The Downside of Imperial Collapse
When Empires or Great Powers Fall, Chaos and War Rise
The world has turned upside down, but U.S. foreign policy has been slow to change. We have failed to develop a coherent strategy for the future—a successor to containment. A Republican sits in the White House, but Democrats also bear responsibility for foreign policy inertia. Democrats have ceded the field of foreign affairs to the president, let him set the agenda and not challenged him often enough on the specifics of policy. The result has been drift.
It is now up to Democrats to articulate a more compelling American foreign policy. Democrats have the opportunity to redefine the concept of national security and to strike a better balance between domestic and foreign affairs, and between leadership and partnership. The issues are no longer communist expansion and nuclear survival, but economic competitiveness, weapons proliferation, support for democracy, protection of the environment and the fight against human misery. The task is one of redefining America’s role in the world.
America is the preeminent power today. Its economy is still the world’s most productive. Militarily it is the world’s only superpower. Countries and peoples around the world still admire its democratic political system and free-market economy.
Nevertheless, while we find reasons to celebrate our foreign policy successes, we find ourselves threatened at home: by recession, crises in our cities, in our education and health care systems, persistent budget and trade deficits, and a growing sense of political paralysis.
Domestic problems have made the American public ambivalent about the U.S. role in the world. Americans are proud of their country’s international leadership, but they worry about its burdens. They want to see greater contributions from our allies. They are convinced that we could better solve domestic problems if we scaled back commitments overseas. Public opposition to foreign assistance is strong. Calls for deep cuts in defense spending are growing. Yet, when asked, Americans say they do not want the United States to relinquish its special place in the world.
How can these views be reconciled? My sense is that the American people intuitively understand what the present administration does not: the link between domestic well-being and America’s role in the world. Americans recognize that the fundamental purpose of our foreign policy is to promote conditions abroad that protect and improve the quality of life at home. In turn they understand that our ability to solve problems abroad depends on our domestic vitality.
Many Americans sense that President Bush has had his priorities wrong. The first claim on his time, energy and skill has been foreign affairs. He has neglected the economy and domestic policy. Americans are hard-pressed to identify the president, now in his fourth year of office, with any successful domestic or economic initiative. He has failed to understand the linkage between the economy and American leadership.
What we are hearing from Americans today is first and foremost a demand to address problems at home. They are not calling on the United States to bring home all its troops or sever diplomatic and economic ties with the world. Rather, their plea—and the plea of Democrats—is for a better balance.
Disengagement is not possible in a world of instantaneous communication and economic interdependence. Neither isolation nor withdrawal is an option for the United States. If we forget about the world and focus only on our domestic problems, they would grow worse. The question is not whether we should participate in world affairs, but how.
The president so far has failed to instill a new sense of mission in American foreign policy. He maneuvered well in the waning days of the Cold War, but he is now without a new organizing principle. The administration’s main effort to put together a blueprint for the post-Cold War era has come from the Pentagon, which argues for a one-superpower world. The president has yet to state his position on the Pentagon proposal. He has not articulated an answer to the real foreign policy question: What are the new threats to U.S. interests, and how should our foreign policy be reconfigured to defend those interests-
Our interests may be permanent, but the threats to them have changed. The demise of communism means we need to focus on new challenges and priorities. We must continue to be prepared to defend our vital economic and security interests—in Europe, east Asia, the Persian Gulf and areas directly adjacent to our borders. Now that the Soviet threat has vanished the dominant security threat comes from the breakup of states and the proliferation of deadly weapons and technologies. The United States needs a more effective policy in the 1990s to deal with both regional instability and aggression, as well as renegade states and groups that seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
The draft Pentagon planning paper leaked to the press in February is dead wrong in promoting the notion of a sole superpower dominating the rest of the world. The key to U.S. security is sustaining the democratic alliances that have been shaped over the last half century. We cannot build a new world order if our allies believe our foreign policy is designed to turn back any power that challenges our leadership. We will need to remain the world’s strongest military power, but there is no contradiction between collective security and military preeminence—as the Gulf War illustrated.
Economic power is the new determinant of international stature. The restoration of U.S. competitiveness is critical not only to our domestic economy but to our foreign policy as well. Our economic problems are limiting the reach of our foreign policy at a time when the rest of the world is looking to the United States for leadership.
We need domestic policies that restore the foundation for U.S. competitiveness and economic growth—more private and public investment, better education, job training and health care—and a foreign policy that promotes open markets for U.S. goods and services. American voters have consistently rejected protectionist trade policies, but they insist on a level playing field.
We have a golden opportunity to foster the spread of democracy and free markets. But President Bush has been too selective in his application of democratic principles, forgetting them when it comes to China or the Middle East. He has been too focused on stability instead of the pursuit of freedom, self-determination and justice. There is no conflict between these values: promoting democracy builds long-term security. We should provide concrete political and economic advice and across-the-board assistance to struggling democracies. We need to keep American values where they belong—at the heart of our foreign policy.
Finally, we must address issues that pose a direct threat to our prosperity and quality of life. The president speaks expansively about the role of the United States in the world, but he has defined that role too narrowly. We are deeply involved in issues such as aggression in the gulf, but great problems such as the environment, energy use, population growth, hunger and health have been neglected. We also need to pay greater attention to the growing gap between rich and poor. Democracy cannot flourish in human misery. Economic growth in the world’s poorest countries will have a direct, beneficial impact on our long-term national security. The end of the Cold War gives us an opportunity to focus on these neglected and vexing problems.
The new challenges to U.S. interests will require two adjustments in U.S. foreign policy. First, we need to achieve a better balance between leadership and partnership in our foreign policy. American leadership is necessary but no longer sufficient to solve many international problems. We are first among democratic equals and must recognize the limitations of unilateral action. Addressing new threats to peace and prosperity—nationalist conflict, arms proliferation, the consolidation of democracy and free markets, and environmental, health and population problems—will require unprecedented levels of international cooperation.
Second, we need a better balance between our domestic and foreign policies. The former affects the latter. If we do not provide Americans with quality education, health care and jobs, we will soon find that we lack the human and material resources required to fulfill our still necessary role as world leader. If we wish to lead abroad tomorrow, we must focus on our domestic problems today.
U.S. economic performance is troubling. Economics can no longer take second place to national security in setting U.S. government policy. Under President Bush, U.S. gross domestic product has grown less than one percent annually. This is the worst economic performance under any president since Herbert Hoover. During the 1950s and 1960s America’s economic growth was vigorous—averaging 3.9 percent in the 1950s and 4.1 percent in the 1960s. Growth slowed in the 1970s to 2.8 percent, and slowed further in the 1980s to 2.6 percent. In the 1990s growth all but stopped.
Due to sustained high rates of productivity growth, Japan and the European Community are rapidly closing the economic gap with the United States. Some experts predict that one or both will replace the United States as the world’s leading economy. Both Japan and Europe have high savings rates and are making the investments in people and infrastructure that will help them ensure sustained improvements in living standards in the 1990s and beyond. Their foreign economic policies are just as effective. By 1993 the EC will be the world’s largest trading bloc. Japan is weaving a web of trade and investment ties throughout the Pacific Rim, the world’s most dynamic economic region. These ties will strengthen its economic position for years to come.
Economic weakness undermines the ability of the United States to achieve its foreign policy goals:
—We supplied the bulk of the military forces in the Persian Gulf, but the war was financed by payments of $54 billion from friends and allies. There is no guarantee that these partners will be so generous in future crises. When we rely on others to finance our foreign policy, we put it at risk.
—Sophisticated electronic components in weapons that performed so well during the Gulf War were manufactured abroad. A failure to maintain competitive high-technology industries will erode future U.S. military strength.
—U.S. inaction on the International Monetary Fund quota increase undercuts the ability of the IMF to support market economic reforms in eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics.
—Persistent arrears in our share of financing the United Nations harms the ability of that organization to carry out vital peacekeeping missions.
Strong and balanced economic growth would make it easier for Americans to deal with both domestic and international problems. In the 1950s and 1960s the United States was the engine of growth for the world economy and a force for promoting both democracy and more open international markets. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl boasts that the 1990s will be the "Decade of Europe," and it is commonplace now for Japanese politicians to speak of U.S. economic decline. If we do not deal with our domestic economic problems, they will be right.
Americans understand that an economy that performs below its potential will, over the long run, fail to provide quality jobs and high living standards. As a result, worries about foreign economic competition are growing. The lack of an effective strategy to improve the performance of the economy is stimulating protectionist sentiment.
No foreign competitor provokes greater concern than Japan. To be sure, Japanese policies and business practices have limited our business opportunities and hurt some U.S. industries. Many of these policies and practices are unfair, and other nations share our concern about them. International pressure remains necessary to end these practices and further open Japan’s lucrative domestic market. Indeed, exports have been a major source of U.S. economic growth in recent years, which underscores the value of an aggressive trade strategy.
Yet our bilateral trade deficit with Japan was about $44 billion in 1991, less than one percent of our total output of $5.7 trillion. We exported $591 billion of this output, just over ten percent. These figures suggest that it would be a mistake to overstate the adverse impact of foreign trade restrictions on our economy, or the favorable impact of loosening those restrictions. Our current recession and competitiveness problems were not made in Japan or anywhere else. Primary responsibility for our economic problems—and for their solutions—rests with the policies of the U.S. government and the performance of U.S. firms. Scapegoating Japan or other countries is counterproductive: it increases trade tensions and diverts precious attention from the domestic sources of our economic problems.
Japan’s economic challenge is, at root, a domestic challenge. It requires a strong domestic response. Too much of our national output is devoted to consumption and too little to investment, both public and private. To boost productivity, we need more saving and more investment—in better educated and healthier workers, in improved plant and equipment, and in science and technology. Government policies should encourage lifelong opportunities for education, job training and retraining to provide for a highly skilled work force. Without compromising free-market principles we can strengthen existing mechanisms for cooperation among universities, laboratories, industry and government.
Our economic performance would also be improved by a more aggressive response to foreign competition. With additional staff and resources U.S. embassies could do a far better job of promoting U.S. business abroad. Government and industry need to work more closely to identify and cultivate potentially significant technologies. U.S. trade negotiators should be given additional clout, which they need to pry open closed markets. We should insist on reciprocal treatment for U.S. exports.
The president needs to educate Americans about the nature of our international economic predicament. He should describe the extent of U.S.-Japan economic interdependence and the costs of a rupture in the relationship. He should try to persuade Americans that many foreign economic policies and practices, while different from ours, are not necessarily wrong or unfair. We could usefully adopt some of these policies and practices, and the president should help us identify them. Finally, the president needs to explain the structural features of the American and Japanese economies that will make it difficult in the near term to balance our bilateral trade.
The condition of American society also influences our role in the world. The example of America as a successful society has been a traditional source of U.S. influence abroad. Over the past two centuries many countries have tried to emulate our democracy, economy and society. But persistent poverty, the world’s highest levels of violent crime and drug abuse, resurgent racial tensions and other problems suggest that the quality of American life today leaves much to be desired. The riots in Los Angeles have tarnished America’s image. The president speaks of domestic problems, but the record of his administration in solving them is unimpressive. The deterioration of American society handicaps our ability to lead by example.
The president has a unique ability to focus public attention and to set the nation’s priorities. Throughout the Cold War fighting communism invariably prevailed over domestic needs. Now this president—or the next—must shift the balance back to the home front if America is to rebuild its strength and continue to play an important role in the world.
The choice before the United States is not whether it should repudiate international commitments and responsibilities. It is, again, a question of balance: between domestic and international priorities, and between U.S. leadership and partnership.
U.S. participation is still necessary to solve international problems. Yet the United States alone is no longer sufficient to get things done. Achieving our foreign policy objectives will require new forms of leadership and cooperation. This becomes clear when we look at several of the key challenges on the international agenda.
The United States should retain the capability to assure its security, but not every threat to international peace or stability will require a U.S. military response. The United States cannot, and should not, act as a global policeman or mercenary. But it is in our interest to take the lead in organizing collective responses to threats to peace.
When possible, Washington should try to respond to threats to collective security through the United Nations. If that body is recalcitrant or unable to respond, then we should try to build a coalition outside it. We should act alone only if we cannot find friends and partners with whom to work.
The Gulf War is both instructive and deceptive as an example for the future international security role of the United States. It is instructive in that only the United States had the ability to assemble an international coalition to oppose, and then reverse, Iraqi aggression. It is deceptive in that few threats to the peace will be so clear-cut and will so galvanize the United States and the international community as a direct military threat to the world’s supply of oil.
Future threats to security are likely to be more complex and ambiguous: the messy breakup of states (the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union), internal conflict (Somalia) or massive violations of human rights (Iraq). Internal upheavals threaten to spill across borders and directly challenge international peace and stability.
When states break up, the United States and the United Nations should not work on behalf of the political status quo, but on behalf of democracy, human freedom and the peaceful resolution of disputes. The use of force for domestic repression, or to change boundaries in former multiethnic states, must be condemned by the international community. Washington should be in the forefront of efforts to involve the United Nations, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe or other regional organizations to keep the peace. The question for the future is whether and when the international community should intervene in circumstances where internal policies or human rights violations threaten international peace and stability.
The enduring lesson from the Gulf War should not be the military campaign, but the unprecedented cooperation that occurred within the Security Council. At last the United Nations is beginning to fulfill the security mission its founders intended. In Afghanistan, Namibia, Central America and Cambodia it has played a central role in ending East-West confrontation and brokering regional peace settlements. The United States should strongly support efforts to expand the U.N. peacekeeping role. The president’s statements on funding the United Nations are positive, but his leadership is weak. He has not fought for his two-year, $700 million peacekeeping funding request and has not produced the congressional votes from his own party. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has not been much better, and peacekeeping contributions this year are likely to fall short.
In order to assist peacekeeping activities, the United States and other permanent members could share intelligence with the U.N. secretariat. Peacekeeping efforts would benefit as well from increased financial and personnel contributions by Japan and Germany. The contribution of helicopters and aircraft by Germany to the work of the U.N. inspectors in Iraq is an important first step that should be replicated elsewhere.
Arms control is also an area where U.S. leadership is necessary to promote international peace and stability.
The greatest security danger of the 1990s is weapons proliferation. The first step is to gain control over "loose nukes" in the former Soviet republics. Second, the United States, Russia and Ukraine should cut strategic nuclear forces to levels far below those agreed in the START treaty. What we do not need are Pentagon experts trying to find new targets and adversaries for existing nuclear weapons.
Washington should also move far more aggressively to use the $400 million appropriated by Congress for the disabling and dismantling of nuclear and chemical weapons in the former Soviet Union. Congress took this step five months ago, without any help from the president. The administration has yet to spend these funds. We should act now, while we have influence with Russia and the new republics. Delay increases the chances that these weapons will be used by renegade states or terrorists or in interrepublic disputes.
Washington should also revive efforts begun by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy to negotiate a comprehensive test ban treaty. Stopping nuclear testing is central to our efforts to counter nuclear proliferation and is a solemn obligation undertaken by the nuclear signatories to the Nonproliferation Treaty. We must ask ourselves whether we have anything to gain from continued testing, in contrast to the powerful political example of stopping nuclear tests. If we want to stop others from acquiring nuclear weapons, we must uphold our part of the bargain.
We need to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency. We should support the IAEA’s right to unlimited inspection without advance notice when violations of the Nonproliferation Treaty are suspected. We should also push for an international agreement that requires full-scope safeguards on all nuclear facilities within a country before that country may obtain nuclear technology from any source.
America also needs to strengthen its intelligence capabilities to detect covert weapons programs. We and our allies should make sure the IAEA has early warning of suspect activities. Concerted international pressure will be needed to contain nuclear programs in countries that remain outside the non-proliferation and safeguards regime (North Korea, India, Pakistan and Israel) and those whose adherence to its requirements is suspect (Libya, Iraq and Iran).
The spread of nuclear weapons and technology, unfortunately, is only one part of the proliferation problem. Western suppliers provided Iraq with the bulk of the components and critical technology not only for its nuclear program but for its chemical, biological and ballistic missile programs. The United States must work to develop an effective international policy for controlling the export and reexport of all sensitive technologies and materials related to weapons of mass destruction. We need to tighten restrictions on these exports through the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Australia Chemical Weapons Suppliers Group.
The proliferation of conventional weapons is also a threat to peace and stability. The five permanent members of the Security Council are the world’s five largest arms sellers. They account for 80 percent of all weapons sales to the Third World. If we are to curb conventional weapons transfers, the suppliers must act—and the United States, the biggest exporter, should lead.
The United States is missing a unique opportunity to encourage arms restraint where the problem is the greatest—the Middle East. With less than three percent of the world’s population the Middle East accounted for 45 percent of Third World arms purchases in the 1980s, and $150 billion in sales by the "big five" arms suppliers.
The president’s May 1991 decision to convene a conference of major Middle East arms suppliers is only a small step in the right direction. It is doubtful whether the U.S. proposal for prior notification and consultation on arms sales will restrain the arms trade. In fact the major thrust of U.S. policy is precisely in the wrong direction. Since September 1990 the United States has gone ahead with over $22 billion in government-to-government military sales to Middle Eastern states and issued licenses for up to another $6 billion in commercial sales. Other arms sellers are complaining that aggressive U.S. marketing is closing them out of Middle East markets. We will not foster arms restraint by leading the way with arms sales.
The United States should challenge other suppliers to join in a multilateral moratorium on Middle East arms sales. During such a moratorium Washington and other weapons suppliers should adopt tough, permanent limits on the quantity and quality of arms transfers to the Middle East. Without American leadership on arms restraint, arms suppliers and recipients will continue to conduct business as usual in the Middle East arms bazaar. That will set the stage for future Middle East wars.
The dramatic events in the former Soviet Union last year, in eastern Europe three years ago and in Latin America over the past decade show that the values of political and economic freedom are ascendant. The key policy question for the United States and other nations is how to help consolidate democracy and free-market economic reforms.
With respect to eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics, the United States is an important player, but by no means the only one. To date, Europe has provided most of the economic assistance. Nonetheless the United States has an indispensable leadership role to play, and the president has been timid and slow. In eastern Europe, Congress pushed the president to act. With respect to Russia, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton pressed the president and made the case for assistance. The purpose of such assistance is to ease the pain of transition, to buy time for democratic and economic reform.
Successful reform in eastern Europe and in the former Soviet republics would make an enormous contribution to U.S. security. It would reduce U.S. defense expenditures, the nuclear threat, arms exports and the risk of environmental disaster. It would give the United States access to vast natural resources through peaceful commerce. It would redirect human talent to peaceful pursuits, open new markets for U.S. exports and promote world economic growth.
The president has now renewed his call for funding an IMF capital quota increase and has expressed his support for a currency stabilization fund for Russia tied to implementation of an IMF reform program. The United States along with the other Group of Seven leading industrial nations are now planning to provide $18 billion in balance-of-payments support and $6 billion for a stabilization fund to assist Russia’s reform program. The proposal is a good one. But it is unclear how Washington will be able to play a leadership role on aid to Russia when, as the president says in this election year, such assistance can be provided with no new appropriations.
America and the EC must open their markets and give these new democracies an opportunity to export and grow. A successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade would be a big boost for reformers in eastern Europe and Latin America. A GATT agreement that cuts deeply into agricultural subsidies, starts to dismantle the EC’s Common Agricultural Policy and opens up the world market for farm produce would go a long way toward getting these economies back on their feet. Poland, Romania and Ukraine were once the breadbasket of Europe, and they can become so once again. What is required of these nations are reforms of their own, matched by an opening of world markets, especially the EC market. What is best for eastern Europe, former Soviet republics and Latin America is what is best for the GATT membership as a whole: an open, liberal economic order. The talks have been dragging on for seven years, and the president must press for their successful conclusion.
Trade liberalization will also enhance the prospects for successful reform in Latin America, to the benefit of the United States. Open and growing economies in this hemisphere would provide exceptional opportunities for U.S. trade and investment. Sound, market-based economies will help reduce corruption and maintain political stability, which would reinforce U.S. security. The United States and other countries can make the reforms more tolerable and reinforce democracy by providing larger markets for Latin American exports and by further reducing debt burdens.
President Bush’s 1990 Enterprise for the Americas Initiative was welcomed in Latin America as a sign of renewed interest in the region’s economic future. The initiative, which has yet to be fully implemented, contains trade, debt and investment components. The debt component addresses only government-to-government debt, and more needs to be done to encourage reductions in commercial debt payments. The administration has also completed preliminary agreements providing for free-trade negotiations with most countries in Latin America, but all free-trade talks are on hold until the completion of negotiations on the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement among Mexico, Canada and the United States.
The NAFTA talks could provide a model for free-trade accords with other Latin American countries or the foundation for a hemispheric free-trade area. Freer trade would boost growth in countries that engage in it, but congressional concerns about specific economic and environmental consequences of free trade with Mexico will make final approval of a NAFTA agreement difficult. Much is riding on the success of the NAFTA talks, which increases pressure on the administration to produce an agreement Congress can support.
Elsewhere the United States has been too selective in encouraging democracy. We need a more balanced approach.
We have pressed for democratic change in former communist countries, but those countries seen to have strategic importance—including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, China, Indonesia and Turkey—have escaped strong pressure on democracy and human rights. We have not even called for democratic change in Iraq; U.S. sanctions are tied only to Saddam Hussein’s ouster.
Moreover our foreign policy has focused too much on governments, instead of on the consequences of our policies for people. We should not permit short-term considerations of order and stability to override long-term interests in expanding freedom, democracy and basic human rights. For example the Algerian army intervened to prevent an Islamic party from winning recent elections. Because the Bush administration had misgivings about the party, it did not speak out in favor of the democratic process. The United States thereby supported the army’s moves to undercut democratic rule.
Democracy promotes, rather than undermines, long-term stability. Democratic governments are more peaceful than authoritarian ones. They make better allies and more reliable partners in international affairs. The denial of basic political rights often leads to violent upheaval. When we promote respect for human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law, we build a better foundation for long-term security and prosperity.
No country can make another democratic, but democracy can be cultivated where the desire for it exists. Established democracies such as the United States can help in this effort. Conversely, we should reduce—if not eliminate—assistance to governments that oppose democratic change or suppress human rights.
Countries in need of democratic assistance fall into three broad categories: those still under authoritarian rule, those in transition to democracy and those with new democratic governments.
In countries still under authoritarian rule, such as China and Cuba, we should try to sustain and strengthen democratic forces. Our policies should seek to increase the likelihood of a leadership succession that produces a more democratic government. We should increase personal and professional exchanges, step up radio news broadcasts and help democratic activists—openly if possible, secretly if necessary.
Countries making the transition to democracy need several kinds of assistance. Initially they may need help monitoring internal settlements and organizing elections. They often need help providing basic services—food, health care, law and order—until elected leaders are in place. Multinational efforts are necessary. Wealthy Asian nations such as Japan should provide the major share of funding for the U.N.-sponsored transition in Cambodia. As civil wars in El Salvador, Mozambique, Angola and Liberia wind down, these countries will also need help. Too often assistance has been ad hoc, uncoordinated and inadequately funded. The United Nations, the United States, Europe and Japan should sort out and share responsibilities.
One important area is in public administration. The United States can provide excellent assistance to new officials with no experience in democratic governance. In eastern Europe, U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations are advising parliaments and municipal and regional governments. These programs should be expanded elsewhere. Expatriate communities in the United States and other countries are another source of valuable assistance to new governments.
International environmental problems demand complex multilateral negotiations and a willingness to make short-term sacrifices. Both require active U.S. leadership. In recent years the United States has too often served as an obstacle to, rather than a catalyst for, effective international action. Scientific research and citizen action have expanded the international environmental agenda:
Global warming. The production of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases," primarily through the burning of fossil fuels, is causing world temperatures to rise. This warming trend could swamp coastal areas, destroy fragile ecosystems and harm agriculture.
The ozone layer. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chemicals used as coolants and in industrial processes, are depleting the stratospheric ozone layer that shields the earth from ultraviolet radiation. Increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation could increase skin cancer, damage eyesight, degrade human immune systems and disrupt food production.
Deforestation. The clearing of forests for timber, pasture and dwellings is causing soil erosion and destroying plants that soak up carbon dioxide. The burning of tropical forests also accounts for 25 percent of world carbon dioxide production.
Biological diversity. Human activity is destroying thousands of plant and animal species annually. One-fourth of current species could be extinct by 2020. The loss of plant species will harm crops and deprive the world of future medicinal advances.
International action on the environment is likely to succeed when the United States strongly backs it, and founder when we oppose it or sit on the sidelines. Active U.S. diplomacy was pivotal to the completion of the 1987 Montreal Protocol and subsequent agreements setting targets for reduced emissions of CFCs. In contrast, U.S. opposition prevented agreement last year on a permanent moratorium on mining in the Antarctic. The U.S. leadership deficit has been most glaring, and potentially most costly, in preparations for the June 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Brazil.
Preparations for the UNCED in Rio de Janeiro highlight the growing rift between the world’s industrialized and developing nations on the costs of environmental cleanup. Many developing countries say industrialized countries must provide financial aid and advanced technologies if they are to implement UNCED commitments. Aid pledges by industrialized nations for environmental cleanup are far short of what developing countries say is needed.
U.S. intransigence has weakened what was intended to be the UNCED summit’s most important achievement: the treaty on global warming. For several years Washington’s resistance to formal targets on reducing carbon dioxide emissions has slowed efforts to negotiate a climate treaty. Officials defended U.S. policy by citing conflicting scientific data and the cost of limiting emissions. Yet on this the administration is isolated. Every major industrial country except the United States has now pledged to limit emissions of carbon dioxide to 1990 levels by the year 2000.
Developing countries may not be persuaded to use alternative fuels or costly technologies if industrialized countries are unwilling to take tough steps to control their own greenhouse emissions. Some developing countries have also said they will withhold cooperation on forest protection efforts until the United States agrees to formal limits on carbon dioxide emissions. U.S. foot-dragging on carbon dioxide restrictions is thus impeding international action on global warming and deforestation.
The global warming issue underscores the linkage between domestic and foreign policy. Since Europe and Japan use energy more efficiently than we do, they find it easier to commit to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. Our lack of effective energy conservation policies not only increases U.S. energy dependency, it also undercuts our ability to lead on an environmental issue in which we have a substantial long-term interest.
U.S. policy on world population growth also has been disappointing. We have slighted international population issues and allowed domestic politics and ideological issues to stand in the way of consistent funding for key family planning organizations, including the U.N. Fund for Population Activities. This will have harmful consequences for the international environment and for our own long-term quality of life.
In sum the United States has failed to lead—through diplomacy or by example—on multilateral efforts to address new threats to the international quality of life. Policy prescriptions for the government are clear. We should commit ourselves to specific targets and timetables for reductions in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. We should work with other nations to devise promising approaches to the funding of environmental programs. We should seek to strengthen multilateral institutions that coordinate environmental research and programs. Funding for population programs should be increased and directed to organizations with demonstrated effectiveness. Funds for these initiatives should be drawn, in part, from money made available from defense spending cuts around the world.
The gulf crisis showed the president’s weaknesses, as well as strengths, in making foreign policy. His performance during the war was impressive. But his policies prior to the war failed, and his follow-through afterward has been disappointing.
The president did not focus on the problem of Iraq soon enough. Iraqi policy became increasingly bellicose in the late 1980s, and the United States did not react. Indeed, U.S. policy may have emboldened Saddam. Washington continued to share intelligence with Baghdad, allow the export of goods with potential military use and provide Iraq with export credit guarantees. Until August 2, 1990, it was official U.S. policy to pursue good relations with Iraq. War might have been avoided if Washington had made crystal clear that it would oppose with military force an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Yet only two days before the invasion U.S. officials stressed publicly that we had no commitment to defend Kuwait.
The president deserves credit for assembling an anti-Iraq coalition and for leading a military victory, but we now risk losing the peace. Saddam remained in power long after his defeat in war. Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions is minimal. Political reform in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia is unimpressive. Gulf states are failing to build new security structures. Arms sales to the region are escalating. President Bush and Secretary Baker have started direct Arab-Israeli peace talks—for which they deserve praise—but those talks lack momentum.
The Gulf War shows that the president often reacts well to crises. He also gets high marks for his deft handling of German unification. But he and his inner circle hold the policy reins too tightly. They seek little advice from the Foreign Service or the rest of the government. As a result they often do not see problems coming and, subsequently, do not pay enough attention to them once they are off center stage. Iraq is only one example; the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union did not draw attention from senior policymakers until it was too late. Issues no longer in the spotlight, such as Panama, suffer from inattention: drug trafficking in Panama remains endemic. The president’s preoccupation with crises means that long-term issues—the Uruguay Round, energy security, the environment, the implications of EC-1992 and the Maastricht summit—are neglected at the top.
The overcentralized, crisis-oriented approach has also meant the neglect of special relationships that need constant care and attention. Frictions with Israel—some minor, some not—have been allowed to fester. Also at risk are U.S.-Japan ties. No relationship is more important to either country, yet the president has done little to arrest deterioration.
President Bush has yet to reshape the institutions and programs that carry out U.S. foreign policy. They need an overhaul. The intelligence community is oriented to a world that no longer exists. Foreign aid reflects Cold War priorities and domestic political concerns. The defense budget does not correspond to current international threats.
If the U.S. intelligence community is to serve U.S. interests in the 1990s, it must be reformed. The intelligence community must focus on new challenges, including proliferation, economic and environmental issues. Better assessments will require improved information from human sources. Duplication of effort within and between military and intelligence agencies must end. The president has opposed a broad organizational overhaul of the intelligence community. He should tap more outside expertise to help with reform.
The foreign aid program’s guiding principle is inertia. The president has been unwilling either to lead, or to support with enthusiasm, efforts to reform foreign aid. In fiscal year 1992 we are spending over $7.4 billion—more than three-fifths of all bilateral foreign aid—on military and economic assistance to countries deemed to be of strategic importance. The top three recipients of aid—Israel, Egypt and Turkey—receive nearly half of all U.S. bilateral assistance. Developmental assistance totals $2.15 billion, or less than one-fifth of all bilateral aid.
A bias toward security assistance and a skewed distribution make the U.S. foreign aid program look increasingly irrelevant. New transnational population, health and environmental problems threaten long-term stability and prosperity, but the focus of U.S. foreign aid continues to be Cold War security concerns. The poorest nations, which need help most, are getting least.
U.S. defense programs have also lagged behind political change. The central rationale for a $300 billion defense budget—the defense of western Europe against a Soviet invasion—has vanished. Steep spending cuts beyond the 25 percent reduction outlined in the Pentagon’s five-year plan are possible and necessary. We may be able to cut defense spending by 50 percent over the next decade without harming U.S. security.
The Pentagon keeps searching for threats to justify its budget. A recent Pentagon document outlines seven war scenarios, including a Russian invasion of Lithuania that NATO would rush to reverse. It is hard to take such scenarios seriously when the White House has not bothered to coordinate them with either the State Department or the CIA. These are unconvincing exercises to justify the defense budget.
The United States also continues to bear a disproportionate share of common defense burdens. There is no longer any reason why the United States should devote a larger portion of its gross domestic product to defense spending than its wealthy European and Asian allies. These countries are capable of paying more for their own defense and supplying their own troops to replace U.S. forces.
Defense reform will require strong presidential leadership. It will require shutting down weapons production lines, closing military bases and cutting manpower. It will require worker-retraining and base-conversion programs. Budget cuts will impose pain in every state and congressional district. Only the president is in a position to rise above local interests to restructure the defense budget. But his approach has been to trim budgets, not to rethink manpower and weapons needs from the bottom up.
The Cold War is over, but the United States has been slow to react. We now have a unique opportunity to redefine the purposes of American power.
We need a better balance in the making of foreign policy. Policy under President Bush has been too reactive, centralized and personalized. We need less emphasis on crisis management and more on long-term U.S. interests and American values. All institutions that carry out U.S. foreign policy need reform and overhaul.
Finally, we need a better understanding of the purposes of American foreign policy. It is to improve life at home, to build a stronger American society and economy, and to build a safer and more stable world. To serve these ends we need a foreign policy that recasts old notions of national security, retools outdated institutions and establishes new patterns of international partnership. We need to redefine America’s role in the world.