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At this triumphant moment for democracy, we must look back on what has been the most terrible century in Western history. Ascendant as the century began, liberal democracy then foundered, and totalitarianism seemed the answer. It could happen again. Today's democratic societies are pressure cookers: technology destabilizes as it revolutionizes them, capitalism undermines as it enriches them, and race could cause the explosion. Only public leadership and affirmative government can manage the postmodern populist age.
Somehow the United States has remained unchallenged despite victory. Defying the laws of realpolitik, no one is ganging up on the hegemon. Through two world wars, the United States practiced a strategy like Britain's, remaining aloof from international troubles, stepping in only to rectify the balance of power. Today the United States is more like Bismarck's Germany, developing alliances with everyone so that ganging up against it is impossible. But it will have to keep providing order and security for others. Only by doing good can it do well.
A nation's interests derive from its identity. But without an enemy to define itself against, America's identity has disintegrated. This breakdown intensified with the rise of multiculturalism and the ebbing of assimilation. Lacking a national identity, America has been pursuing commercial or ethnic interests as its foreign policy. Instead of putting American resources toward these sub-national uses, the United States should scale back its involvement in the world until a threat reinvigorates our national purpose.
Eurasia is the axial supercontinent. It is home to most of the world's politically assertive states and all the historical pretenders to global power. Accounting for 75 percent of the world's population, 60 percent of its output, and 75 percent of its energy resources, Eurasia's potential power overshadows even America's. For these reasons, the United States should begin paving the way to a transcontinental security system that will ensure Eurasia's future is more peaceful than its past.
Russia's interests demand good relations with everyone, but older, darker forces tempt it to avenge its fall from superpowerdom. Westernizing democrats govern for now, but ex-communist elites and embittered generals scheme to re invigorate the military and reassert control over the borderlands. Their machinations are creating a fault line across the oil-rich Caucasus and Central Asia. For Russia to neglect its reconstruction to pursue the illusion of power would be a monumental mistake. While the expansion of NATO is misconceived, the West must not encourage Russian hard-liners with unmerited concessions.
Lionel Jospin recently took power in France with a promise to reduce the workweek from 39 to 35 hours. Why? Because of the latest popular economic fallacy: the theory of global glut, or the belief that there is too much output and not enough work to go around in today's hyper-efficient economy. But productive capacity in the advanced nations is not growing much faster than it was during the last two decades, and more slowly than in the 1950s and 1960s. People will always find new wants, and the newly industrializing countries are consuming even more than they produce. As Marx could have told you, capitalism can go on accumulating capital -- and producing more goods and services -- forever.
The disappearance of work and widespread dislocation in Europe and the United States pose once again the nineteenth-century "Social Question": how to secure economic progress in light of the political and moral threat posed by the condition of the working class? The solution then was state action, which, contrary to today's neoliberal orthodoxy, fostered economic growth. The state cannot be abandoned now; Europeans won't go for it. It is the only protection from global market forces and the only forum for politics. But the left must stop protecting the status quo and give up unaffordable policies if it is to bring in the excluded and avert extremism.
The cultural distance between the West and Islam is narrower than Westerners think. Muslim societies are more humane than portrayed in the West, while Western societies often fail to live up to their liberal mythology. Islam has protected other religions and avoided fascism, racism, and genocide. Citizens of Muslim countries may be more vulnerable to their governments and political violence, but their streets are safer and their families more stable. We could all benefit from Islamic values.
The Arab world has squandered its political inheritance of secular nationalism. In the 1980s, autocracy and young theocratic brigades overtook and exiled the older generation of liberals. The rise of political Islam was accompanied by severe economic decline in the region. But the Middle East is ripe for a post-Islamist era. A modernist Arab alternative requires large-scale economic and political reform and a coming to terms with the two bogeymen -- America and Israel.
The Asia-Pacific will be the main theater of global action in the coming century. If the region is to keep advancing while avoiding Europe's twentieth-century derangements, its key players must together forge a consensus on their future. If the Pacific century is to be pacific and prosperous, the countries of the region must build on common points to lay the groundwork for a community.
Doubters dating back to Immanuel Kant have predicted the demise of the nation-state. And globalization has staged an assault on state sovereignty, exploiting its vulnerabilities in financial markets and elsewhere. But the nation-state has shown amazing resilience. It will persist, albeit in a greatly changed form, especially in its control of domestic fiscal and monetary policies, foreign economic polices, international business, and war.
History's third technological revolution is transforming national sovereignty, the world economy, and the military. The abundance of information challenges state power as more people demand the freedoms they see enjoyed in other parts of the world. Information increasingly replaces territory and material goods as the source of wealth and power. Computers allow simulation of battles and information warfare. The ability to adapt to these advances will determine which institutions and nations survive the coming decades.
The state is not disappearing; it is unbundling into its separate, functionally distinct parts. These courts, regulatory agencies, executives, and legislatures are then networking with their counterparts abroad, creating a new, transgovernmental order. While lacking the drama of high politics, transnational government networks are a reality for the internationalists of the 1990s -- bankers, lawyers, activists, and criminals. And they may hold the answer to many of the most pressing international challenges of the 21st century.
America could have had a foreign service second to none. But Washington could not accept any such rigorously selective and nonpolitical corps. And with the diffusion of authority around the globe, many entities from outside the diplomatic world are busy representing their nations abroad, for better or worse.