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When Congress swings the budget ax, it cripples U.S. foreign policy. Now is the time to make a virtue of necessity and craft a system both leaner and better able to promote America's aims abroad.
Winning U.S. approval for extending NATO will not be as difficult as opponents claim or as easy as supporters assume. The White House must lead the Senate eastward.
America has reached a tepid consensus that accepts a decline of U.S. power in the world as inevitable. Other nations, better judges of power, treat the United States as a hegemon. America should pursue a vision of benevolent hegemony as bold as Reagan's in the 1970s and wield its authority unabashedly. The defense budget should be increased dramatically, citizens should be educated to appreciate the military's vital work abroad, and moral clarity should direct a foreign policy that puts the heat on dictators and authoritarian regimes. Republicans are best fitted to carry out this foreign policy of national honor and elevated patriotism.
The Cold War induced caution in nations that feared uncontrollable escalation. Now that confrontations are less likely to careen out of control, a new season of bellicosity is here. The U.S. military, trapped in a Cold War mindset, has failed to realize this. It is spending far too much on casualty-prone units in all the services, in an age when political opposition to casualties effectively makes these units unavailable for combat. The military should recalibrate its priorities and shift funds to weapons such as high-tech lasers, stealth aircraft, and cruise missiles that can make warfare less lethal for Americans.
All have heard about the virtual corporation. What the world is witnessing now is the rise of the virtual state. After World War II, led by Japan and Germany, the most advanced nations gave up territorial conquest to compete instead for world trade. As more corporations farm out production and land becomes less valuable than technology, knowledge, and portfolio investment, the state will further shift its efforts from amassing productive capacity to choosing industries and investing in people. War over territory is becoming quaint, but so is the welfare state.
Cuba's downing of the Brothers to the Rescue planes halted the thaw in relations that had seemed slow but inexorable. That suits Fidel Castro perfectly. Anti-Americanism hitched to a very Cuban sense of doomed defiance is the only sentiment he has going for him now that faith in socialism is dead and his regime is peddling tried-and-failed solutions for the ramshackle economy. Ironically, Castro's sovereignty fetish has driven Cubans into dependence on Miami, as well as into poverty and crime. But the Maximum Leader, who has outlasted eight U.S. presidents, is a wily tactician. A post-Castro Cuba does not seem imminent.
The Nationalist Party still holds the reins of government, but Lee Teng-hui, elected in Taiwan's first direct presidential contest in March, has brought the island a long way from the repressive regime of Chiang Kai-shek. Himself a native of Taiwan, Lee has opened up his party as well as the political system, divesting the mainlanders who arrived in 1949 and governed the country for decades of much of their power. Their dream of reunification has gone the way of their might, replaced by the native Taiwanese desire for an independent country. As Taiwan's newborn democracy matures, homegrown nationalism will carry the day.
Mexico has suffered through four major crises in the past two decades, but the current round, triggered by the 1994 collapse of the peso, is the most serious. Although Mexico will avoid a social explosion, it will not embark on the thorough reform it desperately needs. The reason: a large, broad minority that depends on the United States and is mainly indifferent to their country's ups and downs, economic and political. Successive American bailouts have spared Mexicans some pain but have also locked in misguided policies and an authoritarian government. Until bold new leaders arise, Mexico is condemned to repeat its sad history.
Asian civilization cannot be the reason for East Asia's meteoric rise because such a thing has never existed. Only in this century have the diverse civilizations and cultures of the vast region been brought together -- by a force called modernity. Asia's encounter with the West sparked its tendencies toward commercial striving and is creating a stimulating mix on many fronts. The ultramodern cities of the Pacific Rim may be the capitals of a civilization in progress.
A new conventional wisdom is forming on the Cold War, but the records do not support its hard line. The Soviet Union did not aim at world conquest. It was afraid, and its clients got out of hand. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. share responsibility.