Foreign Affairs: 100 Years
A New Americanism
Why a Nation Needs a National Story
"The only really nonaligned countries in the world," the president of Sri Lanka once quipped, "are the United States and the Soviet Union."1 A quarter-century after the great historic meeting in Bandung in 1955, what remains of nonalignment? How has the Third World fared since then? How have the heirs of the great historic figures, who most recently met in Havana in September 1979, acquitted themselves and handled the legacy? What kind of baggage will the nonaligned take to their next meeting in Baghdad in 1982? The last surviving member of the leading Bandung figures, U Nu of Burma, now tells us that the movement has been betrayed: "I cannot honestly call it a nonaligned movement. . . . As far as I am concerned I do not see any bright future for it."2
A quarter-century is long enough for an "audit." To follow the twists and turns of the Third World journey is to illuminate not only the path of the Third World but the global background against which it operated as well. The hope into which Third World states were born reflected the buoyancy and enthusiasm of youth. It also reflected the hubris of the West-its belief that its former wards would find their way, that the West knew the answers to social fragmentation and breakdown, and that aid and social engineering would remake "traditional" societies.
Likewise, today's despair is in part the harvest of Third World nationalism and in part the product of the liberal world order maintained by the West. The West no longer promises. Its ideas, gunboats, and technology incorporated others into the world and now it does not know what to do with them. There has been a "double revolt," if you will, against the liberal world order-a revolt by clients who no longer believe and by patrons who are too disillusioned and too besieged to honor previous codes and commitments.
The men who met in Bandung were dreamers. The world they lived in was not really theirs; relatively speaking they had clean hands. The basic case made in Bandung was simple and issued from classical liberal roots: that men could come together and create states and these states could fulfill their dreams. As their host, Indonesian President Sukarno, put it, they were the "first intercontinental conference of colored peoples in the history of mankind." The hall in which they met, he told his guests, "is filled with and contains the undying, indomitable and invincible spirit of those who went before us. Their struggle and their sacrifice paved the way for this meeting."
The colonial case was no longer persuasive. The West had lost both the nerve and the means to enforce it; and those at the receiving end had lost their tolerance for it. The leaders in Bandung could rightly feel that history was on their side, and that their enemies were swimming against the current. "We knew," said Sukarno, "how to oppose and destroy."3
The weapons and the sordid deeds belonged to others. There were no self-inflicted Third World wounds, no self-inflicted genocides. Others had the means of destruction, the arsenals of death. "We, by contrast," said John Kotelawala, the Prime Minister of what was then called Ceylon, "come to the conference weak and relatively unarmed. We have no thermonuclear bombs in our pockets, no weapons of chemical or bacteriological warfare up our sleeves, no plans for armament factories or blueprints for ever more deadly methods of genocide in our briefcases." These were the sins of the mighty, the arsenals of others. "Today," said the Ceylonese leader, "the salvation of the world depends not on the great powers but on the lesser countries of the world."4 Only weakness can speak with such certitude.
Kwame Nkrumah, Prime Minister of Ghana; Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt; Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India; and Sukarno of Indonesia may not have been all that the frenzied masses thought in a moment of historical enthusiasm. After all, they didn't redeem the world, but they also did not labor in vain. Whatever the interpretation of the world we choose to put forth, there has been increasing pluralism in the world system. Power-whatever its meaning-is more diffuse than it was a quarter-century ago. Some of the concessions the Bandung generation wanted from the mighty have been extracted. Some of the more blatant symbols of inequality have been dealt with. The right of nations (theoretically at least) to fashion their own social systems is now conceded. The solitary loneliness of a Nasser nationalizing the Suez Canal is gone; the willingness to defy the mighty is, if anything, more widely spread. Most of the blatant forms of colonialism have been effectively challenged. To be sure, world inequality is as acute as ever. Diplomats discuss it in endless sessions. U.N. resolutions attack it. Few think that it will be banished, but the political will to challenge it is there. The meaning of October 1973 was that weak, backward societies can defy the will of the mighty and that the world had changed in ways that enabled them to do so.
Only a heretic would want to deny the contributions of the first generation of leaders. To a great extent we live in their shadows. Hard as Anwar Sadat may try to "de-Nasserize" Egypt, or Indonesia to forget Sukarno, or Indians to look back at Nehru in the new and unflattering light of his daughter's ambition, or much as Ghanaians may point to the mess Nkrumah left behind, we must be fair to the dead. They left their heirs a mixed legacy; they resolved some basic questions of identity and self-esteem; they made the powerful give way; they provided a rallying point for fragmented societies; and they stilled the doubts and anxieties of their followers.
Stripped of the romance and passions that came to surround it, of the radicalism that was attached to it, the Bandung generation was, however, not a particularly radical one. Behind the sound and the fury were leaders who wanted their societies to enter the world on more equitable terms.5 All of them knew the weaknesses of the traditional order in their own societies. Each one of them felt intensely the crisis of backwardness and decay. Each one believed that the state should arrest decline and stagnation and shake off the burden of centuries, that the ancien régime as hopelessly and embarrassingly weak, compromised, disconnected from rising social classes, easily subdued, and easily torn to shreds by outsiders.
The energy that propelled them was the comparatively moderate one of middle-class nationalism. This was the force represented by the Iranian Mohammed Mossadegh (who was not at Bandung but might have been had Iranian history been allowed to take its own course), by Nasser, by Nehru, and by the others. In their own way, these were the non-Western children of the Westphalian nation-state system that had emerged in Europe in the seventeenth century and was now being globalized. The most "extreme" of them might have been Fabian socialists. None of them were nostalgic for imagined traditions.
But the heirs of the historic figures are a different breed and live in a different world. The struggle of the first generation was principally fought on the world stage, while the struggle today is for the most part at home.
Nearly a hundred nations came together in Havana in 1979. By then the colonial system had become a receding memory. The nationalist parades had long come to an end. The millennial hopes pinned on the great historic figures had been deflated. State repression had taught non-Westerners that self-inflicted wounds can exceed those of the age of colonialism. Foreign debts and dismal economic records had driven home the difference between nationalist incantations and the task of making societies work.
Still, though, the old world and the old symbols dominated the Havana meeting. Consider the following passage from its final declaration:
The conference condemned the massive and systematic violation of the most elementary rights of millions upon millions of human beings who live under colonialist or racist domination or who are suffering from the consequences of underdevelopment and economic and social exploitation. The conference cautioned against the exploitation of human rights issues by the great powers as a political instrument in the confrontation of social systems and for purposes of interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states.6
Nothing was said about those who "disappear" in Argentina or of the terror in Ethiopia. The struggle of those who lived under "colonial or racist domination" will continue, as it should; but the struggle of men against those who share their pigmentation, who speak the same language, who claim to "represent" them in international conferences is the grim tale of so many Third World societies today. Of this struggle, the Havana conference said nothing. The gap between individuals and their states is wide indeed; that between the utterances of rulers in world conferences and the daily realities within which life is lived is wider still.
The state that once loomed as salvation and for which men and women fought and continue to do so has too often become an instrument of terror and a means to self-enrichment. It is the betrayal of the bright nationalist dreams of yesterday that denies today's rulers the certitude and the buoyancy possessed by their predecessors. The boundaries between the state of nature and civil society have blurred in so many Third World countries. Yesterday's victims have become today's executioners. Moreover, they do it and get away with it without much protest from outsiders-who either shrug their shoulders and explain it away as the normal despotism of the Orient, as the savagery of the native, or single it out only when it is committed by regimes of hostile ideological leanings.
That the whip is cracked by yesterday's liberators and heroes of national independence, that it should have all come to this, explains much of the anomie, alienation and disillusionment one sees in many Third World societies.
The drive to "catch up" with the more successful societies of the world led Third World elites to herd their people like cattle in search of "new orders." The frequency with which that label is used-Ferdinand Marcos' "new society" in the Philippines, Indonesia's "new order," the "new order" of Indira Gandhi's emergency-reveals a need to justify the situation and to run away from problems. And run away the rulers did-into cardboard industrial projects and into international conferences. The dust and defeat of their societies was left behind and only cleaned up when a Manila hosted an international gathering, or a Monrovia a meeting of the Organization of African Unity, or a Kinshasa a dazzling boxing match. The myth of progress, of a place in the sun, justified inflicting pain and suffering. Before such grandiose claims, the rights of dissidents, the anguish of slum dwellers who had to be moved out of the sight of foreign visitors, were petty concerns. The rulers' grandiose projects promised much and tantalized many, but have failed to deliver. Many states are thus pushed into the arms of foreign powers or driven into greater repression. Repression has reigned where charisma waned.
Much as they may rant and rave about new worlds and new orders, many Third World rulers preside over crippled societies. Side by side with the talk of autonomy and power that fills the air has come an accumulation of some basic and deadly troubles.7
There has been a steady deterioration of Third World agricultural output. Algeria, once an exporter of wheat, now imports more than two-thirds of its cereals. The Pahlavi quest for an "Asian Germany" went hand in hand with a deterioration of Iranian agriculture. Indonesia, once self-sufficient in rice, is now the leading importer of that commodity. Zaïre, once a food exporter, now spends a third of its export earnings on food imports.
Some of this deterioration has to do with the rise of Third World income and the demographic explosion: food production has on the whole averaged an annual increase of two and a half percent while the demand for it has risen by over three percent a year. A good deal of the deterioration has to do with the kind of industrialization pursued in an earlier era, as Third World governments sought to leap into the industrial age, to emulate what they took to be the secret and the essence of the West, and so to provide consumer durables for rising social classes.
The bias against agriculture had deep psychological roots. Unable and unwilling to borrow and import the institutions of the West-such "heretical" notions as the accountability of rulers, sexual and cultural freedom, women's liberation-the rulers came to equate modernity with industrialization. This was bound to distort priorities and investment allocation. Then there were the additional problems of the dominant import substitution strategy. What was said of the Egyptian drive toward industrialization under Nasser generally applies to most other similar ventures: the whole thing amounted to "the substitution of imports by imports" as the country had to pay increasingly higher bills for new materials and semi-finished goods and grew unable to save and invest.
The cumulative bias against agriculture has altered the international order of trade. We are thus witnessing what economist Arthur Lewis has described as "a turning of the international economy on its head. . . . The division of the world into developing countries that export agricultural products and import manufactures and developed countries that do the reverse is on the verge of ending."8 And the terms of trade have been duly adjusting in favor of the agricultural products of the developed countries.
The West's industrialization was rooted in prior agricultural revolutions. The Third World goal of capturing 25 percent of the world's manufacturing by the year 2000 is a mirage. Even if the Third World broke through tariff barriers and penetrated Western markets, it would, in Professor Lewis' words, "merely exchange one form of dependence for another." The gateway to technological change, he counsels, "is through agricultural and industrial revolutions which are mutually dependent. . . . The most important item is to transform the food sector, create agricultural surplus to feed the urban population, and thereby create the domestic basis for industry and modern services. If we can make this domestic change, we shall automatically have a new international economic order."9 And if we cannot, then states will seek in world forums the changes that elude them at home, or they will find their way into capital markets and accumulate massive debts that limit their maneuverability and bring in their train new patterns of dependence.
Third World (non-OPEC) debts rose from $142 billion in 1974 to $315 billion in 1978. Debt service rose from $8.7 billion in 1974 to an estimated $33 billion in 1979. Debt service as percentage of export earnings rose from nine percent in 1974 to 17.5 percent in 1979. In so many Third World societies today, the "politics of credit-worthiness" has more to say about the actual conduct of public policies than any ideological exhortations.10 What the Brandt Commission Report calls the "IMF riots" in Turkey, Egypt, Peru and elsewhere underline the difficulty of governing as states find themselves caught between their creditors' demand for "austerity" and the needs of the populace.11
Such is the lot of the Third World poor. The rich states among them have an entirely different set of troubles. The "one world" that met in Bandung has become two distinct worlds. Twenty-five years ago, one of the heads of state speaking at the Bandung summit could assert a solidarity that the Third World states shared: "We the nations of the new Asia and Africa, whatever our language, whatever our faiths, whatever our form of government, whatever the colour of our skin-black, brown, or yellow-have one thing in common: we are all poor and underdeveloped."12
That existential predicament is no longer shared by all: the OPEC cartel of oil-producing nations has become a world apart. While the bulk of the Third World is shackled by debts, the OPEC countries are expected to "accumulate a surplus of about $115 billion during 1980 and of some $350-$450 billion between 1980 and 1985."13 OPEC spokesmen may drape themselves in the garb of the Third World but to a certain extent they have become a breed apart.
But even in this instance, there is a large question: Where will the wealth lead-above and beyond investments in the West and large private fortunes? Can OPEC countries pull off a public project of some kind, shift to non-oil-based economies, while culturally maintaining their integrity and surviving in the midst of the chaos and turmoil all around them? The results of the first phase of the oil revolution (1974-78) are in, and Iran's breakdown may be a crystal ball in which the other oil producers see their own future. Can the oil states possess the things and machines of the West without adopting its ways? Can they manage the combination of a traditional social structure and the pushbutton technological culture that they have in mind? Can they maintain enough order to keep outsiders at bay or will they then tear each other apart, as the Iran-Iraq war has so bluntly done, and thus invite outside interventions and vindicate the premise that there is no substitute for the might and direct presence of outsiders?
Beneath the wealth remain the essential vulnerabilities of the wealthier of the oil states-sparse populations, large numbers of foreign workers, weak military capabilities, vulnerability to the charges of collaboration with the West, ambitious and covetous neighbors with all the concomitant human resentments and appetites, the social and political upheaval triggered by the Iranian revolution and the attempts to "contain" and defeat it. Then there are all the problems of cultural and economic dualism caused by the new wealth, as new ambitions and possibilities tear asunder the fabric of the social order without really erecting a truly new order. For all their troubles, Western elites live in real states, in cohesive social orders. The gulf between them and the popular culture is tolerable. Many Third World elites come from dual cultures; many don't even know their own societies. They seek in the world outside an escape from "embarrassing" traditions and strict normative and cultural limits or from tyranny. The wealth available to them (both the new wealth available to some after 1973 oil price hikes and the traditional booty of political power) provides a means for escape. Nazruddin-a character in V.S. Naipaul's haunting novel A Bend in the River-put it this way:
They [the Arabs] need Europe. They want the goods and properties and at the same time they need a safe place for their money. Their own countries are so dreadful. . . . And they are not the only ones. All over the world money is in flight. People have scraped the world clean, as clean as an African scrapes his yard, and now they want to run from the dreadful places where they've made their money and find some nice safe country. I was one of the crowd. Koreans, Filipinos, people from Hong Kong and Taiwan, South Africans, Italians, Greeks, South Americans, Argentines, Colombians, Venezuelans, Bolivians, a lot of black people who have cleared out of places you've never heard of, Chinese from everywhere. All of them are frightened of the fire. . . .14
The capital flight from the Third World-all the way from Nicaragua's ousted President Anastasio Somoza and the Shah of Iran down to the modest middle classes-is the material embodiment of a deeper phenomenon: the disconnection of the state from society, the abandonment of the state as a means to enrichment. Now a large number of Third World states are flailing about, for there is no assurance that leaders can "deliver" their constituents, that they represent anything above and beyond themselves. This is far grimmer to deal with than was thought by outsiders who wanted to tame the Third World. One could "defeat" Third World states, i.e., undermine their hold on their populations, destabilize their regimes, frustrate their economic plans. But then the horrors have to be faced up to: if one helps undermine Cambodia's Norodom Sihanouk one gets the Khmer Rouge; if middle-class nationalism in Iran is never given a chance, one ends up with a Khomeini.
The Third World seems to be going its own way. It is unclear where the destination lies, but there has been a definite erosion of the bonds between the West and the Third World.
Some of the "things" of the West-its weaponry, its fashions, its machines-are coveted and stockpiled by states that can afford them, by individuals who can afford quick trips to London, Paris and New York. But the Western "way" is another matter. The susceptibility to Western judgment is no longer there. Both the West and its colonies once believed that the West knew the answers, that it behaved justly, that it had greater sympathy for the dispossessed, for minorities, for widows, than did native tradition and the native elites.
The editors of The Wall Street Journal have described the recent events in Iran as "the receding of civilization." By that they mean the decline of military power, the fact that gunboats no longer intimidate. Indeed, on that The Wall Street Journal is quite clear: "This decline of what we have thought of as civilized conduct results from the decline of the Western powers that spread these ideals to begin with, and in particular from the decline of American power, will and influence in the last decade."15 But a less noticed and, in my view, more important form of power has also slipped away: it is the belief in the moral supremacy of the West, in its right to judge.
The contempt displayed by the Iranian revolutionaries for the ruling of the International Court of Justice on the American hostages is in part explained by the fury and wrath of a revolutionary society; on some level the Iranian revolutionaries must have realized that fighting "foreign devils" was easier than putting together a new society, making things work, bridging the gap between those Iranians long swept by secularism and those to whom religious piety is still a sacred and relevant matter. But the Iranian response revealed the weakness of Western values as well. Time and again in the post-World War II order, conduct had not lived up to pieties, and legalism repeatedly turned out to be just a fig leaf, the sanitized procedural language of the mighty. "International law," wrote Usbek to Rhedi, in Montesquieu's Persian Letters, "is better known in Europe than in Asia, yet it can be said that royal passions, the submissiveness of their subjects, and sycophantic writers have corrupted all its principles. In its present state, this branch of law is a science which explains to kings how far they can violate justice without damaging their own interests."16
What was then felt by Montesquieu's "Persians" is known to the real Persians of today and to others. The generation of Bandung still believed in the power of world public opinion. And by that they meant the opinions of the West. Today's generation is openly contemptuous of the West's values. The unwillingness of most of the Third World to really condemn the seizing of American hostages in Iran revealed the cultural gulf and the resentments. Whatever diplomatic niceties may be followed, there was satisfaction that the mighty had been humiliated, a conviction that the West's notions of justice were procedural and selective anyway.
The bonds between such radically different worlds were inevitably tenuous. The Carter human rights campaign represented a brief interlude, a reassertion of the liberal internationalist bonds between the Third World and the West. Its eager embrace by the liberal middle classes and the intelligentsia in Iran, in Latin America and elsewhere, showed the persisting need to believe in something, in someone, the need to have an arbiter. There was enough Wilsonianism left in America, or so it appeared, and enough need for it in the world at large. But the Carter detour was brief and problematic. There were many loopholes in the policy and, besides, it never quite carried at home.
The backing into blunt military prescriptions on the part of the Carter Administration in the aftermath of Iran and Afghanistan represented an abandonment of the early designs and preferences of Mr. Carter and his associates. The goals of human rights, nonproliferation, and all the other lofty causes of the "new politics" were set aside. The prescriptions of embourgeoisement, of selective admission of some key Third World members into the club of the rich, were overtaken by events. The result is a kind of resigned pessimism in the West, a break with the certitude of the American variety that held out the promise that all others could be brought into the world system and taught the virtues of representative government. At the root of the new pessimism can be seen that older, distinctly non-American sensibility about "civilized" and "barbarous" nations. These are two distinct worlds, observed John Stuart Mill, and we can't hold them up to the same standards:
There is a great difference between the case in which the nations concerned are of the same, or something like the same, degree of civilization, and that in which one of the parties to the situation is of a high, and the other of a very low, grade of social improvement. To suppose that the same international customs, and the same rules of international morality, can obtain between one civilized nation and another and between civilized nations and barbarians, is a grave error, and one which no statesman can fall into, however it may be that those who, from a safe and unresponsible position, criticize statesmen. . . . To characterize any conduct towards the barbarous people as a violation of the Law of Nations, only shows that he who so speaks has never considered the subject.17
This sense of political and cultural despair over the Third World-the belief that it can't be taught public order, that it can't be remade in the image of the West-has its economic counterpart. Now the poverty of the Third World, too, is beyond hope. Even the sterile language of international summits gives away the disillusionment. We can see it in the following passage from the declaration of the 1980 Venice Summit, where the leaders of the Western world and Japan met:
The democratic industrialized countries cannot alone carry the responsibility of aid and other different contributions to developing countries; it must be equitably shared by the oil-exporting countries and the industrialized Communist countries.18
It is a long way from the early beginnings of the post-World War II liberal economic order to the Venice declaration. All along, liberalism held out a promise of economic justice for the poor. Other doctrines like mercantilism and imperialism were explicit doctrines of inequality.19 Liberalism did not promise to turn Chad and Burundi into Swedens, but there was a belief that there was enough to go around, that there was enough surplus to help others through. The Venice declaration breaks with that tradition. There is hardly a constituency for foreign aid in America. To be genuinely liberal, nations need a sense of benevolence, of economic security. It is tough to be generous in a world of scarcity, at a time when the West itself feels up against the wall.
The Brandt Commission's report ought to be the last of its kind. From the Pearson report, Partners in Development, published in the 1960s, through the booklets of the Trilateral Commission, down to the Brandt Report, the arguments have been eminently reasonable and familiar: rich and poor alike are interdependent, we ought to strike a "planetary bargain" between the rich and the poor, et cetera.
The most remarkable thing about the Brandt Report is how benign it looks in the midst of chaos and disorder. The so-called North-South dialogue had degenerated into hollow words. Justice was not to be hammered out at international conferences after all. It was not a procedural matter. The only major transfer of global wealth was due to a political decision: political will and the cover of the October War of 1973 had paid off. All appeals to conscience were marginal things. Whereas the Sixth Special Session of the United Nations on Raw Materials, convened in 1974, was viewed as a great moral and political occasion, later North-South gatherings warranted little attention. The meetings had their rituals, their jargon, the usual list of participants; they produced documents that kept scholars and commentators busy, but they had an air of unreality. The rage of Third World delegates and their egalitarian assertions were contrived. Many of them had no roots in their own societies; many of them stood for the most appalling kinds of inequality at home.
Mr. Marcos' capital, Manila, was the setting for one of those North-South dialogues-UNCTAD 5-in May 1979. He, of course, was there to speak for equity and justice. Never mind his domestic record in his own society. The terms of the North-South dialogue enabled him to make such utterances. Anticipating the meeting, The Economist had this to say: "For three weeks in Manila next May, 156 countries will attend UNCTAD 5. They will fill the air with stale rhetoric and the umpteenth statement of abstract principles. Will they also reach answers to specific questions? If not, the North's delegates will leave Manila tut-tutting over Southern unworldliness and Southerners chafing at the North's intransigence."20 And that was the way it turned out to be.
The real encounter between the West and the Third World was not the domain of Jahangir Amuzegar, Iran's representative to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, writing a "requiem for the North-South conference," but the domain of his countryman, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.21 In the latter encounter, rage, emotions, culture could be summoned; the first was a technical exercise that got nowhere. So many of the Third World elites known in the West really have no home. When the base below crumbles, their schemes come tumbling down.
Most of the brittle Third World states strutting across the world stage turn out to be empty shells. They may strut with all the sound and fury they can muster. But the basic weaknesses eventually assert themselves. The big dreams and the inflated visions disappear and the act comes to an end.
It is within this bleak context that the latest narcotic offered the Third World-the cult of authenticity, the promise of a return to imagined, pure traditions-can best be understood. Zaïrean President Mobutu Sese Seko's cult of the bush and of the ancestors, Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq's Islam, Anwar Sadat's cult of ancient Egypt, Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic Republic and countless others all have a common message: imported ideologies and standards have alienated societies from themselves. Somewhere in the past, there was a social order that worked, and it could conceivably be recovered.
It is tempting to cover up decay with claims to authenticity; or to dress up tyranny in the garb of Islam; or to run away from the depressing spectacle of foreign debts and dependence into past splendor and simplicity. But the new act is a highly dubious one. The conjurers have to deliver something concrete or the entire act can turn into catastrophe. The ancestors are long buried, their world long obliterated. If we put up their world as a substitute for ours, their world will simply confuse and destroy us. It will make current misery that much more unbearable, current dealings with others that much more difficult to conduct. Our presidents can act as tribal chieftains and pharaohs once did; we can execute men and women the way our ancestors did; we can change Cambodia's name into Kampuchea; we can feed people culture and fetishes. But history has a terrifying velocity today. Reality intrudes; men cannot indefinitely live on frenzy or indefinitely be kept in a trance.
Revolts and escapes are relatively easy matters: you rebel, you say no, you try to "exit." Were they to stop there, rebellions would be nothing but an urge to destroy, pure nihilism-all the more so when the rebels have nowhere else to go, or when they exaggerate how far they can go on their own.
Whether they like it or not, whether they admit it or not, even the most rebellious societies in the Third World have the outside world under their skin. The voices of rebellion and a return to an imagined past are jumbled up with those clamoring to get in. A forced return to something imagined and unpolluted reveals, if anything, the depth of the predicament. And as the examples of Khomeini's Iran and the Khmer Rouge illustrate in their own way, return is a journey to nowhere. Its harvest is either breakdown or mass murder.
Long ago, non-Western societies were dragged into the outside world. Much of their history has been a continuous effort to cope with the intrusion of the Western challenge. Be they the fundamentalists who tried to go back to the indigenous tradition in order to repel the intrusion, or the liberals who tried to deal with it by emulating the intruders, or the radicals who turned to another Western ideology-Marxism-they have all been concerned with the uneven encounter with the West and inspired to search for ways to confront it. That was what the Bandung generation tried to do within the rules of the international system. But purity is not of this world. Even those who try to exit from the world (think of China) do so only to return on better terms, to be better prepared to withstand the competition.
The "collective aloofness" from the quarrels of the mighty and the need to play the game without the extremes of xenophobia or surrender urged by the Bandung generation had a deep wisdom to it. Thus, the erosion of nonalignment (always relative, always a matter of degree) and the recent drift toward fundamentalism in large stretches of the Third World must be judged as retrogressive. The attempts by the mighty to carve out spheres of influence throughout much of the Third World, the scramble by the poor to find a patron who will shore up a weak regime or will help one state subdue its neighbor, the eagerness to be deputized by a distant power-all represent a betrayal of what these societies fought for.
All this comes at a time of superpower competition that ought to give nonalignment a new rationale. For as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan reveals, the game of nations remains as grim as ever. For the Third World, Afghanistan is, or ought to be, a deadly serious matter. In their concern with the terms of trade and with their relationship to the liberal/capitalist West, many Third World states had somehow forgotten the designs of the other superpower. Anti-communism had a bad name and it more or less deserved it: it was the banner of either some reactionary military junta or monarch or of outsiders like Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in the 1950s. Now, many states within reach of the Soviet Union have to worry about their sovereignty and must make things work if they are not to collapse. This has nothing to do with the old rallying cry of anti-communism but with the sheer disparity of power and with the need to keep outside powers at bay.
For reasons which need not be belabored here, the cold war is in full swing again.22 From Kissinger's Middle Eastern shuttle in 1974 which shut out the Soviet Union, to Angola in 1975, and finally to Kabul in 1979-80, détente has faltered. From the revisionist power's point of view (the U.S.S.R.'s), there was the feeling of being driven out of a favored position. From the status quo power's point of view (the United States'), there was a growing conviction that the "code of détente" had been violated, that détente had been oversold, and that Russia had used it to overtake America. Brezhnev's assurance, made in the aftermath of Afghanistan, that the U.S.S.R. does not "covet the oil of others" and that it is only "the colonialists who are attracted by the smell of oil" was not particularly convincing. The West was economically overextended, its oil supplies vulnerable to the anguish of a region coming apart at the seams, and to the ambitions of a more assertive, more reckless Soviet Union.
The confrontation between the superpowers makes it imperative for Third World states to play the game with skill and caution. They are being enlisted in the new struggle, and increasingly so. Some will succumb as they already have; they will offer bases in return for aid. Some will go further and taunt distant powers about their toughness-witness the statements of the Chinese, of Zia ul-Haq, of Anwar Sadat about America's toughness and reliability. Here and there, dependency will be covered up by cultural pretensions (a Sadat or a Houphouët-Boigny claiming "membership" in the Western world or a South Yemen claiming adherence to Marxist internationalism).
Alignment might buy some relief: there are understandable pressures to succumb to it. Foreign powers offer a wider range of "services." They can help an Ethiopia combat separatism and deal with an irredentist neighbor; they can help an Egypt snub the Arab world; they can help the Syrian regime maintain a hold of sorts over a disaffected population that resents the political dominance of the Alawite community of President Assad (which only accounts for something like ten percent of the population but has a virtual monopoly on political power). The examples can be multiplied: economic and political pressures from within; pressures from neighbors; the clumsy pressure of one superpower or the other to get regimes to see it their way-all make it more difficult today to maintain an equidistance between the two superpowers than it was a quarter-century ago.
But there is a price to be paid. An international system in which the Third World states dilute their commitment to their own autonomy and weaken their moral posture is infinitely more dangerous for weak states. Behind the moral sermons of a Nehru was a shrewd political instinct: if military might is not your strong suit, try to make the international system less of a jungle; raise the costs of superpower mischief; make the world more messy, for such a world will allow more room for maneuver to weak powers. To the extent that the Havana meeting saw a tilt toward the Soviet Union and an erosion of nonalignment (and it undeniably did), the Third World states emerged the worse off for it. This places a special burden on those in the Third World who still believe in the cause of nonalignment (an India, a Yugoslavia, a Nigeria) to keep the South Yemens and the Cubas (as well as the Egypts and Zaïres) in check.
The first antidote, then, to alignment is to fight for the soul of what remains of nonalignment. There is a second, though related, battle. It is the need of the nonaligned to take Soviet designs and interventions seriously. The early struggle of the Third World was against the West. It was an attempt to get the West to help without asking for collaboration, to speed up the decolonization process, to stand up to the backlash of European powers losing their colonial possessions, to say "no" to John Foster Dulles and his contemporaries. In that battle, the U.S.S.R. could claim "progressive" credentials, pick and choose where it wanted to intrude into the Third World when the West faltered or failed to understand and to help.
The new battle is different. The U.S.S.R. now possesses the means and the will to intervene, particularly in countries on or near its borders. There are enough tribal and ethnic differences for it to thrive upon-differences which the Soviet Union understands far better than the United States ever managed to do. The U.S.S.R. can promise to speed up the dissolution of a particular society-an Iran or a Pakistan, for example. Or it can help others combat separatism-an Ethiopia trying to hold onto Eritrea and the Ogaden. There are plenty of fears and ambitions for the U.S.S.R. to exploit. This makes it important for the nonaligned to show real nonalignment in their concern with the superpowers. The task will not be easy for those whose formative experiences were the Algerian struggle, Suez, Vietnam and other Western adventures. Afghanistan ought to help illustrate that mischief can come from the other side.
The intellectual diet of an era of Third World anti-imperialism, haunted by the deeds and misdeeds of the West, now has to be revised to come to terms with the new realities. This is particularly important for those who still believe, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that Marxism represents a philosophy of redemption and liberation, that ideological distinctions are more important than the duel of nations. An earlier generation of Third World nationalists came to learn the traumatic lesson that the liberal values of the West were not for export and that those who valued nationalism for themselves denied it to others. Now the same lesson has to be learned about Marxism. Marxist internationalism is a thin construct: behind the ideological masks can be seen the age-old desire of powerful men and societies to hoard and to dominate.
A third imperative has to do with Third World links outside the level of summits and conferences. It is the need for what the African intellectual Ali Mazrui calls "horizontal interpenetration" among Third World societies.23 They need to know one another better than they do, to trade with one another more than they do. Overwhelmingly, the cultural and economic traffic from the Third World has been in the direction of Europe, or of America, or of the Soviet bloc. Third World societies need more sustained traffic among themselves. To do so they have to shed some of the self-contempt that the once-colonized bring into the world and project onto people more or less like themselves. There have to be alternative sources of aid to what the superpowers promise. Here is a large project for the wealthy OPEC states, particularly for the Arab states. For the drift toward disorder in the vast expanse close to the Soviet Union is likely to claim them as its prime casualties. The cobwebs behind which the rich oil states once lived have been blown away; now they have to do their best to stem the chaos. This means a willingness to help other Third World states without neocolonial strings or hegemonic expectations.
But above all, the principal battle of each of the nonaligned is at home. Unless states are just and viable, unless they check the forces of separatism and the propensity toward dictatorship, they will collapse and succumb to new alignments. No distant patron can indefinitely float vulnerable regimes, draw up social contracts for them, keep the psychological and material pillage within limits. No summit conference can resolve basic questions of political order and legitimacy.
The moment of nationalist enthusiasm embodied in the Bandung generation is gone and gone for good. The successors of the great men cannot reenact their drama: a Qaddafi cannot be another Nasser, no matter how hard he tries; the place occupied by Nehru cannot be filled by others. Apostles are invariably followed by managers, and the latter are subject to more human audits. To them falls the task of making things work, of making real, and hence less glamorous, the dream of nationalism. But even if that drama cannot be reenacted, the Bandung leaders still have something valid to teach their successors: try to maintain a moral and political presence in the world that would make it difficult for superpowers to go on a rampage; raise the moral and political costs of interventions by powerful states; don't barter away your autonomy, for it is much tougher to recover it once you get used to depending upon others for essential needs; try to stay within the political and cultural limits of your own system.
But the story of Bandung also has lessons for the West: don't push societies further down the road of radicalism than is necessary; don't ask from vulnerable allies (say, a Saudi Arabia) displays of "fidelity" that they cannot afford; don't let style and theatrics pass for the real thing (Nasser's oratory proved far more important to the course of U.S.-Egyptian relations than did his conduct, and the same could be said of Sukarno's flamboyance); don't read more radicalism into others than is warranted by political conduct; don't get your facts and attitudes about other societies from the most reactionary "native witnesses."
Many of the movements and leaders opposed by the West often had in mind political institutions and arrangements far closer to the ways of the West than the social orders defended and upheld by the West's clients. The appeal to the West of Third World bedouins, emperors and oligarchs over lawyers, parliamentarians and "soft" socialists is one of the most interesting psychohistorical riddles of our time. Today the West is baffled over the culturally alien figures sweeping the Third World. But did the ones who were culturally closer to the West fare any better?
Alas, the old reflexes persist-the urge to draw a Manichean distinction between friends and foes, "radicals" and "moderates,"24 the belief in military bases and pacts show that even sophisticated societies can "back into the future" and repeat old errors. This is lamentable, for the United States knows better-or ought to.
The search for that "third way" that was launched at Bandung and that still survives in pockets of the Third World-battered, compromised, but nonetheless still there-ought to be encouraged. Hemmed in, nations become irrational, hell-bent on revenge, prone to look for scapegoats as they begin to see their lives and destiny as the playthings of others. "All the problems of the world," declares Ayatollah Khomeini to an alarmingly receptive audience throughout the Muslim world, "stem from these foreigners, from the West and from America at the moment. All our problems come from America. All the problems of the Muslims stem from America." In his words is the evasion of responsibility, the search for scapegoat carried to its limits. But there is a flip side to the Khomeini theme, one less noticed by Americans but dangerous in its own way: it is Sadat's vision of America as the arbiter, as the economic redeemer, as the mighty power that will make things run and work. One faces troubles with one's enemies; but "friends" also pose problems of their own.
There is, as I observed earlier, enough of the outside world under the skin of most Third World societies. When they go their own way, they may discover what they authentically are: a bit of themselves and a bit of the outside world. And it is then and only then that they can come to terms with themselves and with the outside world. There is, or ought to be, something other than the extremes of the Shah's soulless "Asian Germany" and Khomeini's Islamic Republic, the hell of the Khmer Rouge on one side and the pathetic mimicry of client-states on the other.
1 The New York Times, May 22, 1979, p. A10.
2 Ibid., August 5, 1980, p. A3.
4 Ibid., p. 8.
5 See the thoughtful essay by Ali Mazrui, "Exit Visa from the World System," University of Michigan, 1980, written for the World Order Models Project.
6 The New York Times, September 10, 1979, p. A6.
8 Arthur W. Lewis, The Evolution of the International Economic Order, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1978, p. 36.
9 Ibid., p. 75.
10 The information on debts can be found in a study by Salomon Brothers, Lending to LDCs: Mounting Problems, April 2, 1980. The study was conducted by Thomas H. Hanley.
11 Willy Brandt et al., North-South: A Program for Survival, Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 1980, p. 216.
12 Selected Documents of the Bandung Conference, p. 10.
13 Walter J. Levy, "Oil and the Decline of the West," Foreign Affairs, Summer 1980, p. 1001.
14 V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979, p. 234.
15 The Wall Street Journal, November 20, 1979.
16 Montesquieu, The Persian Letters, Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1973, p. 176.
18 See the text of the Venice Economic Summit Meeting, The New York Times, June 24, 1980, p. A7.
19 This point is made in Robert W. Tucker's The Inequality of Nations, New York: Basic Books, 1977.
20 The Economist, February 17, 1979, p. 84.
23 Mazrui, op. cit.
24 Henry Bienen has some devastating and useful things to say about the tendency to come up with such terms in American foreign policy in his essay "Perspectives on Soviet Intervention in Africa," Political Science Quarterly, Spring 1980, p. 41. "Such terms," he writes, "become terms in search of a policy."