Rotten to the Core?
How America’s Political Decay Accelerated During the Trump Era
America was thrust into the world some 30 years ago. That jolting experience generated in America a degree of unity concerning foreign affairs unusual for a democratic and pluralist society. Largely as a consequence of that shock, America's foreign policy came to enjoy for a quarter of a century the advantage of broad popular support and of a seeming sense of direction.
Throughout much of that time, America's involvement in world affairs was characterized by an increasingly activist internationalism, by an idealistic optimism, and by a strong dose of populist Manichaeanism. The activist internationalism was in part a reaction to widely shared guilt feelings about America's earlier rejection of the League of Nations, and-as if to erase the past-America now became the most active promoter of international undertakings. The idealistic optimism combined a strong faith in the eventual emergence of a world of united nations with an unprecedented degree of popular willingness to share America's bounty with others. The populist Manichaeanism reflected the propensity of the masses to demonize foreign affairs, a tendency easily reinforced by the realities of Hitlerism and then of Stalinism.
Both World War II and the subsequent cold war gave America's involvement in world affairs a clear focus. The objectives of foreign policy were relatively easy to define, and they could be imbued with high moral content. To be sure, periodic frustrations in the conduct of the cold war prompted different Presidents to define their policies and priorities in varying terms, but the essential character of America's involvement remained unchanged. President Roosevelt focused public hopes on the "four freedoms," but the frustrations of Yalta-a case of unsuccessful Realpolitik at variance with the prevailing idealism-led not long afterward to President Truman's call for the containment of Stalinism and for the reconstruction of Europe. The frustrations of the Korean War in turn led to President Eisenhower's "Crusade for Freedom," including even the goal of liberating Eastern Europe (and thus repudiating Yalta). U.S. passivity in the face of the East European upheavals of 1956, and then the crisis of confidence produced by the launching of the Sputnik, led President Kennedy to articulate a doctrine of heroic universalism, combining strong anticommunism with a rhetoric of compassion for the poorer nations, but he and even more his successor, President Johnson, soon became the prisoners of the Vietnam War. By the time President Nixon assumed office the American consensus on foreign affairs was a thing of the past.
It would be premature to conclude from the foregoing that it was the Vietnam War that blurred America's vision and shattered her agreed perceptions on foreign affairs. That the change may be the product of more complex forces, and that consequently the Vietnam War was more of a catalyst than a cause, is suggested by a remarkable study of America's posture in foreign affairs, published in the early 1950s. Its author, having systematically collated data concerning foreign affairs-presidential messages, party platforms, election results, frequency of foreign treaties, naval expenditures, armed expeditions, wars, annexations, diplomatic warnings-argued that since 1776 America's relationship with the world has been characterized by alternating cycles of "extroversion" and "introversion." He concluded, with remarkable prescience, that "in view of America's past record, and of the presumed role of 'internal factors' in promoting the introvert-extrovert rhythm-it seems logical to expect America to retreat, to some extent at least, from so much world involvement, and perhaps to do so sometime in the 1960s."[i]
It is appropriate to begin our analysis by recalling this forecast, for it reinforces the proposition that the present change in America's mood may represent something deeper than a reaction to the war in Vietnam. The change that has taken place-cultural, political and social-is doubtless far- reaching. One senses it in the new generational values, especially in the dislike for "power politics" and in the widespread ambivalence about existing U.S. foreign commitments; in the mood in Congress, especially in regard to foreign involvements, including even altruistic ones such as foreign aid; and in the waning of the internationalist Eastern foreign affairs élite. "Come home, America" on the Democratic side and economic protectionism on the Republican side may thus reflect another fundamental shift, a new cycle in America's alternating relationship with the world.
There are many obvious parallels between the current change in American mood and earlier shifts from extroversion to introversion. Yet, in a more basic sense, these parallels are misleading. Neither on the objective plane nor on the subjective plane is the real choice today between internationalism and isolationism. Indeed, it is hard to define the practical meaning of these terms in the context of contemporary conditions.
On the objective level, the situation in which the United States finds itself is quite unlike that of the earlier cycles of introspection. In the area of economics the United States is now the leading international investor both in the less-developed and in the advanced industrial economies, with returns on these investments representing for some major U.S. enterprises the critical source of their margins of profit. This outward thrust of U.S. business and capital makes the United States very vulnerable to any new wave of protectionism, and it does create a powerful constituency with an enormous vested interest against any return to "introversion."
A related major historical change-one that has also transpired since World War II-involves the transformation of the resource-autarkic American economy into an increasingly resource-dependent economy. Some experts have estimated that the United States is already dependent on imports for 26 out of some 36 basic raw materials consumed by its industrial economy; and this dependence is growing most dramatically, but by no means exclusively, in the energy field. This shift is imposing a mounting fiscal drain on the U.S. economy (with mineral imports costing eight billion dollars in 1970 and likely to cost about 31 billion dollars by 1985) and it also heightens the U.S. stake in a stable and uninterrupted flow of international trade. As a consequence, America finds herself so deeply involved in the world economy, a condition reinforced by its special monetary role, that on the economic plane the concept of isolationism becomes at worst a suicidal policy and at best an irrelevance.
America's growing economic interdependence with the world economy is reinforced by social dynamics, involving massive growth in tourism, in the number of Americans studying abroad and of foreigners here, in communications in general-in all of which the United States is the pacesetter. This process creates further links, transforming America's relationship with the world from one which in the past could enjoy the alternatives of isolationism or internationalism into one in which only the forms and degrees of interdependence are the issue.
In international politics, America's options have been similarly transformed. In the past, the United States could exercise the luxury of choice between abstinence and involvement. Today, despite the debates over the desirability of the continued U.S. military presence in Europe, most Americans see their security tied closely to the continued independence and stability of Europe and Japan. The debate about troop levels is over the best means to enhance that interdependence, not on the question of its reality or even desirability. More generally, nuclear weapons have so transformed the nature of security that sudden shifts in the political- security balance are viewed as dangerous to all parties, even competing ones, and this creates interdependence even among rivals.
The question of subjective attitudes is more complicated, though it is revealing to note that those who favor policies of protectionism or of America's withdrawal from her various security-political engagements object to being described as isolationists and insist that the policies they advocate involve a higher and more responsible form of internationalism. Moreover, many vocal critics of American intervention abroad tend to be strongly opposed to American economic isolationism and to favor instead continued and even expanded American involvement in various forms of international coöperation. Overtones of old-fashioned isolationism, none the less; do make themselves heard, most notably within American labor concerned with the export of American jobs abroad by American multinational corporations and by the similar impact of foreign imports on employment. But here, too, the attitude is not a consistent one. Labor also tends to be strongly in favor of continued U.S. political and security engagements abroad-it is semi-isolationist at most
Isolationism on the level of policy thus tends to be a partial view and not a coherent all-embracing doctrine. Even its adherents accept the proposition that at least in some respects the United States should remain actively engaged in the world, and in that sense they partake of a residual though vague consensus that the world is becoming an interdependent entity, from which there is no complete withdrawal. A broad and undefined notion of global interdependence seems to represent the general principle which most Americans share.[ii]
This underlying consensus, however, is vague. It lacks a sharp focus defining, as was the case in the past, the character and thrust of America's relationship to the world. Moreover, the shared notion of global interdependence is given philosophical and political substance in significantly divergent ways by two contending schools of thought which today represent the principal lines of division among the concerned and articulate public. The outlook of these two contending schools-each of which initially starts with the same basic premise of global interdependence-may be best capsulated by the terms "power realism" and ''planetary humanism."
The power realists, generally more conservative in their values, tend to be preoccupied with the more traditional concerns of international affairs, particularly with such issues as strategy, the relationship of forces, the balance of power, diplomacy and monetary policy; they attach a very high value to stability, both as a concept and as a norm. They may often disagree on prescriptions and priorities (with the spectrum within the school neatly personalized by the contrasting positions of a George Ball and a John Connally), but they do hold a basic view in common in that they see the world as still dominated by international politics.
In contrast, the planetary humanists tend to think of the globe more as a unit beset by certain common problems. When attempting to translate into policy their basic predispositions, they tend to concentrate on such matters as ecology, nutrition, development, social justice and equality, or limits to growth. (An able example is Lester Brown's World Without Borders, but the range here, too, is wide, going beyond former Senator Eugene McCarthy to reach at one extreme some of the New Left writers). There are thus overtones in the above division of the older debate in America between "realists" and "idealists," but the differences are important: the new power realists accept more and more the notion of political interdependence, and their concern with stability preëmpts to some extent the idealists' earlier preoccupation with peace. Planetary humanists, unlike their predecessors the idealists, are much more concerned with social change-rather than peace-in a world which they see as beset by dynamically mounting socio-economic crises, and their remedies focus on socio-political reforms. Many of them decry stability and accept the desirability in some cases even of violent change.
The former tend to be older, and hence an element of generational conflict is doubtless involved here (providing a parallel to Klingberg's cycles). This generational variance in perspectives is in large measure a consequence of the historical discontinuity experienced lately by American society. The thrust of any society into a new age for which established generalizations are lacking creates a situation of uncertainty and division ably expressed by novelist Hermann Hesse, whose writings have been sensitive to historical change:
Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap. . . . There are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence.
Much of what has happened in America during the last decade and a half fits that evocative statement. It is no exaggeration to state that America has lately experienced-probably more so than any other contemporary society-a true cultural revolution. In the short time span of slightly more than a decade the United States has undergone a significant change in its social values, racial relations, sexual mores, esthetic and artistic standards; all of that is bound to produce especially sharp generational gaps, including disagreements about America's role in the world.
Uncertainty about America's world role has been intensified by the almost simultaneous waning within American society of the relatively cohesive Eastern élite which hitherto has served as the source both of inspiration and leadership for America's more focused post-World War II engagement in world affairs. The disintegration of this group, its loss of self- confidence, its generational splits, go hand in hand with the appearance in American society of new groups aspiring to leadership. These groups, reflecting new economic interests and located in the Far West and Middle West, have supplied some of the personnel for the new Nixon team, but unlike their predecessors, they still lack-with some obvious exceptions-a cohesive and comprehensive world view. The result has been a further blurring of focus.
Even the extremes, whose narrow vision usually makes for a clarity of focus, are today ambivalent. The Right, traditionally primitive in its anticommunisrn but now thrown off balance by Nixon's flexibility toward the Communist world, is flirting with nationalism and protectionism; it is, however, unwilling to break with the President, who so far has successfully straddled the issue of protectionism vs. internationalism. The New Left, demoralized by its failures, offers mainly slogans as guides to foreign policy, while its social base, resting largely on the highly conformist intellectual world of university students and professors and some left- liberal social and media circles in New York, is too fluid to provide the jumping-off point for a serious claim to power. Outside of a small circle of true believers, The National Review and The New York Review of Books are read more for provocation than for policy guidance.
Despite this division and confusion, the power realists and the planetary humanists still remain in fundamental agreement that global interdependence- regardless of whether priority is given to political security or to social well-being-is the inescapable reality of our time. But this underlying agreement merely refutes the proposition that introversion is a viable and appealing choice. By itself, it does not provide a relevant policy focus for America's relationship with the world.
America is thus not turning inward, but her vision is unclear. President Nixon's foreign policy is a response to this condition of ambiguity as well as a reflection of it. As a response, it has been effective and occasionally brilliant; as a reflection it remains beset by a basic conceptual difficulty. Richard Nixon, who prides himself on his pragmatism, has perceived more sharply than many of his contemporaries-certainly more clearly than his rivals-the nature of the changed circumstances in which America finds herself. He sees-in part correctly-his foreign policy as a realistic response to worldwide and domestic changes. Recognizing the ambivalence at home, he has striven to fashion a policy that would gradually reduce America's commitments abroad while shaping what he and his associates have occasionally called "the new structure of peace." It is, by and large, a policy much in keeping with the evolution of his own views; in that sense, Nixon-though obviously the beneficiary of able advice from his Special Assistant-is to a greater extent the conceptual architect of his Administration's policy than any other U.S. President since Wilson (a point rarely conceded by his critics, who prefer to deny Nixon any credit).[iii]
The extraordinary concentration of foreign policymaking in the White House, particularly in the hands of the President and his Special Assistant, is due in part to the highly personal conceptual leadership which Nixon has provided. But the concentration is also very much the consequence of the basic thrust of the President's policy, which has put the highest priority on restructuring adversary relationships in the light of the perceived new power realities. The handling of adversary relationships is not suited to an institutionally implemented and openly articulated foreign policy; on the contrary, its very focus requires secrecy, surprise, maneuver and even some deception.
The basic conceptual framework of Nixon's foreign policy involves essentially a traditional balance-of-power approach, but more Bismarckian than Metternichian (as James Chace in A World Elsewhere has aptly pointed out). Unlike the static Metternichian balance, resting on a conservative ideological uniformity, the Bismarckian balance was based on movement and flexibility, on taking by surprise both friends and enemies alike. This is why the role of secret diplomacy under Nixon has risen to such heights; this is why the organizational setup requires such concentration of decision-making and the exclusion of institutionalized bureaucracies both from the action of foreign policy and from the making of foreign policy. In effect, we have a merger here of an operating mechanism, a personal proclivity, and a foreign policy concept.
During the first four years-outside of seeking to end the Vietnam War-Nixon has concentrated on manipulating the new U.S.-Chinese-Soviet triangle. The fruits of this manipulation have been the partial codification of the cold war and the transformation of it from a "game" in which each side played by its own rules and kept its own score into one in which at least the rules are becoming more common. Moreover, the centrality of the arms race in the U.S.-Soviet competition has been somewhat reduced and, as a consequence, the competition has shifted to other areas, where the United States has an advantage. In addition, the normalization of relations with China has in all probability reduced Soviet freedom of action against its former ally while putting a higher premium in Moscow on American-Soviet accommodation. At the same time, American-Soviet agreements have begun to create a web of relationships that may gradually serve to reduce the intensity of their competitive relationship, and the President has wisely (though not necessarily accurately) emphasized that the improvement in American-Chinese relations has not been aimed at the Soviet Union.
The above has been accompanied by intensified efforts to shift the distribution of alliance burdens from the United States to both Western Europe and Japan, including the drastic economic measures adopted in 1971 and again in 1973. The result has been both strain and tension-but all of that has also been in keeping with the dynamic Bismarckian-Nixonian balance of power, involving neither permanent enemies nor friends. Since this policy has been responsive to the widespread feeling at home that America has been doing too much on her own, the President's approach has had the special merit of neutralizing both the opposition of many of Nixon's liberal critics-who essentially welcomed his moves toward China and the U.S.S.R., even if not sharing their underlying philosophy-and of his more conservative supporters, who have been increasingly concerned by the adverse U.S. balance of payments.
Nixon's foreign policy has thus involved an admirably intelligent application of the power-realist approach, skillfully adapted to prevailing domestic circumstances. The proof of its skill is to be found in the fact that, despite profound domestic divisions, the President's foreign policy by and large has not been the object of a major national debate. Even those who reject its underlying premises and its priorities grudgingly concede its successes.
None the less, President Nixon's foreign policy is open to several criticisms, on the operational level as well as on the broader level of historical pertinence. More specifically, three issues deserve critical consideration: the first pertains to the implicit indifference on the part of the Administration to the problems of the less-developed nations; the second criticism relates to the Administration's handling of alliance relationships; the third concerns the question of the historical relevance of the balance-of-power approach to world affairs in the 1970s.
The problem of the less-developed nations is the moral problem of our time. Given America's traditions, that dimension of the problem alone should make it an important one. Moreover, almost every index indicates that the problems of backwardness and poverty are becoming more acute: World Bank studies on the distribution of income, UNESCO studies on international education, and FAO studies of agricultural development, all agree that the gap is widening. Unlike industrial development in the nineteenth century, when objective change, by and large, was more rapid than subjective change, today subjective change is much more rapid than objective change. Access to literacy, circulation of newspapers, the impact of mass communications, increased political participation are more rapidly transforming the way people think than economic growth is transforming the way people live. The consequence is a heightened awareness of global inequality and an increased determination to erase it. Intensified social strife and global animosity are bound to be the consequence of mankind's failure to tackle the problem of global inequality.
The Administration has also been defective in its handling of alliance relationships. Though not isolationist, the Administration has certainly been unilateralist in dealing with problems affecting American-European and American-Japanese relations. As a result, Japan feels isolated and betrayed; resentment of American policies is on the rise in Canada; American relations with Europe have been by and large in a state of drift. The Japanese suspect that the United States is today assigning a higher priority to American-Chinese relations than to American-Japanese relations. Europeans are uneasy about America's longer-range intentions in Europe, and are baffled by America's willingness to deal directly with the Soviet Union while dragging her feet on such subjects as broader East-West talks or the recognition of the present European territorial arrangements (with the United States remaining the only major power in the world not to have recognized the Oder-Neisse Line). Recent monetary difficulties have intensified the political malaise, in part because the United States has relied more on a unilateralist tactical approach than on the development of a broader and longer-range strategic policy.
Third, one may wonder whether the balance-of-power approach provides an adequate response to a world dominated by rapid change, by sharpening social disparities and by a widespread resentment of inequality. It has often been noted that the principal powers engaged in the balance-of-power game are of a highly asymmetrical character: the United States and the Soviet Union are reasonably well-matched militarily but are certainly not matched economically; Japan and Europe are the economic peers of the United States and/or Russia but they are certainly not military peers. China may be becoming a peer in certain military dimensions, but it is not likely to be an economic peer for quite some time. The search for balance among these five may thus prove to be elusive.
Moreover, there is the more basic question concerning the adequacy of the power-realist approach as a tool for a comprehensive understanding of our historical condition. The power realists have a strong case when they argue that the downgrading of national might, of diplomacy, and of the more traditional tools of international behavior could jeopardize the chances for peace by prompting international instability. They are also right when they argue that an exclusive concentration on the planetary issues, though morally much more appealing, ignores the reality of a world of nation- states, of a world of national rivalries, of national armies and of ideological hostilities. Even if not isolationist in spirit, planetary humanism can be charged with being in many ways escapist in essence.
Yet those who emphasize planetary humanism have a powerful argument when they warn that to ignore the longer-range threat is to invite within a mere decade or two a situation of global anarchy, of the fragmentation of social and political institutions, of the collapse of the very stability to which the power realists attach such a high value. Moreover, the balance which the power realists advocate, is based primarily on convenience and not on principle. It implies no fidelity to common goals and no shared definition of common concepts. In a rapidly changing world, such a balance could at some point become inconvenient to those whom the United States has considered as its allies, especially after the treatment meted out to them by the United States in 1971. Thus, the notion of no permanent enemies or friends could become contagious, rebounding against the United States sooner than one thinks.
Moreover, on the more immediate, domestic plane, the planetary humanists can rightly assert that an essentially Machiavellian foreign policy is incapable of tapping the moral resources of the American people. Indeed, by alienating a significant portion of the American people, it contributes to further domestic division. With moral considerations becoming a more compelling force than ever before, and given America's traditional world role, it also weakens America on the international scene. A morally indifferent America is automatically a weaker America; an amoral America is also likely to become a lonely America.[iv]
The difficulty of articulating acceptable priorities for the United States, a difficulty already enormous because of the domestic split between the two major contending schools of thought, is compounded by the transformation which foreign affairs have undergone in the years since World War II. In brief, that transformation involves a shift from international politics, in which the political, security and economic sectors have been relatively compartmentalized, to a new global politics, in which political, security and economic issues are intermeshed and in which the distinction between the domestic and the foreign aspects is becoming increasingly blurred.
For much of the cold war, foreign affairs were preëminent in the thinking of American statesmen, with security issues dominant. Today, the situation is rather different. The politics of interdependence-largely the consequence of America's economic and social intimacy with Western Europe and Japan-are beginning to overshadow the politics of confrontation with the Communist world, and a major aspect of this is the close linkage between economic and political issues. That linkage, in turn, works to render irrelevant the former distinctions between domestic and foreign policy. The blurring of these dividing lines may well preclude altogether a return to the conceptual clarity about the world, and about America's place in it, which Americans enjoyed during the preceding several decades. That clarity was largely a crisis phenomenon, the product of unprecedented global polarization. In a world of overlapping interests, such clarity of focus simply cannot be replicated.
None the less, even within this more complex setting, one can affirm certain basic priorities for American policy toward the rest of the world. The overt definition of such priorities-and the resulting debate over them- may help eventually to create a new sense of direction for America's global engagement, an engagement which-it has been argued here-most Americans are prepared to accept as an inescapable reality. Some of these priorities are not new, but they need to be restated; some do involve new emphasis.
Despite the partial codification of the competitive relationship prevailing between the United States and the U.S.S.R., the problem of security remains, as a legacy of the past, a high-priority item. For one thing, the danger of war has not disappeared entirely, though war as an act of policy has become a luxury which only the poor and the backward non-nuclear nations can now afford. Indeed, the possibility of an accidental war may now be higher than in the past, given the extraordinary complexity and abundance of modern weapons. To reduce this danger, efforts to codify and expand the developing U.S.-Soviet arms control arrangements must be continued. In any case, one hopes that the Soviet side has a co-equal interest in the avoidance of accidental war. The vigorous pursuit of SALT II is the logical conclusion.
In addition, there is reason to be concerned that at some point the Soviet leaders may be tempted to try to exploit a claimed or imagined margin of superiority in the weaponry of mass destruction, to extract, under the threat of war, significant and one-sided political gains. How to avoid this essentially incalculable political, even psychological, threat is difficult to analyze, for that threat is meaningful only in the degree to which asymmetry of power is perceived by the threatened side as being of significance. Still, sheer prudence requires the maintenance of a security posture which by itself reduces the likelihood that the Soviet leaders could at some point conclude that the moment is ripe for the extraction of political gains through the generation of a severe atmosphere of crisis. In addition to obvious security precautions, expansion of U.S. relations with China, including even some form of aid designed to create greater stability in the Sino-Soviet nuclear standoff (such as transfer to China of sophisticated communications systems), is also a contribution to the shaping of a more stable U.S.-Soviet relationship, in addition to the more coöperative initiatives which are already underway in trade and science.
These initiatives, especially if conducted on a broad front, including in them both the Soviet Union and the East European countries, are likely to promote the subtle process of philosophical reconciliation with the Communist élites, ending the increasingly irrelevant doctrinal civil war which has divided the West for more than a hundred years. This process, to be sure, will be slow; moreover, reversals in it are to be expected, especially as the more conservative, neo-Stalinist elements stage occasional counteroffensives designed to make certain the East-West links leave the Soviet and East European peoples ideologically uncontaminated. Such elements are even likely to intensify at home their efforts at ideological-political controls. However, a broadly based process of intensified peaceful East-West engagement, going beyond the purely economic aspects, will almost imperceptibly chip away at the more outmoded edges of the Communist doctrinal edifice, thereby strengthening the pressures for East-West accommodation.
How to deal with the Communist world remains a key problem for U.S. foreign policy but it may no longer represent the central problem. The power realists, moreover, have been dealing with it effectively and-as Nixon has shown-not without some success in making the competitive U.S.-Soviet relationship more stable. But the other two major problems confronting U.S. policy-namely, that of the less-developed countries and that of alliance relationships among the advanced countries-cannot be effectively tackled on the basis of the power-realist approach. The condition of the less- developed countries, indeed of the planet as a whole, requires greater concentration on the issues raised by planetary humanists, while the question of alliance relationships calls for a creative blend of both approaches.
This blend is needed because of the transformation which international affairs are undergoing-a transformation which introduces novel elements even as the old ones still remain partially operative. We noted earlier the appearance of the new global politics, which makes the older international politics increasingly irrelevant as the organizing-conceptual framework for dealing with world affairs. These emerging global politics are yet to acquire a clear-cut character: they might become the politics of growing global responsibility and interdependence-or they might become characterized more and more by anarchy, social fragmentation, intensified racial, ethnic and ideological conflicts, with even the older international rivalries resurfacing in a new form. The desperate problem of the less- developed nations is central here, but an important issue at stake also is the very character of social and political organization in the more advanced states.
Modern society is thrusting into a new age, the character of which we do not still fully understand. Material wealth is creating a strange spiritual emptiness in some of the more advanced industrial societies, while scientific developments pose an ominous threat to the integrity of the human being himself by raising the specter of human malleability through social engineering. There is thus a growing need for more sustained reflection on the condition of modern man and for a mutual learning process among the societies that are in the forefront of the technetronic revolution. It is doubtful that an effective response to this internal problem-not to speak of external relations among advanced industrial countries-can be mounted on the basis of a single society, however rich or powerful.
It is to this newer and enormously complex task that American policy will have to address itself, and in so doing seek to respond to the central concerns both of the power realists and of the planetary humanists. Realism and the lessons of the past show clearly that the United States alone cannot mount the needed response, that the process of shaping a more stable and socially progressive world calls for a wider effort among those who share both certain philosophical assumptions and the needed resources. This condition imposes a special obligation, in the first instance, on the United States, Western Europe and Japan to shape their policies with broader concerns in mind than the dictates of national interest alone. Unless these advanced sectors of the world move toward greater and more active collaboration there is a high probability that the fragile global economy and the barely emerging sense of global community will be shattered, pitching the world back into international animosities, fragmenting the world economy and intensifying the social strains within both the advanced and the developing countries.
Closer coöperation among the advanced industrial societies, which share certain political values in common, would help to create a stable core for global politics, on the basis of which a more sustained response to the traditional threats of war, or to the new danger of social fragmentation brought about by poverty, or to the broader image of collapse of the global eco-system, can be undertaken. The Atlantic concept was a creative response to the problems of the cold war era. Today, the Atlantic framework is too narrow to encompass the multitude of challenges-and opportunities-that confront the international community. It is a recognition of this reality to propose that without closer American-European-Japanese coöperation the major problems of today cannot be effectively tackled, and that the active promotion of such trilateral coöperation must now become the central priority of U.S. policy.
This means nothing less than deliberate, closer and more institutionalized political consultation among these three power centers. Without such consultations, formal proclamations, including even a "new Atlantic Charter," are likely to lack substance. These consultations, designed to develop common policies with regard to the various problems confronting the global community, must be ab initio on the basis of trilateral parity. It simply is not enough, and psychologically wrong, to strengthen Atlantic ties and then invite Japan to come in-an approach which the Administration seems to be favoring, judging from Henry Kissinger's important and thoughtful speech of April 1973 on U.S.European relations. Moreover, in President Nixon's State of the World message for 1973, Japan was accused of a "free ride" on the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty; such affirmations can only exacerbate the already strained U.S.-Japanese relationship. (Indeed, it is time that Japan be given more public credit for her accommodation to various recent U.S. economic and political desiderata.) In any case, Japan must be included in any new initiative from the very start, and not only "ultimately."
More specifically, implementation of a decision to seek closer consultative relationships could take several forms, all of them initially modest and far short of anything resembling an alliance or formal community. First of all, to stimulate a greater degree of shared political perspective among the governmental bodies of the three units, to promote the practice of regular and ever more formal political consultation, to develop common political planning with regard to problems or areas of mutual interest, it would be desirable: (1) to adopt as a matter of regular practice the holding of annual trilateral cabinet meetings, somewhat on the model of the U.S.-Japanese cabinet meetings. In the trilateral setting, this could involve the Common Market countries as well as the Japanese and American sides; in addition, perhaps regular meetings of the respective heads of government might also be scheduled on a less frequent basis; (2) to reinforce the above with a standing secretariat, particularly with a common policy planning and review staff, in part as back-up for the above and in part as a stimulant to the emergence and crystallization of common perspectives and policies; (3) to promote consultations in a larger framework, involving states outside the formal confines of the "coöperative triangle," with more frequent meetings of the foreign ministers of the Organization for Economic Coöperation and Development both to review common political problems and to work out joint responses to the problems of development in the Third World; (4) to hold regular three-way meetings of the respective parliamentarians, on as wide a party basis as possible.
The important point to bear in mind with regard to the foregoing proposals is that movement toward a community of the developed nations involves a long and gradual process, the pursuit of which has to be deliberate. Articulation of this very concept as the desirable goal would represent by itself a step in that direction, even though it must be recognized that the word "community" involves at best a distant objective. None the less, out of such consultations, there may eventually emerge a wider consensus-though not necessarily coördinated policies-on the specifics of political collaboration, on global security and on relations with the Communist world, as well as a more enduring response to the monetary and trade difficulties that have already strained Atlantic and Pacific relations. Free trade has been the underlying principle of world economics during the last two and a half decades, but the imbalances that have lately developed have posed the threat of new trade wars under the banner of protectionism. Closer trilateral consultations may facilitate the emergence of a third and healthier alternative, involving more deliberate periodic adjustments, reinforced by new monetary institutions.
Such a trilateral relationship also rests upon the linkage of security concerns that bind the United States, Europe and Japan. Such a linkage already exists, and will most likely become more apparent with the passage of time. The Chinese are developing a policy toward Western Europe to encourage West European integration as a counterweight to the Soviet presence in Europe. Their attitude toward the upcoming conference on European security has already been made felt in this regard. Further, they continue to encourage any stirrings of independence within the East European Soviet bloc. A coördinated response to the Chinese-Russian rivalry as it affects Europe is a matter of simple realism. The interests of the West Europeans, in turn, overlap those of the Japanese in the Middle East as a result of their common dependence on oil, and, consequently, in such strategic areas as the Straits of Malacca and the Indian Ocean. Such security considerations cannot easily be divorced from those economic interests that are vital to their wellbeing; and it is not desirable, particularly as America reduces her global role, for the United States to assume unilaterally the overarching security needs of its major allies.
Doubtless, many obstacles to such trilateral coöperation will have to be overcome. Some Europeans may resent an approach which seems to place Atlantic relations on a par with Pacific relations and suspect that it represents essentially an American effort to shift onto European shoulders some of the imbalances in U.S.-Japanese relations. Some Japanese may feel that the initiative reflects a desire to entangle them in an expanded NATO. These fears are real, even though they are not justified. For good historical and cultural reasons, Atlantic relations will remain for some time to come of a different order than Pacific links, while trade and monetary problems between the United States and Japan have already had such a major impact on Atlantic relations that they simply cannot be compartmentalized. To acknowledge this reality, and to postulate the need for a wider political response on the above matters, as well as on the broader global problems, is not, however, to extend the framework of NATO to the Pacific, but to respond jointly to joint concerns. Thus rather than refute, the above fears highlight the need for more sustained trilateral consultations and additional trilateral links.
The adoption of these objectives would entail some operational consequences for the way in which policy is made and executed in Washington. A secretive and highly personal foreign policy, heavily reliant on maneuver and surprise, is admirably suited to handling adversary relationships. It is bound to have a short life, and the longer it lasts, the more likely it is to backfire, since it is inadequate for dealing with the complex problems involving U.S.-Japanese-European relations. Recent Japanese reactions, including the cancellation of Emperor Hirohito's trip to the United States, indicate that a secretive unilateralism is contagious. Trilateral relations, be they monetary, trade or security, must be nurtured by stable and extensive negotiations and reinforced by further institutional growth. The recovery of the State Department and of the Treasury are thus the operational requirements of the broader strategy outlined above.
The very process of seeking to shape a community of the developed nations would inescapably involve a greater degree of consultation concerning the major longer-range problems of global politics, most notably that of backwardness and poverty in the Third World, a concern uppermost in the minds of the planetary humanists. It is to be expected that in the next two or three decades we will witness an intensified crisis in the Third World, brought about by the twin impacts of demographic growth and the spread of education. Both will make global inequality even more intolerable at a time when equality is becoming the most powerful moral imperative of our time, thus paralleling the appeal of the concept of liberty during the nineteenth century.
This quest for equality is already being felt both within societies and on a global scale; it is, therefore, essential that the richer nations develop more comprehensive, more coöperative and more planned policies toward the poorer parts of the world. They must further increase the participation by all of the advanced countries in institutions designed to improve the lot of the Third World (for example, Japan might usefully participate as a member of the Latin American Development Bank, and Europe and America might participate in other regional activities of this sort as well). One of the frequent objections to the concept of the community of the developed nations is that it will be "a rich man's club," insensitive to the problems of the Third World. Yet it is difficult to see how the monumental problems which the Third World confronts can be resolved unless advanced countries do coöperate in generating a major response. Social stability and progress are not going to be achieved if the three most powerful units of the world are pushed by their internal and external dynamics into increasing protectionism as well as other economic conflicts.
Similarly, objections have been made that closer trilateral coöperation as the central goal of U.S. policy runs counter to the aim of improving relations with the Communist world. Yet that improvement is not likely to be attained in a setting which is unstable and thus feeds the residual revolutionary aspirations of the Communist leaders. A coöperative component, embracing the richest and the most powerful countries, seriously seeking to develop common policies designed to promote more rapid growth in the Third World, is hence more likely to develop enduring and constructive relations with the Communist states than individual policies of détente, often competitively pursued.
Indeed, a gradually emerging community of the developed nations will be in a better position to pursue true détente, the aim of which is not an artificially compartmentalized globe, fundamentally in conflict with basic global dynamics, but a world in which spheres of exclusive predominance fade. Just as American hegemony in Latin America must decline-and the United States is beginning to accept that reality-and just as a Japanese co- prosperity sphere in Asia is not compatible with Asian nationalisms, so Soviet predominance in Eastern Europe will have to be gradually replaced by an Eastern Europe that-though retaining some links with the U.S.S.R.-is part of a wider European association.
The policy outlined above would involve a building-block approach toward the goal of creating a global community that is stable and progressive. By being responsive to the central concerns of the power realists and of the planetary humanists-both of whom recognize the reality of global interdependence though they define its priorities differently-it might also lead to greater clarity in America's global engagement.
[i] Frank L. Klingberg, "The Historical Alternation of Moods in American Foreign Policy," World Politics, January 1952. His phases are as follows: |Introversi|Extroversi| |on |on | | | | |1776-1798 |1798-1824 | |1824-1844 |1844-1871 | |1871-1891 |1891-1919 | |1919-1940 |1940- |
It is to be noted that the phases of extroversion have lasted about 27-28 years, and hence the last phase of extroversion should have ended around 1968, according to Klingberg's analysis.
[ii] An attempt to quantify the attitude of the U.S. public has been made in State of the Nation, ed. by W. Watts and L. A. Free, New York, 1973, and it suggests surprising stability during the last decade. Between the years 1964 and 1972 the percentage of Americans whose views could be described as completely isolationist or as predominantly isolationist has increased from 8 to 9 percent; of those whose views are mixed, from 27 to 35 percent. A considerable majority thus holds to an internationalist perspective, with which in part presumably some of those with "mixed" views also identify.
[iii] Instructive in this respect are his Foreign Affairs article of October 1967 which foreshadows the changed China policy, his acceptance speech of 1968 which pointed to the need for reshaping alliance relationships, and his Guam interview of early 1969, which spelled out the broad framework for the policies of subsequent years.
[iv] It is noteworthy also that either the isolation of America (brought on by obsessive application of the balance-of-power approach), or an escapist America (prompting global insecurity and perhaps even precipitating nuclear proliferation), could only prompt an increasingly conservative America, more and more preoccupied with its own well-being and security. Thus, the domestic political dynamics of both the power-realistic approach and of the planetary-humanist approach point in the same direction.