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Business lobbyists are peddling wildly inflated statistics to claim that sanctions are used too often, but America cannot have a principled foreign policy without them.
A president's foreign policy aides have a moral commitment to their chief, but as the Clinton sex scandal shows, there are limits. Loyalty must be a two-way street.
The West botched the post-Cold War era by overestimating the power of markets, misreading ethnic conflicts, and relying on outmoded military doctrines.
The hottest foreign policy idea in Washington today is using the Iraqi opposition to topple Saddam Hussein. But all the current rollback plans are militarily ludicrous, anathema to key U.S. allies, or unacceptable to the American public. Relying on airpower would require a Desert Storm-sized air war and even then would probably flop; seizing enclaves from Saddam's grasp asks far too much of the feeble opposition army; and none of Iraq's neighbors will host guerrillas out to oust Saddam. Rollback's advocates are indulging in either wishful thinking or cynical politics. The only real option is renewed containment to keep Iraq in its box. Delusions of grandeur about toppling Saddam will lead only to another Bay of Pigs.
We face a threat more grave and certain than those posed by chemical weapons, nuclear proliferation, or ethnic strife: the "age wave." As life expectancy grows and fertility rates decline, senior citizens will make up an ever-larger share of the total population. The effects of this demographic shift will be staggering. It will come with a whopping price tag, which will place a massive burden on an ever-smaller working-age population. Economic, social, and even military policy throughout the next century will have to respond to this unalterable trend. Unless the West recognizes the challenges to come and devises a strategy to meet them, the future will be gray and bleak.
Many economists hate to admit it, but today's economic turmoil shares some uncanny -- or downright scary -- similarities with the prelude to the Great Depression. Many policymakers seem to have unlearned the basic lesson of that calamity: boost demand in the face of an economic slowdown and reduce the volatility of capital flows. Rigid adherence to anti-inflationary policies will only deepen the crises in emerging markets. As the IMF continues to insist on fiscal austerity and many governments instinctively resist capital controls, a wider recession looms. With a distinct whiff of the 1930s in the air, we had better refresh our memories and relearn the basics of Depression economics.
Globalization generally implies decentralization and denationalization. But in international financial markets, something quite different is happening. Although market activity is spreading to new corners of the world, a powerful process of centralization is reinforcing the traditional dominance of financial capitals, led by London and New York. Battered by the Asian economic crisis, Tokyo and Hong Kong could become leading financial centers again if they open up to the world and continue to let investors snap up Asian assets at bargain prices. Even after globalization, markets will still be based in cities, not computers.
America's addiction to Middle Eastern oil forces dangerous foreign policy compromises, worsens global warming, and strengthens unreliable Persian Gulf countries. Instead, the United States should get its energy from biomass ethanol, a new fuel that can be produced at home from almost any type of plant or even from agricultural waste. Ethanol is environmentally friendly, compatible with the U.S. transportation system, and as potent a fuel as gasoline. Recent scientific breakthroughs have sharply lowered its production cost. Now Washington must step in with tax breaks and other incentives to encourage further research and development into this homegrown alternative to a dangerous dependence.
Since the proxy fights of the Cold War ended, America has turned away from internal conflicts in other countries -- to its peril. Key states around the globe now teeter on the brink of civil war. A rebellion against Saudi Arabia's unpopular monarchy could strangle the world's oil supply. If regional tensions and anger with Boris Yeltsin lead to violence in Russia, the world's second-largest nuclear arsenal could fall into the hands of ultranationalist rogues. Armed uprisings have already broken out in Mexico and could spread at any moment, interrupting billions of dollars in U.S. trade and sending shock waves and refugees toward America's border. It is past time for Washington to develop a strategy to handle civil war.
Reviews & Responses
Bruce Gilley's Tiger on the Brink offers some good insights into Jiang Zemin but leaves too many questions unanswered to present a full portrait of China's president.
Spencer R. Weart's new book insists that democracies will never fight one another, but his slanted reading of the past is of little help in crafting a future without wars.
Four economists urge the Federal Reserve to follow other industrialized nations and adopt inflation targets. Fortunately, Alan Greenspan knows better.
Aryeh Neier wants to try the planet's war criminals under international law. Martha Minow, rightly, is less keen. International law leads logically to world government.