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The American imperium in the Arab-Muslim world has hatched a monster; primacy has begotten its nemesis. Pax Americana is here to stay -- but so too is the resistance to it, the uneasy mix in those lands of the need for the foreigner's order and the urge to lash out against it. George W. Bush, who grew up far removed from foreign places, must now take his country on a journey into an alien and difficult world.
This article appears in the Foreign Affairs eBook, "The U.S. vs. al Qaeda: A History of the War on Terror." Now available for purchase.
The first engagement in the new war on terrorism -- with Osama bin Ladin in Afghanistan -- poses severe challenges for the United States. Rooting out bin Ladin's network will require military success in a country that the Soviet Union could not conquer in ten years of trying, as well as support from unstable surrounding nations. Washington may be tempted to try to oust the Taliban regime, but doing so could rekindle Afghanistan's brutal civil war. The United States must proceed with caution -- or end up on the ash heap of Afghan history.
As Washington was fretting about ballistic missiles, 19 hijackers used commercial airliners to kill more Americans than had died in any previous attack in the country's history. And there could be worse to come. The United States is the target of a few hostile nations and well-organized terrorist groups, some of them state-sponsored. They understand that nuclear or biological weapons could do the job even better. To meet these new threats, Washington must pursue three simultaneous strategies: prevention, deterrence, and defense. Missile defense is not the whole answer -- and it could even become part of the problem.
September's attacks initiated a new era of world politics. As Washington scrambles to build its antiterror coalition, it may be tempted to overlook the antidemocratic excesses of its partners. But this would be a mistake, especially when it comes to Russia. Fortunately, recent poll data reveal an unlikely American ally: the Russian masses, who have grown fiercely democratic and will resist any slide toward autocracy.
Coasting on low inflation and solid growth rates, Argentina was a favorite of emerging-market investors in the 1990s. But the glory days ended in 1999 after the economy of neighboring Brazil took a nosedive. Argentina's policymakers have since failed to revive the prosperity the nation once enjoyed. The result is a cautionary tale of how even the best-intentioned market reforms can miss their mark.
Hugo Chavez has led a political revolution in Venezuela, purging the state of its entrenched, corrupt political class, but he has done nothing to solve the old regime's problems: crime, unemployment, and economic stagnation. Chavez's social policies have been ineffective, and his economic rhetoric has scared away investors. Venezuelans' patience may not last much longer; Chavez's political clock is ticking.
In the years since its civil wars ended, this blood-soaked region has been forgotten by the international community. Now Central America risks sliding into a new kind of anarchy, thanks to the legacy of flawed peace treaties, international inattention, rampant corruption, and the narcoterror creeping northward from Colombia.
The excessive individualism in Western human rights doctrine has been criticized by the Islamic world, East Asia, and some within the West itself. But human rights advocates need not apologize; human rights are popular and necessary worldwide precisely because they protect individuals against group authority.
U.S. and Mexican policymakers are rushing to resolve long-standing immigration problems. Guest worker programs are on the table, but the negotiators show a troublesome myopia about the programs' implications. The supposed economic benefits of such programs may prove illusory, and the "guests" may in fact come to stay.
Germans always knew that their foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, had been a leftist activist in the 1960s and 1970s. More controversial were recent disclosures that he had once assaulted a police officer and may have had links to terrorists. Fischer's evolution is the tale of a generation that changed Germany -- and then itself.
The WTO is often portrayed as a dangerous threat to the environment. But this reputation is largely undeserved, because the trade body has in fact developed principles that accommodate both trade and environmental concerns. There are several steps it can take, however, to make sure the green trend continues.
Reviews & Responses
David Halberstam's latest book describes the impossible job of the American president in the late 1990s: trying to hold together the international order while governing a complacent country with little interest in the outside world.
Letter to the EditorJoel Bergsman and Peter Richardson
Letter to the EditorVojtech Mastny
Letter to the EditorRaymond William Baker and José Miguel Aleman
Letter to the EditorAllen L. White
Letter to the EditorDavid J. Scheffer
Letter to the EditorStephen R. Graubard