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Americans are not isolationist; they're uninterested. So foreign policy is neglected, presidents find it hard to lead, and the noisy few trump the quiet many.
The U.N.'s voluble critics fret that it threatens American sovereignty. In fact, a strengthened U.N. system will both serve America's interests and promote its ideals.
Washington's plans for a national missile-defense system threaten the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty -- the foundation of international strategic stability.
Ten years after the end of the Cold War, nuclear danger is rising. Despite the end of the struggle in whose name the great nuclear arsenals were built, Washington now seeks to stop proliferation while holding on to its own arsenal indefinitely. But as nuclear restrictions falter -- battered by India's and Pakistan's tests, Iraq's defiance, North Korea's missiles, and the U.S. missile-defense plan -- the absence of a middle ground becomes stark. Holding on to nuclear arms is not a deterrent but a "proliferant" that goads others to join the club. Arms control has become a way of avoiding a fateful choice: a world of uncontrolled proliferation or a world with no nuclear weapons at all.
Venal leaders are the curse of Africa, and Robert Mugabe is a walking reminder of how much damage they can do. No mere thug like Idi Amin, the gifted Mugabe created modern Zimbabwe and then robbed it of its enormous potential. The comparatively well-run, well-off country that he inherited is now a corruption-riddled, autocratic mess sent into economic free fall by its kleptomaniacal president's whims -- including tampering with elections, sending troops to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and hiring goons to invade white-owned farms. An indulgent world contributed to Mugabe's sense of invincibility. Instead, he and his ilk should be ostracized.
Russia does not need a Pinochet, but it does need the Chilean economic model. For Russia to grow at self-sustaining annual rates of seven to ten percent for a decade or two -- the only way it can pull itself out of poverty -- it needs much more economic liberalization. Four reforms inspired by Chile's dramatic turnaround can help Russia out of its doldrums: pension privatization, tax reform, radical deregulation of coddled industries, and the replacement of the ruble with the euro. The indispensable element is not a strong four-star general but a team of determined economic policymakers who know that freedom works.
The traditional goals of U.S. foreign aid -- promoting U.S. security and fostering development in poor countries -- are no longer as pressing after the Cold War. Washington must revamp its approach to aid and address new, urgent priorities: shoring up peacekeeping efforts in such places as the Middle East and the Balkans; easing the transition to globalization; tackling transnational environmental crises and diseases; and improving the quality of life for the world's neediest. This new diplomacy will not only transform U.S. aid but bolster its relevance to American interests and values in a rapidly changing world.
With the U.S. economy soaring, few care that immigration to the United States is at its highest absolute levels. But what happens when the economy falls back to earth? High-tech immigrant workers are already competing with Americans for jobs, while unskilled immigrant laborers are becoming a permanent underclass. High immigration is creating imbalances in education, income distribution, employment, and welfare demands -- as well as tensions between immigrants and citizens and among the federal, state, and local governments. An economic slump will mean crisis. Congress and the White House need to cut back now.
The ever more litigious nature of American society is starting to affect an unexpected area: foreign policy. Increasing numbers of individuals, both American and foreign, are now using U.S. courts to defend their rights under international law in ways impossible just a few years ago. The plaintiffs range from Holocaust survivors to terrorist victims to the inhabitants of tropical rain forests; the defendants include multinational corporations, foreign officials, and even governments. On the one hand, the trend is bringing to justice many long thought unaccountable. On the other, it is making the tricky process of American diplomacy harder than ever.
Reviews & Responses
Richard Gott's In the Shadow of the Liberator offers a sympathetic -- but unintentionally troubling -- account of Venezuela's tough new leader.
Letter to the EditorRichard Sezibera
Letter to the EditorRobert E. Hunter
Letter to the EditorNatan Shklyar
Letter to the EditorFrank Gibney
Letter to the EditorTed R. Bromund
Letter to the EditorRonald Tiersky