In 1989 the greatest geopolitical windfall in the history of American foreign policy fell into George Bush's lap. In a mere six months the communist regimes of eastern Europe collapsed, giving the West a sudden, sweeping and entirely unexpected victory in its great global conflict against the Soviet Union. Between July and December of 1989 Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania ousted communist leaders. Their new governments each proclaimed a commitment to democratic politics and market economics, and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Europe began. All this happened without the West firing a single shot.

The revolutions in eastern Europe ended the Cold War by sweeping away the basic cause of the conflict between the two great global rivals: the Soviet European empire. They did so on George Bush's watch, a term that seems quite appropriate. As the revolutions occurred, he and his associates were more spectators than participants-a bit confused, generally approving, but above all passive. The president kept the United States in the background. In response to the most important international events of the second half of the twentieth century, the White House offered no soaring rhetoric, no grand gestures, no bold new programs. This approach served America's interests well. Events were moving in a favorable direction; staying in the background, taking care not to insert the United States into the middle of things, was the proper course of action. The qualities most characteristic of the Bush presidency-caution, modest public pronouncements and a fondness for private communications-were admirably suited to the moment.

The end of communism in Europe need not have proceeded so smoothly. There were pitfalls and blind alleys, alternative policies that had serious advocates. The Bush administration Union, between collaboration and confrontation, was an important and underappreciated achievement of American foreign policy. If one of the tests of each presidency after 1945 has been the capacity to manage crises, the president deserves high marks for his policies during the six eventful months that may be seen in retrospect as the final crisis of the Cold War.

No sooner had the last east European revolution been completed-in Romania-than Europe and the two great nuclear powers had to confront the issue of German unity. The march toward the merger of the two Germanys-or, rather, toward the collapse of East Germany and its takeover by the West-was not initially intended by any government, including Bonn. It was the product of the spontaneous initiative of hundreds of thousands of East Germans. By moving to the West in large numbers, even after the opening of the inner-German border, they voted with their feet against the continued existence of a separate state. They also voted for the end of East Germany in March 1990 in a more familiar way: the first free elections ever held in the G.D.R. yielded a resounding majority in favor of rapid unification.

In light of the four decades of peace that a divided Europe had enjoyed and the havoc that Germany had wrought when it had been powerful and independent, it was hardly surprising that German unity was not universally welcomed. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President François Mitterrand each indicated that they were not happy at the prospect. Commentators in the United States were not wholeheartedly enthusiastic either, and for the same reasons: the Germans could not be trusted; or, even if they could be, discarding the security arrangements that had served so well for so long was unacceptably risky. Had Washington also shared and acted on these reservations, it could have slowed and perhaps even blocked German unification. The United States-as well as Britain and France-would have in effect declared that, while every other nation in Europe, and all peoples elsewhere, were entitled to choose their own political arrangements, the Germans were not. Such a declaration would have stirred the same kind of resentment at unequal treatment that Hitler exploited in the 1930s in order to win power and launch his ruinous policies. Although it would not have pushed Europe into war, it would have discredited in the eyes of Germans the important roles the Federal Republic played in the postwar period-in NATO, in the European Community and in other international organizations.

The Bush administration declined to place obstacles in the path of German unity. Without American support no other country, or combination of countries, could have hoped to block German unification. But Washington was no more prescient than any other capital about the pace of events in Germany. It was motivated in part by a short-term concern that a fight over unification between West Germany and its allies would bring to power Germany's Social Democrats, who might adopt a dangerously neutralist foreign policy. Support for Chancellor Helmut Kohl was nonetheless consistent with the proper long-term American approach to the German Question: that is, support for the right of Germans to decide their own fate, combined with efforts to create conditions in which the German decision, especially if in favor of unity, would not make others, or Germans themselves, feel insecure.

The key to maintaining a secure Europe was to keep the newly united Germany firmly anchored in an American-led security community. The Bush administration waged a successful diplomatic campaign on this issue within the framework of the "two plus four" negotiations. These talks involved the two Germanys plus Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States-the four powers whose victory in World War II gave them special prerogatives in Germany. In the first half of 1990 the administration used this forum to obtain Soviet acquiescence on Germany's continuing membership in NATO.

The final details of the terms of German unity were worked out without the United States, Britain or France, in the summer of 1990 in a meeting between Chancellor Kohl and President Gorbachev at the Soviet leader's home in Stavropol. The meeting raised the specter of Soviet-German collusion against the interests of the rest of Europe. Without reconciliation between Germany and Russia, however, there could be no end to the Cold War. Peace in Europe was impossible without an accommodation between its two largest powers. For most of the hundred years between the fall from power in 1890 of Bismarck, the original architect of German unity, and the 1990 unification of the two German states, Germany and Russia had defined their interests in Europe in ways unacceptable to each other. This ongoing Russo-German antagonism caused much of the tension, rivalry and war on the continent in that period. It now may be hoped that the events of 1990 have brought that era to an end.

The Soviet-German rapprochement is not dangerous to others, provided it takes place within a European security framework that includes a continuing American presence. It is just such a framework that the Bush administration was instrumental in designing, and is apparently committed to maintaining.


Just as America, the Soviet Union and the European nations were beginning the task of constructing a new post-Cold War Europe, Saddam Hussein interrupted them. His invasion, occupation and declared annexation of Kuwait-and the American response-dominated U.S. foreign policy in the latter half of George Bush's second year as president.

President Bush dispatched to the Middle East the largest expeditionary force since the Vietnam War and organized an impressively wide coalition against Iraq. The American intervention in the gulf, whatever its outcome, will exert a major influence on future American policy in the region. It may also prove to be the decisive event of George Bush's presidency. Success could assure his reelection and strengthen his hand at home and abroad; failure could have the opposite effects. Even a limited victory for Saddam Hussein would increase the power of forces opposed to the United States and its friends, and have adverse and perhaps disastrous consequences for the entire Middle East.

The gulf crisis is not, however, a preview of international politics beyond the Cold War. It is an important development, to be sure, that cannot help but influence American foreign policy in years to come. But it is not the seminal event from which America's new international role will emerge.

The Iraqi invasion demonstrated that some features of the Cold War persist, even in the absence of the Soviet-American rivalry. There are still dangerous people abroad who have the power to jeopardize Western interests. It also demonstrated that when those interests must be defended by force the principal responsibility continues to rest with the West's leading military power, the United States. The gulf crisis also illustrates the changes that the end of the Cold War has produced in international politics. The United States and the Soviet Union find themselves on the same side of the conflict. In part because of this harmony, it proved possible to assemble an international coalition of unprecedented breadth to oppose Saddam Hussein.

Soviet-American cooperation also made possible a prominent role in the gulf crisis for the United Nations, whose machinery, especially the Security Council, had for most of its history been paralyzed by the great schism between its two strongest members.

Most important of all, the end of the Cold War and the newfound solidarity between Washington and Moscow allowed the United States to undertake military operations on a large scale in the Middle East, without the fear of triggering a larger conflict with the Soviet Union and uncontrolled escalation to World War III. This was an enormous military advantage for the United States.

The gulf crisis, however, does not offer a reliable guide to the post-Cold War world. The United States sent forces to the Middle East for two reasons: to support the principle that stronger powers must not swallow up weaker neighbors; and to prevent a large fraction of the world's oil reserves from coming under the control of a brutal, aggressive and unpredictable tyrant. The principle of sovereign independence is important. Where it is challenged in the years ahead the United States will surely support beleaguered small states-but not by sending 400,000 troops to liberate them. Oil is a uniquely valuable resource, one that makes the Persian Gulf the only part of the Third World where Western interests are sizable enough to justify a large war.

In the minds of American policymakers, the various conflicts of the Cold War were all connected. The Greek civil war, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and others were seen as part of a global struggle against communism. Each was consequential not only for what was directly at stake, but for its effect on the Western position in other parts of the world. The confrontation with Iraq, by contrast, is not connected to anything beyond the Middle East. Important as the Middle East is to the United States and the rest of the West, it does not provide the basis for a global foreign policy, as did the conflict with the Soviet Union.

During the Cold War, wars and conflicts outside Europe derived their importance for the United States from their connection to the Soviet Union. With the end of the Cold War, they will be far less consequential for American foreign policy. The Persian Gulf excepted, the United States is considerably less likely to dispatch forces abroad in the post-Cold War era. In this sense the gulf crisis belongs to the past, not the future, of American foreign policy.

There is still a military role for the United States to play, but the regions where American forces will remain useful are those where they were concentrated during the conflict with the Soviet Union: Europe and East Asia. Their mission, however, will be different from those they have become accustomed to carrying out.


Deterrence of the Soviet Union has ceased to be the all-consuming international concern of the United States. Moscow is withdrawing its troops from Europe, and drawing down its forces in East Asia as well. Equally important, the sources of an expansive Soviet foreign policy-the commitment to the principles of Marxism-Leninism and the determination to spread them abroad-have all but disappeared.

The end of the Cold War, however, does not bring an end to the system of relations among sovereign states in which threats can arise. The difference is that, henceforth, the dangers to the security of America's friends in Europe and Asia are likely to be more distant and nebulous than the sharply defined threat the Soviet Union was seen to pose over the last four decades. Dangers could still arise, and there is still a role for the United States to play in dealing with them. West Europeans will continue to share a continent with a Soviet Union that, whatever form it ultimately takes, will be both large and heavily armed. Europe will need to counterbalance that military power; perpetuating the American commitment is the best way to do so.

The newly united Germany in particular will need some form of protection. German-Soviet relations are now cordial. But Soviet military force, particularly Soviet nuclear weapons, give Moscow considerable potential for leverage over Germany should new disputes arise between them. Without some form of protection, Germans will be vulnerable to Soviet pressure. A Germany without a security tie to the United States might well feel the need to strengthen its own armaments, perhaps even with nuclear weapons. A German nuclear arsenal would not arise from aggressive impulses. Rather, it would be a prudent, defensive response to a new set of geopolitical conditions. But however benign its motives, a Germany armed with nuclear weapons would create uncertainty, alarm and instability in Europe. Perpetuating the American commitment to western Europe is a hedge against this undesirable and potentially dangerous sequence of events. This is why the Bush administration's determination to maintain the basic structure of NATO is well advised.

Such a commitment would be designed not so much to deter an immediate threat from the Soviet Union as to reassure all of Europe-including Germany and the Soviet Union-that it need not fear a power vacuum. Such a vacuum might compel European nations to recalculate their military requirements, perhaps in ways others would consider as threatening.2

In East Asia, as in Europe, the Soviet threat to America's principal ally, Japan, has diminished considerably. Yet the American military presence there remains useful for the same reason. If the United States were to withdraw completely from the region, Japan, like Germany, might feel the need to adopt a more independent military role, including the acquisition of a nuclear arsenal. A nuclear-armed Japan would likewise alarm neighboring countries. In the post-Cold War era, American military forces in East Asia, as in Europe, can serve as a buffer among countries that, while no longer avowed adversaries, continue to be suspicious of one another and might conduct more aggressive foreign policies without a reassuring American presence.

Providing reassurance will require America's continued military cooperation with other countries, which may prove difficult. The United States may not retain all the overseas military facilities and basing rights of the Cold War. The American presence in the Philippines, for example, is already contracting; the United States has agreed to withdraw its fighter aircraft from Clark Air Force Base. Similarly, although the German government will welcome the continuation of an American security guarantee, the German people may be increasingly reluctant to play host to American forces, especially American nuclear weapons. If the political difficulties of deploying armed forces abroad will multiply in the wake of the Cold War, however, the forces that the United States will need to deploy will be more modest. The military requirements of reassurance in Europe and Asia will surely be less demanding than those of deterrence.

The greatest difficulty in sustaining a policy of reassurance, ironically, may lie in winning support for it in the United States. The forty-year rationale for stationing American troops abroad is gone. The Cold War provided a succession of American presidents with a powerful justification for stationing troops overseas and occasionally sending them into battle. The simple, compelling purpose of the nation's global military deployments was to check the Soviet Union. To the American public, the new purpose-reassurance-is liable to seem vague, implausible, the product of tortured logic, or simply not worth the risk.

In the absence of a Soviet threat the Bush administration floundered in finding a public justification for its military buildup in the Persian Gulf. This president and his successors may well encounter comparable difficulties in persuading the public to continue to support an American military presence overseas. The same question that was raised about troops in the gulf is likely to be directed at the continuing American deployments in Europe and Asia: Why are they there?

To answer that question, and to rally public support for a continuing American military presence abroad, what is needed is what this administration notably lacks: vision-the capacity to paint a vivid, convincing picture of the new world and America's interests in it. Vision requires the ability to communicate not only privately to other leaders, but publicly to the American people. If this president and his successors are able to present the appropriate vision, if they are able to make a persuasive case for keeping enough forces in Europe and Asia to reassure the countries of both regions, then political and military disputes of the kind that dominated the Cold War era are likely to recede. For with the end of the Soviet-American rivalry and the retreat of Soviet power, the basis for many, though by no means all, of these conflicts has vanished. And as security issues lose some of their previous significance, economic questions will assume a new international importance, particularly those that have arisen out of the end of the Cold War.


The Cold War ended in victory for the West. It was a victory not so much of Western arms, although they were certainly important in checking Soviet expansion in Europe. It was, rather, a victory of Western ideas, Western political institutions and, above all, Western economic practices. All three are now ascendant throughout the world. The rejection of socialist economic practices and the adoption, at least in principle, of market forms of economic organization is perhaps the broadest and most important ongoing global trend at the outset of the 1990s. It is a development that is bound to affect America's relations with the rest of the world.

The trend is most dramatically evident in the former communist countries of Europe. Having deposed their old-guard communist leaders, all of the east European nations now intend to embark on transitions from centrally planned to market economies. They have announced that they will eventually eliminate the cumbersome planning apparatus that dictated targets for production, gradually allow prices to be set by supply and demand, restore the right to own private property, and sell state-owned enterprises as quickly as possible to private owners, including foreigners. Some east European countries, notably Poland, have already begun this process. In the Soviet Union, too, the transition to a market economy is high on the political agenda, although the commitment there is more equivocal, and the steps taken so far more modest and hesitant.

The rise of the market is evident as well in communist countries outside Europe, even in those where political change has come slowly or not at all. Although the communist party still holds a monopoly of power in Vietnam, it transformed the country almost overnight from an importer to an exporter of its staple food, rice, largely by freeing agriculture from state control. The Vietnamese communists followed in the footsteps of the successful market reforms in agriculture that began a decade ago in China, which also dramatically increased its food production.

Nowhere have governments controlled economic activity as thoroughly as in communist states, but after achieving independence from colonial rule many noncommunist Third World countries practiced their own brand of socialism. They emphasized the protection of domestic industries, generous government subsidies for consumers and producers, and considerable public ownership of the industrial sector. The popularity of this milder form of socialism has also faded. In India, for example, socialism was an article of deep political faith for decades, but in the 1980s its leaders took tentative steps to liberalize the economy. Much of Latin America has recently turned in this direction as well, Mexico being a particularly dramatic example.

The collapse of communism in Europe is thus part of a broader trend. As the distinguished economist Robert Heilbroner has observed, "In the materially more advanced nations, 'socialism' as a distinct social objective has disappeared. Nothing is left of it but a better-run capitalism."3 Promoting capitalism, then, is a plausible goal for American foreign policy in the post-Cold War world, especially if the impetus for it comes from foreign countries themselves. Americans have a long history of faith in free enterprise, free markets and free commerce. They have, it is true, an older, deeper attachment to political freedom. But fewer governments would welcome an American role in fostering democracy in their countries than would seek Western help in establishing market institutions and practices. China's current leaders, for example, are open to the second but opposed to the first.

Even where a people and its government are dedicated to establishing working parliaments, competitive elections and a free press, other countries can be of only limited assistance. Political institutions are, after all, built from within. Outside assistance is of course not irrelevant. Democratic structures are in place in Japan, Germany and the Philippines in no small part because the United States, having occupied those countries, helped to build them. Such an American role, however, is no longer plausible in the post-Cold War world.

Installing a market economy, by contrast, lends itself more readily to technical and economic assistance from the outside. The promotion of market practices, moreover, indirectly fosters democracy in at least two ways. First, functioning markets restrict the power of the state because, by operating independently of governing authorities, they expand the political space available to the individual. Public space independent of the state, in which citizens can organize themselves, is a necessary condition for democratic politics. This is the sense in which, as the old saying goes, "free markets make free men." Second, democratic government seems to flourish most readily in conditions of economic success. In eastern Europe, in particular, the new democracies are fragile. Their communist predecessors were overthrown in part because they presided over economic stagnation. Democratic politics will accumulate popular support to the extent that they are identified with prosperity.

The trend in favor of market institutions and practices, although strong, is not universal. It is weak in Africa and the Arab world, and virtually nonexistent in countries such as Burma. But even where it is strong, it may not prevail. Market reforms are often painful to implement. Removing subsidies on basic commodities can trigger political unrest, as governments from Egypt to Poland have discovered to their dismay. Restructuring a country's industry along more economically rational lines inevitably throws people out of work. In a market system those with skill, initiative or just good luck prosper; others who do less well often resent the prosperity of the fortunate.

Finally, even where market reforms are initiated, the reformers will not necessarily use the United States as their model. The American economy is but one version of a market system, and not necessarily the most attractive. The formerly communist countries of Europe are likely to be drawn to the west European "social market" style of capitalism, as exemplified by the German Federal Republic, which provides more generous welfare benefits than the United States. In East Asia the great economic success stories of the 1970s and 1980s-Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea-have followed the path pioneered by Japan. This model features far closer relations between the government and the private sector, especially in the allocation of capital, than are found in the United States.4

The American, West European and East Asian varieties of capitalist economic organization are nonetheless closer in form to one another than any one of them is to the centrally directed economic systems of orthodox communism, or even to the milder versions of socialism that have appeared elsewhere during the last thirty years. At the end of the Cold War, in part because of the manner in which it ended, these three versions of capitalism stand as the models that much of the world now aspires to adopt. This is perhaps the greatest achievement of Western policy over the last forty years.

There is a parallel with the immediate aftermath of World War II. What the United States helped western Europe and Japan to do in the late 1940s, much of the rest of the world is seeking to do at the beginning of the 1990s. There are, to be sure, important differences between these two periods. The task of economic construction is today more complicated. World War II left the nations of western Europe with ruined farms and factories, but also with long experience with functioning market economies. West Europeans had the skills necessary to operate such an economic system. They needed capital, which the United States supplied. In formerly communist Europe, by contrast, almost no one has any experience in buying, selling, investing and producing in conditions of economic competition. The citizens of these countries must start virtually from scratch to learn the techniques of modern economic activity. They must also build the relevant institutions; none has a private sector in manufacturing or services, a financial system or a labor market. All this requires technical, but not necessarily economic, assistance from richer countries.

Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and much of the Third World are not yet in a position to benefit from Western capital. They must first create economies that can make productive use of it. The Bush administration is thus not under immediate pressure to undertake a policy that it would, in any event, have great difficulty in launching: a program of large-scale economic assistance to countries adopting liberal economic practices.

There is another important difference between 1990 and 1947. Then, only the United States could offer support to struggling democracies. Now, there is a thriving community of capitalist democracies, encompassing western Europe and Japan, which can share the task of promoting market systems the world over. The United States need not, and indeed should not, be the sole source of support. Here, too, President Bush's inclinations are in harmony with international conditions. The Bush administration is happy to deal with reform-minded economies on a multilateral basis, working through international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and even the European Community, of which the United States is not a member.

There is, however, one important feature common to the period of the Marshall Plan and the present, to which the Bush administration's response is not encouraging. To create successful market economies, the countries of eastern Europe and the Third World will need in the future what the countries of western Europe enjoyed in the past: a hospitable international economic environment. Once in place, market institutions in these countries will need access to capital. This is a particularly complicated problem for those nations with large external debts. They will need more extensive debt relief-indeed, debt forgiveness-than they have thus far received. Even with their debt burdens lightened, they will be affected by the price of capital. The lower world interest rates are, the greater the chances for economic success.

These nations will also need access to markets in order to sell what they produce for hard currency-the lifeblood of any healthy economy. In the first year of the post-Cold War era, world interest rates were uncomfortably high. The trend in the international trading system, especially among the advanced industrial countries to which the new practitioners of market economics will look for export opportunities, was at best uncertain. The Uruguay Round failed to move that system decisively toward greater openness. The reasons for these trends are varied and are hardly the result exclusively of American policies-the Europeans are the chief culprits on trade. Over the last ten years, however, the American contribution to the worldwide cost of capital and the status of global markets has not been constructive. Its fiscal imbalances have had quite harmful effects.

At the end of World War II, the United States took the lead in launching international economic initiatives, beginning with the establishment of the International Monetary Fund, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the Marshall Plan. West Europeans benefited not only from American generosity, but from American leadership. In keeping with that tradition, America has initiated recent international efforts to lighten the burden of the world's principal debtors and to lower barriers to trade: the Brady Plan and the GATT's Uruguay Round.

But deficits reduce America's capacity to lead. They limit its scope for reducing the debt held by its own banks and for increasing imports from other countries. This, in turn, diminishes American leverage with western Europe and Japan to help solve the debt problem and expand trade. Not only is the United States historically the leader of the international economic system, it is also its biggest member. Its policies have a considerable effect on the system, apart from any efforts it may make to guide others in a particular direction. America's reduced capacity to lead, due to the fiscal imbalances of the 1980s, has obstructed the creation of international conditions favorable to the flourishing of market economies around the world.

The United States has also pushed up the cost of capital by running large, chronic budget deficits and financing them by borrowing in international capital markets. These budget deficits were not the only cause of the historically high real interest rates in the 1980s, but they were certainly among the most important. The budget deficits and the effort to finance them also raised the value of the dollar. This, in turn, depressed American exports, leading to a series of large trade deficits. Exports declined, imports rose and American industries dependent on selling abroad, or in competition with foreign products at home, suffered. These industries demanded protection. The United States retreated farther from free trade during the 1980s than in any comparable period since World War II. American protectionism imposed a particular hardship on Third World countries; the United States has historically taken a far greater share of their exports than Japan or western Europe.


If economic issues will be ascendant in the post-Cold War era, if an important American goal will be to assist in the establishment of market economies, and if the most immediately useful way to promote market reforms is to reduce America's own economic imbalances, then the 1990 budget negotiations were as relevant to the long-term future of American foreign policy as the Persian Gulf crisis.

Those negotiations finally did produce a budget agreement. The way the president went about securing it, however, did little to convey a strong commitment to the kinds of policies required to pursue America's international political and economic interests in the post-Cold War world. President Bush failed to draw the necessary connection for the public between the nation's fiscal soundness and its international interests, even in the Persian Gulf. He could have appealed for modest economic sacrifice at a moment when American troops were at risk in the Arabian desert. A budget agreement, he could have argued, would send a signal of resolve at a time when the United States was trying to project an image of determination against a foreign tyrant. He delivered no such message.

If the United States is to play a useful, let alone a leading, role in the reconstruction of the world's economies according to market principles, a far greater public appreciation of the importance of particular economic policies will have to be developed. What is required to rally support for such policies is a credible political explanation of the connection between them and America's international interests. Perhaps such an explanation can be provided, but it seems unlikely that this president will do so.

President Bush has proclaimed his distaste for the details of economic policy and for the task of bringing spending into line with resources. "When you get a problem with the complexities that the Middle East has now, and the gulf has now, I enjoy trying to put the coalition together and keep it together," he said in the fall of 1990. "I can't say I just rejoice every time I go up and talk to [House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan] Rostenkowski about what he's going to do on taxes."5 But the way Rostenkowski and his colleagues vote on taxes will have as much to do with the pursuit of American international interests in the post-Cold War era as the way foreign governments, with whose leaders the president has dealt so artfully, vote at the United Nations.

Apart from his personal inclinations, Bush's presidency rests on a coalition of forces and interests that offer no political basis for economic policies in support of the international trends favored by the United States. For twenty years Republican presidents have supported American Cold War security commitments, while avoiding the costs of sustaining the international economic order designed after World War II. They have been simultaneously scrupulous in fulfilling the nation's security obligations and delinquent in observing standards of international economic propriety.

Richard Nixon inaugurated this two-track foreign policy by going to great and expensive lengths to vindicate the American commitment to Vietnam and, at the same time, abandoning the gold-exchange standard and destroying the international monetary system crafted in 1944 at Bretton Woods. Ronald Reagan continued the pattern by presiding over both substantial increases in defense spending, the better to confront the Soviet Union in the early 1980s, and large budget deficits, with all the attendant international economic dislocation. The combination proved to be a formula for electoral success for them and for their political heir, George Bush.6

In the post-Cold War era, the international interests of the United States, not to mention the nation's own economic well-being, depend on reversing this approach and giving priority to what most economists regard as sensible economic policies. Such a reversal will be politically difficult to accomplish, as the protracted wrangling over the budget in 1990 demonstrated. It is, moreover, a reversal that this president is unlikely to achieve. This is so ultimately because George Bush is, personally and politically, a product of the Cold War. He could hardly be anything else. His skills, ideas and political constituency were acquired in a time when the great rivalry with the Soviet Union dominated America's relations with the rest of the world. These qualities served him and the nation well at the end of the 1980s, but they are likely to be far less useful in the era ahead. In historical perspective, George Bush may come to enjoy the ironic distinction of having presided, adeptly, over the disappearance of the kind of world in which he was best able to guide the foreign policy of the United States.

2 On the distinction between deterrence and reassurance see Michael Howard, "Reassurance and Deterrence: Western Defense in the 1980s," Foreign Affairs, Winter 1982/83.

3 "The World After Communism," Dissent, Fall 1990, p. 429.

4 This typology is drawn from Paul Marer, "Roadblocks to Economic Transformation in Central and Eastern Europe and Some Lessons of Market Economies," in United States-Soviet and East European Relations: Building a Congressional Cadre/Eighth Conference, August 25-31, 1990, Dick Clark, ed., Queenstown (MD): The Aspen Institute, 1990.

5 Quoted in Time, Oct. 22, 1990, p. 27.

6 This combination of policies arguably originated in a Democratic administration, with Lyndon Johnson's decision to escalate American involvement in Vietnam without increasing taxes or reducing domestic spending.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • Michael Mandelbaum is the Christian Herter Professor of American Foreign Policy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University, and the director of the project on East-West relations at the Council on Foreign Relations.
  • More By Michael Mandelbaum