For the first time in over half a century, no single great power, or coalition of powers, poses a "clear and present danger" to the national security of the United States. The end of the Cold War has left Americans in the fortunate position of being without an obvious major adversary. Given the costs of confronting adversaries who have been all too obvious since the beginning of World War II, that is a condition worthy of greater appreciation than it has so far received.

It would be foolish to claim, though, that the United States after 1991 can return to the role it played in world affairs before 1941. For as the history of the 1930s suggests, the absence of imminent threat is no guarantee that threats do not exist. Nor will the isolationism of that era be possible in the 1990s. Advances in military technology and the progress of economic integration have long since removed the insulation from the rest of the world that geographical distance used to provide. The passing of the Cold War world by no means implies an end to American involvement in whatever world is to follow; it only means that the nature and the extent of that involvement are not yet clear.

Finding one's way through unfamiliar terrain generally requires a map of some sort. Cartography, like cognition itself, is a necessary simplification that allows us to see where we are, and where we may be going. The assertion that the world was divided between the forces of democracy and those of totalitarianism—to use the precise distinction made in President Harry S. Truman's announcement of the Truman Doctrine—was of course a vast simplification of what was actually happening in 1947. But it was probably a necessary one: it was an exercise in geopolitical cartography that depicted the international landscape in terms everyone could understand, and so doing prepared the way for the more sophisticated strategy of containment that was soon to follow.

The end of the Cold War was too sweeping a defeat for totalitarianism—and too sweeping a victory for democracy—for this old geopolitical map to be of use any longer. But another form of competition has been emerging that could be just as stark and just as pervasive as was the rivalry between democracy and totalitarianism at the height of the Cold War: it is the contest between forces of integration and fragmentation in the contemporary international environment. The search for a new geopolitical cartography might well begin here.


I use the term "integration" in its most general sense, which is the act of bringing things together to constitute something that is whole. It involves breaking down barriers that have historically separated nations and peoples in such diverse areas as politics, economics, religion, technology and culture. It means, quite literally, the approach to what we might call—echoing some of the most visionary language of World War II—one world.

Integration is happening in a variety of ways. Consider, first, the communications revolution, which has made it impossible for any nation to deny its citizens knowledge of what is going on elsewhere. This is a new condition in international politics, the importance of which became clear as revolution swept through eastern Europe in the fall of 1989. A new kind of domino theory has emerged, in which the achievement of liberty in one country causes repressive regimes to topple, or at least to wobble, in others. Integration through communications has largely brought this about.

Consider, next, economics. These days, no nation—not even the Soviet Union, or China, or South Africa or Iraq—can maintain itself apart from the rest of the world for very long. That is because individual nations depend, for their own prosperity, upon the prosperity of others to a far greater extent than in the past. Integration also means that transnational actors like multinational corporations and economic cartels can have a powerful influence on what happens to national states. And in Europe, integration has led to the creation of a potential new superpower in the form of the European Community (EC). Europe as a whole, not just Britain, France or Germany, is already a major player in the world economy, and it may soon become one in world politics as well.

Consider, as a third manifestation of integration, security. It used to be the case that nations relied exclusively upon their own strength to ensure their safety, and that is still primarily the case. But Woodrow Wilson began the movement toward collective security after World War I with his proposal for a League of Nations, and although that organization proved ineffective, it did give rise to a United Nations that in recent years has become a major force in international diplomacy. It is significant that the United States waited to gain U.N. approval before using force in the Persian Gulf. Washington has not always been so solicitous in the past, and the fact that the Bush administration proceeded in this way suggests that it has come to see important advantages in the collective approach, which is to say the integrative approach, to security.

Then consider the integration of ideas. The combination of easy communications, unprecedented prosperity and freedom from war—which is, after all, the combination the Cold War gave us—made possible yet another integrationist phenomenon: ideas now flow more freely throughout the world than ever before. This trend has had a revolutionary effect in certain authoritarian countries, where governments found they had to educate their populations in order to continue to compete in a global economy, only to discover that the act of educating them exposed their minds to the realm of ideas and ultimately worked to undermine the legitimacy of authoritarianism itself.[1] The consequences can be seen in Chinese students who prefer statues of liberty to statues of Mao, in Soviet parliamentarians who routinely harangue their own leaders on national television and in the remarkable sight of the current president of Czechoslovakia—himself a living symbol of the power of ideas—lecturing the Congress of the United States on the virtues of Jeffersonian democracy.

Finally, consider peace. It has long been a central assumption of liberal political philosophers that if only one could maximize the flow of ideas, commodities, capital and people across international boundaries, then the causes of war would drop away. It was for a long time an idea based more on faith than on reality. But there is some reason to think that a by-product of integration since 1945 has indeed been peace, at least among the great powers. The prosperity associated with market economics tends to encourage the growth of liberal democracies; and one of the few patterns that holds up throughout modern history is that liberal democracies do not go to war with one another.[2] From this perspective, then, the old nineteenth-century liberal vision of a peaceful, integrated, interdependent and capitalist world may at last be coming true.


Would that it were so. Unfortunately, the forces of integration are not the only ones active in the world today. There are also forces of fragmentation at work that are resurrecting old barriers between nations and peoples—and creating new ones—even as others are tumbling. Some of these forces have begun to manifest themselves with unexpected strength, just when it looked as though integration was about to prevail. The most important of them is nationalism.

There is, to be sure, nothing new about nationalism. Given that the past half century has seen the number of sovereign states more than triple, it can hardly be said that nationalism was in a state of suspended animation during the Cold War. Still, many observers did have the sense that, among the great powers at least, nationalism after World War II had been on the wane.

The very existence of two rival superpowers, which is really to say, two supranational powers, created this impression. We rarely thought of the Cold War as a conflict between competing Soviet and American nationalism: we saw it, rather, as a contest between two great international ideologies, or between two antagonistic military blocs, or between two geographical regions we imprecisely labeled "East" and "West." One could even argue that the Cold War discouraged nationalism, particularly in western Europe and the Mediterranean, where the mutual need to contain the Soviet Union moderated old animosities like those between the French and the Germans, or the Greeks and the Turks, or the British and everybody else. Much the same thing happened, although by different and more brutal means, in eastern Europe, where Moscow used the Warsaw Pact to suppress long-simmering feuds between the Hungarians and the Romanians, or the Czechs and the Poles, or the (East) Germans and everybody else. Nationalism might still exist in other parts of the world, we used to tell each other, but it had become a historical curiosity in Europe. There were even those who argued, until quite recently, that the Germans had become such good Europeans that they were now virtually immune to nationalist appeals and so had lost whatever interest they might once have had in reunification.

Today the situation looks very different. Germany has reunified, and no one—particularly no one living alongside that new state—is quite sure of the consequences. Romanians and Hungarians threaten each other regularly now that the Warsaw Pact is defunct, and nationalist sentiments are manifesting themselves elsewhere in eastern and southeastern Europe, particularly in Yugoslavia, which appears to be on the verge of breaking up.

The same thing could even happen to the Soviet Union itself: nationalist pressures the regime thought it had smothered as far back as seven decades ago are coming to the forefront once again, to such an extent that we can no longer take for granted the continued existence of that country in the form that we have known it.

Nor should we assume that the West is immune from the fragmenting effects of nationalism. The Irish question ought to be a perpetual reminder of their durability; there is also the Basque problem in Spain, and the rivalry between the Flemings and the Walloons in Belgium. The American presence in the Philippines is becoming increasingly tenuous in the face of growing nationalism, and similar pressures are building in South Korea. Nationalism is even becoming an issue in Japan, what with recent controversies over the treatment of World War II in Japanese history textbooks and the Shinto ceremonies that officially began the reign of the Emperor Akihito. It is worth recalling as well how close the Canadian confederation came in 1990 to breaking up—as it yet may—over the separatist aspirations of Quebec. There was even a point last year when the Mohawk Indians were demanding, from Quebec no less, recognition of their own rights as a sovereign state.

But the forces of fragmentation do not just take the form of pressures for self-determination, formidable though those may be. They also show up in the field of economics, where they manifest themselves as protectionism: the effort, by various means, to insulate individual economies from the workings of world market forces. They show up in the racial tension that can develop, both among states and within them: the recent killings of blacks by blacks in South Africa, after the release of Nelson Mandela, illustrates the problem clearly.

They certainly show up in the area of religion. The resurgence of Islam might be seen by some as an integrationist force in the Middle East. But it is surely fragmentationist to the extent that it seeks to set that particular region off from the rest of the world by reviving ancient and not-so-ancient grievances against the West, both real and imagined. Forces of fragmentation can even show up as a simple drive for power, which is the only way I can make sense out of the fiendishly complex events that have torn Lebanon apart since the civil war began there in 1975. One can look at Beirut as it has been for the past decade and a half and get a good sense of what the world would look like if the forces of fragmentation should ultimately have their way.

Fragmenting tendencies are also on the rise—they have never been wholly absent—within American society itself. It would be difficult to underestimate the disintegrative effects of the drug crisis in this country, or of the breakdown of our system for elementary and secondary education, or of the emergence of what appears to be a permanent social and economic "underclass." Well-intentioned efforts to decrease racial and sexual discrimination have increased racial and sexual—as well as constitutional—tensions.[3] Linguistic anxieties lurk just beneath the surface, as the movement to make English the official language of the United States suggests. Immigration may well be increasing at a faster rate than cultural assimilation, which in itself has been a less than perfect process. Regional rivalries are developing over such issues as energy costs, pollution control and the bailout of the savings and loan industry. And the rise of special interest groups, together with their ability to apply instant pressure through instant communications, has thrown American politics into such disarray that elections are reduced to the unleashing of attack videos, and the preparation of the budget has come to resemble the endless haggling of rug merchants in some Oriental bazaar. When the leading light of American conservatism has to call for a return to a sense of collective interest, then the forces of fragmentation have proceeded very far indeed.[4]

All of this suggests that the problems we will confront in the post-Cold War world are more likely to arise from competing processes—integration versus fragmentation—than from the kinds of competing ideological visions that dominated the Cold War. Unlike the old rivalry between democracy and totalitarianism, though, the new geopolitical cartography provides no immediately obvious answer to the question of which of these processes might most threaten the future security interests of the United States.


It would appear, at first glance, that the forces of integration ought to be the more benign. Those forces brought the Cold War to an end. They provided the basis for the relative prosperity that most of the developed world enjoyed during that conflict, and they offer the most plausible method of extending that prosperity into the post-Cold War era. They combine materialism and idealism in a way that seems natural to Americans, who tend to combine these traits in their own national character. And they hold out the promise of an international order in which collective, not unilateral, security becomes the norm.

But is the trend toward integration consistent with the traditional American interest, dating back to the Founding Fathers, in the balancing of power? Has that interest become obsolete in the new world that we now confront? The longstanding American commitment to the balance of power was based on the assumption that the nation would survive most comfortably in a world of diversity, not uniformity: in a homogeneous world, presumably, one would not need to balance power at all. No one would claim that the progress of integration has brought us anywhere close to such a world. Still, the contradiction that exists between the acts of balancing and integrating power ought to make us look carefully at the post-Cold War geopolitical map. Jumping to conclusions—in favor of either integrationist or fragmentationist alternatives—could be a mistake.

Consider the long-term ecological problems we are likely to face. The prospect of global warming looms as a constraint upon future economic development conducted in traditional—which is to say, polluting—ways. Integration here, in the form of expanding industrialization and enhanced agricultural productivity, has created a new kind of danger. The worldwide AIDS epidemic illustrates how one integrative force, the increasing flow of people across international boundaries, can undermine the effects of another, which is the progress made toward the conquest of disease. Population pressure, itself the result of progress in agricultural productivity and in conquering disease, is in turn magnifying disparities in living standards that already exist in certain parts of the world, with potentially disintegrative results. The forces of integration, therefore, provide no automatic protection against ecological threats: indeed, they are part of the problem. Despite classical liberal assumptions, we would be unwise in assuming that an ever-increasing flow of people, commodities and technology across international borders will necessarily, at least from the ecological standpoint, make the world a safer place.

Consider, next, the future of Europe. The reunification of Germany, together with the enfeeblement and possible breakup of the Soviet Union, is one of the most abrupt realignments of political, military and economic power in modern history. It has come about largely as a result of those integrative forces that ended the Cold War: the much-celebrated triumph of democratic politics and market economics.[5] And yet, this victory for liberalism in Europe is producing both integrative and disintegrative consequences. In Germany, demands for self-determination have brought political integration, to be sure, but the economic effects could be disintegrative. There are concerns now over whether the progress the EC has made toward removing trade and immigration barriers will be sufficient to tie the newly unified Germany firmly to the West; or whether the new Germany will build its own center of power further to the east, with the risk that this might undo the anticipated benefits of 1992.

In the Soviet Union, the triumph of liberalism has had profoundly disintegrative consequences. The central government faces the possibility of becoming irrelevant as power diffuses down to the level of the republics, and even below. No one knows what the future political configuration, to say nothing of ideological orientation, of the potential successor states might be. Civil war, and even international war growing out of civil war, are by no means unrealistic prospects; such disruptions would be all the more dangerous because the Soviet Union's massive arsenal of nuclear and conventional weapons will not disappear, even if the Soviet Union itself does.[6] The future of Europe, in short, is not at all clear, and it is the increasing tension between processes of integration and fragmentation that has suddenly made the picture there so cloudy.

Then consider the Middle East and Africa. The combination of German reunification with Soviet collapse, if it occurs, will involve the most dramatic changes in international boundaries since the end of World War II. And yet no one seems to be thinking about what precedents this might set for other parts of the world where boundaries inherited from the colonial era do not even come close to coinciding with patterns of ethnicity, nationality or religion. If the Lithuanians are to get their own state, it will not be easy to explain to the Palestinians or the Kurds or the Eritreans why they should not have theirs also. If the boundaries of the dying Soviet empire are to be revised, then why should boundaries established by empires long since dead be preserved?

Finally, consider the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. It was Iraq's integration into the international market in sophisticated military technology that made it possible for Saddam Hussein to perform this act of aggression. His arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, to say nothing of his surface-to-air-missiles, Scuds, Mirages, the nuclear weapons he probably would have had if the Israelis had not bombed his reactor in 1981 and the long-range artillery he certainly would have had if the British had not become suspicious of his orders for very thick "oil pipes" early in 1990—all of this hardware was not forged by ingenious and self-reliant Iraqi craftsmen, working tirelessly along the banks of the Euphrates. Saddam obtained it, rather, by exploiting an important consequence of integration, which is the inability or unwillingness of highly industrialized states to control what their own entrepreneurs, even those involved in the sale of lethal commodities, do to turn a profit.

The global energy market—another integrationist phenomenon—created the riches that made Kuwait such a tempting target in the first place; it also brought about the dependence on Middle Eastern oil that caused so rapid a military response on the part of the United States, its allies and even some of their former adversaries. The eagerness of this improbable coalition to defend the principle of collective security would hardly have been as great if Benin had attacked Burkina Faso, or vice versa.

There is, of course, no assurance that Saddam Hussein would have refrained from invading Kuwait if the Cold War had been at its height. But there is a fair chance that either the United States or the Soviet Union—depending upon which superpower Iraq was aligned with at the time—would have sought to exert a restraining influence, if only to keep its principal rival from exploiting the situation to its own advantage. Certainly distractions associated with the end of the Cold War in Europe during the first half of 1990 prevented both Washington and Moscow from giving the attention they should have to Persian Gulf affairs.

It is also worth remembering that the first post-Cold War year saw, in addition to the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, the near-outbreak of war between India and Pakistan, an intensification of tension between Israel and its Arab neighbors, a renewed Syrian drive to impose control over Lebanon and a violent civil war in Liberia. Conflict in the Third World, it appears, is not going to go away just because the Cold War has; indeed it may well intensify.

Finally, consider one other form of regional conflict that is likely to affect the post-Cold War era: it is what we might call the "post-Marxist revolution" crisis. The most potent revolutionary force in the Third World these days may well be democracy. But it is no clearer there than it is in Europe that this supposedly integrative "triumph of liberalism" will necessarily promote peace. For just as the United States used to justify its intervention in Third World countries as a means of "inoculating" them against the "bacillus" of communism, so the post-Cold War era could see military interventions by the old democracies for the purpose of confirming in power—or restoring to power—new democracies. The violent, but overwhelmingly popular, American military operation to apprehend General Manuel Antonio Noriega in Panama could well portend things to come.

Threats can arise, though, not only from external sources; for the way in which a nation chooses to respond to threats can, under certain circumstances, pose as much of a danger to its long-term interests as do developments beyond its borders. The United States did not have to involve itself, to the extent that it did, in the Vietnam War. It did not have to become as dependent as it has on foreign oil. It did not have to accumulate such massive budget deficits that the government will have no choice but to allocate a significant percentage of its revenues, well into the 21st century, to paying off the accumulated debt. All of these were decisions Americans made, not their adversaries; yet their consequences have constrained, and in the case of energy dependency and the national debt, will continue to constrain, American freedom of action in the world for years to come.

These problems evolved from a curious unevenness that exists within the United States these days in the willingness to bear pain. Americans have readily accepted pain in connection with their integrative role as a global peacekeeper. They have repeatedly sent troops and resources overseas for the purpose of resisting aggression, even in situations where the probability of an attack was remote and where the states they were defending did not always see fit to contribute proportionately to their own defense. The United States has been unwilling to accept even moderate pain, though, when it comes either to raising the taxes necessary to support the government expenditures its citizens demand, or to cutting back on those expenditures to bring them into line with the taxes its citizens are willing to pay. The United States is generous, even profligate, with its military manpower and hardware, but it is selfish to the point of irresponsibility when it comes to issues of lifestyle and pocketbook.[7] As a result, a kind of division of labor has developed within the international community, in which the United States contributes the troops and the weaponry needed to sustain the balance of power, while its allies finance the budgetary, energy and trade deficits Americans incur through their unwillingness to make even minimal sacrifices in living standards.

Whatever the causes of this situation, the long-term effects cannot be healthy ones. Americans will not indefinitely serve as "mercenaries" overseas, especially when the troops recruited in that capacity come, as they disproportionately do, from the less fortunate social, economic and educational classes. Resentment over this pattern—when it develops—is likely to undermine whatever foreign policy consensus may yet remain. Pressures will eventually build for all Americans to bear their fair share of all the burdens that are involved in being a world power, and that may considerably diminish the attractions of continuing to be one.

The end of the Cold War, therefore, brings not an end to threats, but rather a diffusion of them: one can no longer plausibly point to a single source of danger, as one could throughout most of that conflict, but dangers there still will be. The architects of containment, when they confronted the struggle between democracy and totalitarianism in 1947, knew which side they were on; the post-Cold War geopolitical cartography, however, provides no comparable clarity. In one sense, this represents progress. The very absence of clear and present danger testifies to American success in so balancing power during the past four and a half decades that totalitarianism, at least in the forms we have considered threatening throughout most of this century, is now defunct. But, in another sense, the new competition between the forces of integration and fragmentation presents us with difficult choices, precisely because it is by no means as clear as it was during the Cold War which tendency we should want to see prevail.


Examine, first, the most extreme alternatives. A fully integrated world would be one in which individual countries would lose control of their borders and would be dependent on others for critical resources, capital and markets. It would mean, therefore, a progressive loss of national sovereignty, and ultimately the loss of whatever remained of national identity. A fully fragmented world would approximate the Hobbesian state of anarchy that theorists of international relations assume exists but that, in practice, never has: the world would be reduced to a gaggle of quarreling principalities, with war or the threat of war as the only means of settling disputes among them. Both of these extremes—for these are obviously caricatures—would undermine the international state system as we now know it: the first by submerging the autonomy of states within a supranational economic order; the second by so shattering state authority as to render it impotent.

No one seriously claims that, with the end of the Cold War, we can abandon the international state system or relinquish national sovereignty: not even our most visionary visionaries are prepared to go that far. This suggests, therefore, that the United States and its allies retain the interest they have always had in the balancing of power, but that this time the power to be balanced is less that of states or ideologies than of the processes—transcending states and ideologies—that are tending toward integrationist and fragmentationist extremes. Instead of balancing the forces of democracy against those of totalitarianism, the new task may well be to balance the forces of integration and fragmentation against each other.

What would this mean in practical terms? In the best of all possible worlds, of course, it would require taking no action at all, because integrationist and fragmentationist forces would balance themselves. Unfortunately, though, in the imperfect world in which we live things rarely work out this neatly. Gaps generally exist between what one wants to have happen and what seems likely to happen; it is here that the choices of states—and of the leaders who govern them—make a difference.

These choices in the post-Cold War world are likely to center on those areas in which integrationist and fragmentationist forces are not now balanced; where the triumph of one over the other could upset the international stability upon which rest the security interests of the United States, its allies, and other like-minded states; and where action is therefore needed to restore equilibrium. They are likely to include the following:

The Soviet Union and eastern Europe.

Over the next decade, the most serious source of instability in world politics will probably be the political, economic and social fragmentation that is already developing where communism has collapsed. Marxism-Leninism could hardly have suffered a more resounding defeat if World War III had been fought to the point of total victory for the West. Fortunately victory, this time, did not require a war. The trouble with victory, though, is that it tends to produce power imbalances. It was precisely to avoid this danger that the peacemakers of 1815 and 1945, who designed the two most durable peace settlements of modern times, moved quickly after their respective triumphs to rehabilitate defeated adversaries and to invite them back into the international state system. Perhaps because the communist regimes of the Soviet Union and eastern Europe have not actually suffered a military defeat—and also because of recent distractions in the Persian Gulf—we in the West are not focusing as carefully as we should on the problems of reconstruction and reintegration in that part of the world. But should fragmentationist forces prevail there, the resulting anarchy—and mass emigration away from anarchy—could destabilize any number of power balances. The situation then would certainly command our attention, even if it does not now.

The peoples of the Soviet Union and eastern Europe will of course have to bear the principal burdens of reconstruction. But they will not be able to accomplish this task alone, and already discouragement and demoralization have set in among them. It is in dealing with this kind of despair that aid from the "West"—including Japan—can have its greatest impact. A multinational Marshall Plan for former communist states sounds impractical given the extent of the problem and the existence of competing priorities at home, but the "highly leveraged" character of that earlier and highly successful enterprise ought not to be forgotten. The Marshall Plan worked by employing small amounts of economic assistance to produce large psychological effects. It restored self-confidence in Europe just at the point, some two to three years after the end of the war, at which it was sagging. What was critical was not so much the extent of the aid provided as its timing, its targeting and its publicity: its main purpose was to shift the expectations of its recipients from the belief that things could only get worse to the conviction that they would eventually get better.

It will serve no one's interests in the West now, anymore than it would have served the interests of the victorious allies after World War II, to allow despair, demoralization and disintegration to prevail in the territories of defeated Cold War adversaries. What happened in Germany after World War I ought to provide a sufficiently clear warning of the consequences that can follow when victors neglect the interests of those they have vanquished, and thereby, in the long run, neglect their own.

New security and economic structures for Europe.

Glaciers, when they invade a continent, not only obscure its topography but, through the weight of the accumulated ice, literally press its surface down into the earth's mantle. Retreats of glaciers cause old features of the landscape slowly to rise up again, sometimes altered, sometimes not. The expansion of Soviet and American influence over Europe at the end of World War II had something of the effect of such a glacier. It froze things in place, thereby obscuring old rivalries and bringing peace—even if a "cold" peace—to a continent that had known little of it throughout its history.

But now that the Cold War is over, geopolitical glaciers are retreating, the situation is becoming fluid once again, and certain familiar features of the European landscape—a single strong German state, together with ethnic and religious antagonisms among Germany's neighbors to the east—are once more coming into view. The critical question for the future stability of Europe is the extent to which the Cold War glacier permanently altered the terrain it covered for so long. Integrationist structures like the EC and NATO suggest such alteration; but they could also have been artifacts of the glaciation itself. If so, these organizations will become increasingly vulnerable as the forces of fragmentation revive.

No economic or security structure for Europe can hope to be viable over the long term unless it incorporates and benefits all of the major states on that continent: the classic lesson is the Versailles Treaty of 1919, which sought to build a peace that treated Germany as a pariah and excluded Soviet Russia altogether. But neither the EC nor NATO has given sufficient attention to how each might restructure itself to accommodate the interests of the former Warsaw Pact states, including whatever is left of the Soviet Union. Few efforts have been made to think through how these integrative organizations might expand the scope of their activities to counter the fragmentationist challenges—coming from the reunification of Germany, the liberation of Eastern Europe and the possible collapse of the U.S.S.R.—that are already evident.[8]

The United States has used its influence, over the years, to favor integration over fragmentation in Europe; indeed without that influence, it is difficult to see how integration could have proceeded as far as it has. But Americans cannot expect to maintain the authority the Cold War gave them on the continent for very much longer, especially now that the Soviet "glacier" is so obviously retreating. We would do well, then, to consider what new or modified integrative structures might replace the role that the United States—and, by very different means, its former adversaries—played in "freezing" disintegrative forces in Europe during the Cold War. Otherwise, serious imbalances could develop in that part of the world as well.

Deterring aggression.

One thing the Cold War did was to make the use of force by the great powers against one another virtually unthinkable. It created inducements that caused states to seek to resolve peacefully—or even to learn to live with—accumulated grievances that could easily, prior to 1945, have provoked major wars. It did this by appealing more to fear than to logic, but patterns of behavior that arise out of fear can, in time, come to seem quite logical. Few today would question the desirability of perpetuating, and if necessary reinforcing, the inhibitions that arose, during the postwar decades, against once violent patterns of great power behavior.

The unprecedented multinational response to Saddam Hussein's aggression against Kuwait suggests that an opportunity now exists to extend disincentives to war beyond the realm of the great powers. The need to do this is urgent because the end of the Cold War is likely to end the informal crisis-management regime the United States and the Soviet Union have relied upon in the past to keep such regional conflicts limited.

Woodrow Wilson's vision of collective international action to deter aggression failed to materialize after 1919 because of European appeasement and American isolationism, and after 1945 because of the great power rivalries that produced the Cold War. None of these difficulties exist today. The world has a third chance to give Wilson's plan the fair test it has never received, and fate has even provided an appropriate occasion: successful U.N. action to restore Kuwaiti independence sets a powerful example that could advance us some distance toward bringing the conduct of international relations within the framework of international law that has long existed alongside it, but too often apart from it.[9]

Can such a legalistic vision sustain the realistic security interests of the United States? Whether rightly or wrongly, the answer was negative after World Wars I and II; but Americans have reasons, this time, for giving a more positive reply. The "long peace" that was the Cold War has already created in the practice of the great powers mechanisms for deterring aggression that have worked remarkably well: these did not exist prior to 1945. There could be real advantages now in codifying and extending this behavior as widely as possible. The evolution of a new world order designed to deter aggression could ensure that the most important benefits of the "long peace" survive the demise of the Cold War. It could also counteract the dangerous conviction, which American leaders still at times appear to hold, that only the United States has the will and the capacity to take the lead in policing (or nannying) the world.

Finding appropriate limits of interdependence.

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait raises another issue, though, that will involve more difficult choices: it has to do with just how far we want economic integration to proceed. The purpose of having global markets is to ensure prosperity, not to compromise national sovereignty. And yet, it was the international market in oil and armaments that made it possible for Saddam Hussein to violate Kuwaiti sovereignty. Economic integration, in this instance, produced literal political fragmentation. This unexpected and dangerous juxtaposition suggests strongly the need to think, more seriously than we have to this point, about how the economic and political forces that are shaping our world intersect with one another, and about where our own security interests with respect to these lie.

Certainly there is much to be said, from a strictly economic perspective, in favor of reducing barriers to trade, investment and even labor flows across international boundaries if the result is to maximize production, minimize prices and ensure that consumer needs are satisfied. But what if the result is also to allow despots easy access to sophisticated military technology, or to increase the West's reliance on energy resources it does not control? Do market principles require that we welcome on a continuing basis the dispatch of troops to safeguard critical supplies halfway around the world? There are political costs to be paid for economic integration, and we are only now beginning to realize what they are.

These issues are only part of the much larger problem of how one balances the advantages of economic integration against its political and social disadvantages. Are Americans really sure, for example, that they want to integrate their own economy into the world market if the result of doing that is to shut down industries they have historically relied upon for both jobs and national defense? When the effects of integration are to transform once-diversified industrial complexes into strings of fast-food outlets and shopping malls, with the reduction in wages that kind of employment normally brings, one can hardly expect people to be out in the streets cheering for them, however ingenious the rationalizations of our professional economists.

Increasing labor mobility, together with the liberalized immigration policies that facilitate it, provides yet another example of how economic integration could produce political fragmentation. There are undeniable advantages in allowing immigration, not just because it provides cheap labor but also because in some instances the host nation can gain a diverse array of sophisticated skills as a result. But immigration also risks altering national identity, and the forces of integration have by no means advanced to the point at which one can dismiss concerns over that issue as anachronistic.[10] As a nation of immigrants, the United States handles problems of cultural assimilation more easily than most nations. Still, they are real problems, and they exist on a world-wide scale. Attempts to write them off as reflections of an antiquated "nationalism," or even "racism," are not likely to make them go away.

What all of this suggests, therefore, is that we need better mechanisms for balancing the processes of integration and fragmentation at those points at which economic forces intersect those of politics and culture. The increasing permeability of boundaries is going to be an important characteristic of the post-Cold War world, and it would be a great mistake to assume—as market principles encourage us to assume—that in such an environment an "invisible hand" will always produce the greatest benefits for the greatest number. As in most other areas, an equilibrium will be necessary: if imbalances of power are not to develop, then a certain amount of protectionism, within prudent limits, may be required.

Regaining solvency.

The principle of balancing power also requires that ends be balanced against means. National security, even in the most auspicious of circumstances, does not come cheap. This country's reluctance to bring the costs of providing for its security into line with what it is willing to pay suggests that integrative and disintegrative mechanisms are imperfectly balanced within the United States as well as beyond its borders.

The last American president to preoccupy himself with solvency, Dwight D. Eisenhower, regularly insisted that the National Security Council specify as "the basic objective of our national security policies: maintaining the security of the United States and the vitality of its fundamental values and institutions." To achieve the former without securing the latter, he warned, would be to "destroy what we are attempting to defend."[11]

Too often during the years that have followed Eisenhower's presidency the quest for security has overwhelmed concern for the vitality of fundamental values and institutions. The Vietnam War, which came close to tearing this country apart, was fought for geopolitical reasons that remain obscure to this day. The Watergate and Iran-contra scandals revealed how excesses committed in the name of national security can subvert constitutional processes. And no one would be more appalled than Eisenhower himself to see the extent to which Americans now finance the costs of defense—as well as everything else—on credit extended by the unborn (who cannot object to the process) and by foreigners (who someday may).

A return to solvency in its broadest sense—by which I mean not just balanced budgets but bearing the full pain of what one is doing at the time one is doing it—might discipline our conception of the national interest in the way that it should be disciplined: through the constantly annoying, but also intellectually bracing, demands of stringency. The result might well be less grandiose visions, but more sustainable policies.


Which is going to win—integration or fragmentation? At first glance,it would seem that the forces of integration will almost certainly prevail. One cannot run a modern postindustrial economy without such forces, and that, many people would say, is the most important thing in the world. But that is also a parochial view. Running a postindustrial economy may not be the most important thing to the peasant in the Sudan, or to the young urban black in the United States or to the Palestinian who has spent his entire life in a refugee camp. For those people, forces that might appear to us to be fragmentationist can be profoundly integrationist, in that they give meaning to otherwise meaningless lives.

We should also recognize that the forces of integration may not be as deeply rooted as we like to think. It comes as something of a shock when one realizes that the most important of them—the global market, collective security, the "long peace" itself—were products of the Cold War. Their survival is by no means guaranteed into the post-Cold War era. Fragmentationist forces have been around much longer than integrationist forces, and now that the Cold War is over, they may grow stronger than at any point in the last half century.

We should not necessarily conclude from this, though, that it will always be in our interest to try to ensure that the forces of integration come out on top. Surely, in light of the Persian Gulf War, the international community will want to restrict future sales of arms across boundaries, and it would not be a bad idea to develop alternatives to dependency on Middle East oil as well. The increasing permeability of borders—the very thing most of the world welcomes when it comes to the free flow of ideas—will by no means be as welcome when commodities, capital and labor begin flowing with equal freedom. And Americans are already beginning to move away from the view that they can leave everything—international trade, energy resources and especially the regulation of the savings and loan industry—to the "invisible hand" of market forces that the integrationist model in principle recommends.

But swinging toward autarchy, nationalism or isolationism will not do either. The forces of fragmentation lurk just beneath the surface, and it would take little encouragement for them to reassert themselves, with all the dangers historical experience suggests would accompany such a development. We need to maintain a healthy skepticism about integration: there is no reason to turn it into some kind of sacred cow. But we also need to balance that skepticism with a keen sense of how unhealthy fragmentationist forces can be if allowed free rein.

So we are left, as usual, groping for the middle ground, for that rejection of extremes, that judicious balancing of pluses and minuses, that is typical of how articles like this are supposed to end. This one will be no exception to that rule. I would point out, though, that practical statecraft boils down, most of the time, to just this task of attempting to navigate the middle course, while avoiding the rocks and shoals that lie on either side. Certainly Americans, of all peoples, should find this a familiar procedure, for what is our own Constitution if not the most elegant political text ever composed on how to balance the forces of integration against those of fragmentation? It had been necessary, Madison wrote in The Federalist, no. 51, so to contrive "the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places."[12] That would not be a bad design to follow with regard to the external world as all of us think about how we might come to grips—as the Founding Fathers had to—with the centripetal and centrifugal forces that are already shaping our lives.

[1] See Theodore S. Hamerow, From the Finland Station: The Graying of Revolution in the Twentieth Century, New York: Basic Books, 1990, pp. 210-25, 300-9.

[2] Michael Doyle, "Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs," Philosophy and Public Affairs, Summer/Fall 1983, pp. 205-35, 323-35; also Doyle, "Liberalism and World Politics," American Political Science Review, December 1986, pp. 1151-69.

[3] See "Race on Campus," The New Republic, Feb. 18, 1991; also Dinesh D'Souza, "Illiberal Education," The Atlantic, March 1991, pp. 51-79.

[4] William F. Buckley, Jr., Gratitude: Reflections On What We Owe To Our Country, New York: Random House, 1990.

[5] An extreme, but prominent, example of such celebration is Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History?" The National Interest, Summer 1989, pp. 3-18.

[6] The depressing possibilities are well summarized in George F. Kennan, "Communism in Russian History," Foreign Affairs, Winter 1990/91, pp. 182-84.

[7] James Chace has suggested, persuasively in my view, that this attitude goes back to Lyndon Johnson's attempt to fight the Vietnam War without asking for sacrifices on the home front. See his Solvency: The Price of Survival, New York: Random House, 1981, p. 15.

[8] The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, now little more than a framework for negotiations, suffers from a deficiency opposite to that of NATO and the European Community: with the single exception of Albania, it includes all of the states of Europe, from the largest to the most microscopic, and it requires unanimity in order to act, which in most cases ensures that it will not.

[9] For an eloquent discussion of the advantages adherence to international law can offer, see Daniel Patrick Moynihan, On the Law of Nations, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990.

[10] William H. McNeill sets this problem within a long-term historical context in "Winds of Change," in Nicholas X. Rizopoulos, ed., Sea Changes: American Foreign Policy in a World Transformed, New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1990, pp. 184-87.

[11] John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy, New York: Oxford University Press, 1982, pp. 135-36.

[12] The Federalist Papers, New York: New American Library, 1961, p. 320.

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  • JOHN LEWIS GADDIS is Distinguished Professor of History and Director of the Contemporary History Institute at Ohio University. This article is adapted from a longer essay in the forthcoming book, American Defense Annual: 1991-1992.
  • More By John Lewis Gaddis