuclear tests in September. The controversy has overshadowed France's more important nuclear challenges:maintaining a strong deterrent under a test ban, moving ahead with its proposals for "Europeanization" of that deterrent, and developing a consensus on how nuclear threats should be used in response to those who would brandish other weapons of mass destruction.
Nuclear weapons were used for the first and only time in World War II, and the world has grown accustomed to their nonuse. But the overwhelming deterrent forces that worked during the Cold War will not provide protection against the new threats: terrorism and catastrophic accident. The arsenals and mindsets of the past half-century present a formidable barrier to change, but the United States must lead the way in preventing nuclear weapons from becoming acceptable.
Shaken by the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and fearful that the American atomic monopoly would spark an arms race, Dean Acheson led a push in 1947 to place the bomb--indeed, all atomic energy--under international control. But as the memories of wartime collaboration faded, relations between the superpowers grew increasingly tense, and the confrontational atmosphere undid his proposal. Had Acheson succeeded, the Cold War might not have been.
Reviews & Responses
Though it pointedly describes the great American slowdown that has taken place since 1973, The End of Affluence lashes out at the cure: technology, downsizing, and trade.
There have been obsessive anticommunists and responsible ones, and it is important to keep the two straight. Richard Gid Powers does and then doesn't.
German reunification ranks high on George Bush's impressive list of foreign policy achievements. Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice's engaging account reveals how American leadership won the day.