Courtesy Reuters

Trilateralism: "Partnership" for What?

"Trilateralism"-nature abhors labels but men insist on them-is the latest attempt both to describe and to prescribe for the relationship between the United States and the other principal democratic, industrialized, market-economy states. Under the aegis of the so-called Trilateral Commission-an organization of influential private citizens from these countries-it has been the focus of a well-organized effort over the past four years to propose a set of solutions to many of the principal common problems of international society. Trilateralism has explicitly been embraced by the Democratic candidate for the presidency as a central theme of his foreign policy. Recently it has also become a staple of Secretary of State Kissinger's speeches. Its connotations of symmetry and order-the triangle is one of the most aesthetically satisfying of geometrical forms -contrast strikingly with the pervasive lack of evident order in human affairs.

The three points of the triangle are, of course, the United States (or, in deference to sensitivities north of the 49th parallel, North America), Western Europe, and Japan. They are also the loci of the bulk of the world's present wealth and of its present capacity for production. Their very listing evokes images of a rich man's club-which, for many purposes, they constitute. That they do raises questions both of equity and efficacy: the existing global distribution of wealth and power is clearly "unfair," yet it may seem less unfair if the trilateral grouping were to serve as the engine of progress and enrichment for those less fortunate. That it can so serve-indeed, that it must be made to do so-is one of the central assumptions of the Trilateral Commission and its adherents.1


Between two points of the triangle-the United States and Western Europe-the connecting line has been both firm and thick since 1947-48, when the perceived need to organize against the menace of a Soviet Union then in the process of extending its control over Eastern Europe led to an American interest and involvement in the affairs of Western

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