America Is Back—but for How Long?
Political Polarization and the End of U.S. Credibility
Good regionalism is good geopolitics; and bad regionalism is bad geopolitics. This integration of the supposed polar opposites in the scholastic debate among foreign policy academics is well illustrated in both directions by the events of 1979.
We live in a world of sovereign nation-states of which two are preeminent in military power: the United States and the Soviet Union. Each is condemned by this simple fact to be constantly preoccupied with the potential and the intentions of the other. Ideological differences, though important, are subsidiary to this basic fact of extraordinary and opposed might. Given this duopoly of military power and given the reach of modern technology in communications, travel and weapons, the theater in which the mutual preoccupation of the United States and the U.S.S.R. is played out is inevitably the whole globe, minus backwaters plus near-space. The part of the drama, whether competitive or cooperative, which is enacted directly between the two protagonists is perforce limited. Like kings on the chessboard they sit almost immobile behind their pawns and subordinates, nearly incapable of direct combat, surveying the whole arena in which their own fate is progressively and indirectly decided.
The United States and the Soviet Union directly confront one another only in narrow and peculiar circumstances. This bilateral relationship can take the form of both competition in armaments and cooperation in arms limitation. Neither has much practical effect, since direct conflict is by hypothesis unjoinable, except at a catastrophic price to both parties. Yet mutual balance and joint preeminence are preconditions of the whole global rivalry being played out between the United States and the U.S.S.R. rather than between other lesser powers or groups of powers.
So the United States and the U.S.S.R. are doomed to watch one another like hawks, to negotiate constantly by day for strategic parity and to plot ceaselessly by night for strategic advantage. Since neither can or will feel fully confident unless its parity is more equal than the other side's parity, dynamic instability is inherent in the very static stability they both seek, even when their shared interest in circumscribing the scope of their mutual competition is uppermost.
But this mutual and direct preoccupation accounts for only a small fraction of the landscape on which their rivalry has to be conducted. The occasional episode apart-such as the treatment of Soviet dissidents, exchanges of disaffected or incarcerated persons, the reception of defecting artists and the negotiation of exceptional wheat purchases-the United States and the U.S.S.R. meet one another, not face to face, but in the territories of third parties.
It is there that the real competition between the superpowers mainly occurs and that the occasionally significant victories and defeats mostly happen. Geopolitics is, definitionally, the art and the process of managing global rivalry; and success, again definitionally, consists at a minimum of consolidating the strength and cohesion of the group of nations which form the core of one's power position, while preventing the other side from extending the area of its domination and clientele. In the case of the United States, that group has been created by voluntary association and comprises the major European nations grouped in NATO, Japan and Australasia, and at least in the economic sphere the other advanced nations of Europe even though not specifically members of NATO-in other words, the group of nations we loosely call the West or the First World. In the case of the Soviet Union, its bloc was created initially by military power and is still held together by that means-as the Second World. The comparative strength and cohesion of each of these two worlds has always been basic to any geopolitical assessment of the situation.
In this same manner, we have come to describe the nations outside the First and Second Worlds as a Third World, in which each of the first two competes for the highest possible degree of cooperation and support-or, in the case of the Soviet Union, the maximum degree of domination. And it is in that Third World that we have seen, over and over again in the past 20 years, that success comes from fighting or competing on favorable terrain and from avoiding giving battle where conditions favor the enemy. The terrain and the conditions in question are in essence the local politics of the regions and the countries wherein the superpowers are fated to come across each other's footprints.
We do not normally think of relationships within the First World as "regionalism." But in fact the classic example of good regionalism proving good geopolitics was the reconstruction of Western Europe and Japan after the Second World War that brought the West into being as a coherent entity. To be sure, strategic and conventional military strength-principally American-was basic to the necessary sense of security among these nations. But at least as central was the sense of firm political and economic cooperation created in the first instance by the Marshall Plan and then by an expanded free trading system based on the principles adopted at Bretton Woods. Shared values were enlisted and then spread, and a tide of history was able to rise to the flood.
But the Third World was always a different story, lacking the heritage, the already demonstrated capacities, and to a large extent the values of the West. And it is in this World, in particular, where the strong lesson of at least the last 20 years-and especially of the Vietnam and post-Vietnam era-is that significant advances are only achieved, beyond the immediate periphery of the United States and the Soviet Union themselves, when one or the other superpower aligns itself with the forces on the ground which have history, which is a label for all manner of strongly established trends and moods, on their side. Almost unimaginable amounts of crude military power did not prevail in Vietnam because the local tide was not setting that way. This, obviously, has nothing necessarily to do with moral right and wrong. There was nothing moral about Hanoi's ambitions, then or now; and there was a good deal of morality in the instinct of the Kennedy/Johnson generation to avoid a Munich in Southeast Asia, even if this morality was stymied in the outcome by the practical misjudgments that were also involved.
The great persistent advantage which the Soviet Union has had over the last quarter of a century has been that the chief preoccupation of so much of the Third World has been with decolonization, an issue on which it was easy and convenient for Russia to align itself with movements of national liberation. Of course, the United States was also an anticolonial power for a few years after World War II-to the considerable irritation from time to time of the real colonial powers, such as Britain and France. But in what has probably turned out to be the greatest strategic blunder of the era of American power-Vietnam was more a tactical catastrophe with strategic ramifications-the United States abandoned that role before the 1940s were over and embraced instead the fatally negative role of anti-communist champion. If this be thought to be wet liberal nonsense, consider this piece of advice from the presumptive high priest of Realpolitik in American foreign policy:
If the United States remains the trustee of every noncommunist area, it will exhaust its psychological resources. No country can act wisely simultaneously in every part of the globe at every moment of time. A more pluralistic world-especially in relationships with friends-is profoundly in our long-term interest. Political multipolarity, while difficult to get used to, is the precondition for a new period of creativity . . . . The new nations weigh little in the physical balance of power. But the forces unleashed in the emergence of so many new states may well affect the moral balance of the world-the convictions which form the structure of the world of tomorrow. This adds a new dimension to the problem of multipolarity . . . . The American role in the new nations' efforts to build legitimate authority is in need of serious reexamination. . . . The problem of political legitimacy is the key to political stability in regions containing two-thirds of the world's population. . . .Nor should we define the problem as how to prevent the spread of communism. Our goal should be to build a moral consensus which can make a pluralistic world creative rather than destructive. Irrelevance to one of the great revolutions of our time will mean that we will ultimately be engulfed by it-if not physically, then psychologically.1
Unfortunately these eloquent precepts were largely ignored by American policy at the height of the cold war, particularly in the era of John Foster Dulles. In his thinking, preventing the spread of communism was identified overwhelmingly with the support of shaky alliance structures and relationships that led American policy over and over into instances of "bad regionalism." Any attempt to maintain neutrality in what he saw as a global Manichean struggle between good and evil was denounced as immoral, and the United States was drawn into all-out and unquestioning backing of a host of individual governments that were at best authoritarian and were often at odds with their regional neighbors. The underlying aspirations of peoples and areas were put to one side in the effort to create a fictitious "free world" that would hold off the Soviet Union-and for a long time "Red China" as well-by military force and often by political repression.
That period of bad regionalism has continued to haunt American policy. It created a legacy for more discriminating U.S. foreign policy makers which cannot quickly or simply be lived down. Escaping the network of friendships and alliances which the Dulles mentality created may involve what is seen as betraying friends, letting down clients, encouraging adversaries and leading neutrals to hedge their bets, so upsetting the geopolitical balance. The trusteeship of every non-communist area may well have been the wrong or wrongly defined role in the first place; but withdrawal from such a legacy without giving the dangerous impression of unilateral geopolitical abdication is endlessly difficult, not least when the imperatives of adversary domestic politics and adversary government-press relations strengthen the probability that each move will be interpreted as lack of valor rather than as discretion.
In truth, the contemporary American geopolitician has a fate like the cheating billiard sharp's in The Mikado: he is doomed to play "extravagant matches" on "a cloth untrue, with a twisted cue and elliptical billiard balls." The matches are extravagant because they involve inescapable geopolitical rivalry. The cloth is untrue because the competition is played out for the most part in regions and nations which act most frequently in response to aspirations and rivalries quite apart from those of the superpowers. At home the cue is twisted by the torque of congressional, press and pressure-group politics; and the balls are misshapen by the legacy of bad regionalism in the past which has populated the American side of the table with too many tottering and rebarbative regimes whose "political legitimacy" rested too narrowly on U.S. trusteeship of their shop-window "non-communist" status.
For 11 years, U.S. geopolicy has been in the hands of men who understood this dilemma and wanted to adjust for the untrue cloth and to encourage rounder balls, even if popular and press impressions tended to cast them still in the role of latter-day Dullesian cold warriors. The undeclared intellectual consensus between former Secretary of State Kissinger and President Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, goes well beyond the general notion of creative global pluralism as a basis for American involvement with friends and neutrals (and with adversaries who are potential neutrals).2 The need for a higher cause than mere equilibrium and order, for a moral dimension, for the recognition that the necessary equilibrium and order have to be dynamic, not static, for appreciation of the flexibility of political multipolarity contrasted with the rigidity of military bipolarity, for relevance to the problems of the emerging two-thirds of the world, for avoiding exclusive preoccupation with U.S.-Soviet relations, for seeking positive relations with the Third World, for acknowledgement of turmoil as a permanent condition of the world, for a new order adjusted to this turbulence and for engaging the moral sanction of the American public-all emerge as shared central themes in their conceptual work (though not always in their policymaking).
Meanwhile, however, the problems of stability and progress in the Third World have become more and more difficult. We see in operation what I have elsewhere called Jay's Law of Global Chaos.3 Whereas the sources of turbulence in the world are growing exponentially-with more people demanding ever-higher standards, more insistently, and giving expression to group or national aspirations, and with ever more destructive weaponry at hand-the sources of stability (domestic political structures, international diplomacy and institutions) can be strengthened, if at all, only arithmetically and at a slow rate. With the United States and the West seen as centers of power and privilege not adequately responsive to Third World aspirations and needs, and the Soviet Union still treated by a deplorable double standard that excuses its self-serving policies while accepting uncritically its rhetoric, there have been all too many seeds for the destructively monolithic negativism of the "have-nots" that expressed itself, for example, in the September 1979 Havana Conference of the Nonaligned.
In the face of this situation, the philosopher's stone of U.S. foreign policy, namely a positive cause or creed with which the West can combat the appeal of Marxism to Third World leaders looking for political legitimacy in overthrowing colonialism and establishing their own, often undemocratic, rule, was as far from being proclaimed and understood in 1977 as it ever had been. Important though the achievements of the Kissinger era were in ending the Vietnam conflict, promoting détente with the U.S.S.R. and opening political contact with China, the fundamental questions identified by Kissinger in advance (and reemphasized in recollection now) were as far from being answered as they had been in January 1969, when the Nixon Administration took office.4 What new order does the United States offer the world? And what great principle or principles define legitimacy and guide American involvement?
Nineteen seventy-nine was the third year of the Carter Administration's effort to supply some answers to the questions identified by Kissinger in 1968 but thereafter almost wholly ignored in the Kissinger years. It was also the last year of the decade throughout which the problem was recognized but not solved. If good regionalism was indeed the most effective geopolitics, what exactly were to be the content and principles of good regionalism?
The cohesion and strength of the West remains, as we have just noted, the bedrock of U.S. foreign policy. Inevitably, the economic power of Western Europe and its growing political independence, and the extraordinary economic performance of Japan-the very objectives of American policy in the postwar period-have created a new pattern of relationships and changed the nature of U.S. leadership. Today that structure continues to hold together in its fundamental aspects, but there are growing strains that make the reality probably less good than the appearance. Yet the Carter Administration clearly improved its handling of these strains during 1979.
In the 1940s, the United States, with some significant British assistance, created a Western security order, linked to an even more imaginative political, military, trading and monetary order, which gave the West a structure, a stability and a prosperity the likes of which it had seldom, if ever, enjoyed. In the 1950s and, less easily, in the 1960s, that order survived on the basis of an unspoken bargain-America decides and Europe complains-which reflected the realities of American external military and economic power and European internal political weakness.
As the 1960s wore on, and quite evidently in the 1970s, neither side wished to play that game any more, as America's relative economic weight diminished and Europe's political amour propre expanded. But there was no clear agreement on what alternative or more symmetrical game the two sides of the Atlantic should play. American governments found Europeans eager to participate in the prestige of making big decisions, but by no means equally anxious to share the political responsibility for these decisions. The neutron bomb affair of 1978 was a reminder of this, with the United States repeatedly soliciting European endorsement of the weapon while repeatedly being told to make its own decision. The long drawn out mating dance of the theater nuclear force modernization negotiations, though ultimately successful, repeated the lesson in 1979. Moreover, Europe's own need for a unifying purpose continued to push it, not in the direction of sharing America's global burdens, but rather into a spirit alternatively of assertive rivalry with its former benefactor and studied preoccupation with parochial concerns. This was perhaps natural at this stage of Europe's search for identity, but not for that reason a mature role or one that was comfortable for the United States.
On the surface. Western leaders strove manfully and successfully to keep the show on the road. At Guadeloupe in January and in Tokyo in June, President Carter met the other Western heads of government. He secured their support for SALT, and they secured a pledge from him on U.S. oil imports, which had been a natural and justified point of criticism of American policy. A multilateral trade agreement was finally signed in April. The decision, albeit a fragile and difficult one, to modernize theater nuclear forces was finally wrung out of the European allies in mid-December as the culmination of prolonged and skillful diplomacy by the Administration. President Carter's standing in Europe also benefited dramatically from his handling of the Iranian crisis at the end of the year; and Europeans persuaded themselves that some of the earlier misgivings about his leadership, about the application of human rights to the Soviet Union and, even after November 1978, about his willingness to grapple firmly with inflation had been premature or exaggerated. Nor, so long as such committed Atlanticists as French President Giscard d'Estaing and West German Chancellor Schmidt lead their two countries, is any overtly dangerous move to weaken the Atlantic Alliance going to be made from Europe.
But, under the surface, the Alliance's foundations-and the foundations not only of NATO, but of that whole political, economic, financial and military order for the West-are being eaten away bit by bit. The catalyst of this corrosion is in part the philosophical vacuum in the West diagnosed by Kissinger 11 years ago and still unfilled.5 But there are more positive forces impelling Western Europe to neglect its primary interest in the political cohesion and economic openness of the Western order as a whole and to give instead the lion's share of its energies to its search for identity. The shrill, though usually private, celebration of every supposed failure of American leadership in some cases betrayed a narrow preoccupation with U.S.-West European rivalry as though it were a zero-sum game, in which any gain for one player is a loss for the other. Yet the gap between giddy aspiration and mature responsibility-willing to wound, but afraid to strike-is wide enough to obscure inconsistencies, for example between simultaneously peddling reckless doubts about American willingness to use nuclear weapons in the defense of Europe and absolute insistence that any weapons deployed to correct the supposed Euro-strategic imbalance must be American-owned, American-produced and, above all, American-operated-and, of course, American-financed.
Even more dangerous in the long run, however, are the threats to openness and efficiency of the Western economic order that derive from creeping autarky, mercantilism and protectionism in industrial and commercial policies. To be sure, the signing of the multilateral trade agreement consummated a modest formal advance and certainly avoided catastrophic reverses for liberal trade; and Britain's abolition of almost all exchange controls in October was a bonus. But the basic political momentum of corporate and labor pressure, rendered respectable by the patina of "European" symbolism, is gradually propelling government at both Community and national levels into heavier and heavier involvement in uncommercial and illiberal projects, particularly where American enterprise still has a competitive edge-though this does not inhibit simultaneous criticism of the U.S. payments deficit and weak dollar. Aviation, defense procurement, telecommunications and other high-technology industries are the most prominent examples.
This is not just a matter of the natural development of new industries in response to market opportunities and profitable investment in more sophisticated technologies. The European industries are as entitled as any other to hope for such developments. What damages the open fabric of the Western economic system is the deliberate fostering of such industries in defiance of commercial principles by preferential government procurement policies, uncommercial funding of investment by government corporations, public financial support of unprofitable projects and general administrative favoritism. The faults are by no means all on one side; but from the point of view of U.S. foreign policy, which has to give a high place to the health and cohesion of the West, the actual and far greater potential growth of economic friction over autarkic industrial policies, both real and imagined, is a profound danger.
General economic conditions are likely to deteriorate in the 1980s. The new undervaluation of the U.S. dollar against West European currencies will begin to reverse the dynamic of trade and investment that underpinned European economic recovery in the 1950s and 1960s. So the political pressure in Europe, allying traditional fears of unemployment with the new search for expressions of Europe's aspirant political identity, will tend to impel demagogues, socialist and eventually democratic leaders seeking electoral support down the road of economic nationalism. A new directly elected Parliament, seeking a cause with which to occupy the huge vacuum of its explicit impotence combined with its implicit legitimacy, also offers an ideal forum. The potential of this for political friction within the Atlantic community, and so for dissipation of the cohesion on which the West's military strength ultimately depends, hardly needs to be rehearsed. The gradual and inevitable decay of the folk memories of the 1930s has reminded us that even the simple, but basic, lessons of collective security and economic liberalism, which were taught so painfully then, can have little more than a generational half-life. If economic adversity and political weakness lead to a renaissance, albeit in a new and more sophisticated form, of the economics of Mussolini, that should surprise only those in the United States and elsewhere who believed that Europe could and would become a "born-again" America simply by institutional elaboration and legal construction. If the United States and Japan prove to be just as bad under similar economic pressure, that will make the crisis of the West as a whole worse.
Nationalism, punctuated by intervals of lucidity which last as long as the memory of the last disaster that nationalism wrought, has always been and is likely always to remain Europe's most natural political dynamic, for all the wailing and hand-wringing of liberal and socialist philosophers. The scale of global politics now requires that nationalism, to be effective, must be the nationalism of a whole subcontinent. The nationalism of the traditional powers has waned in importance with the passing of a Eurocentric world and the rise of the superpowers. It is wholly characteristic that in these circumstances Europeans should find the will to submerge the old rivalries in a new and geographically grander nationalism.
That, once born, a new Europe will neither behave like the United States nor serve American purposes nor give priority to Western strength and economic interdependence is a prospect that American foreign policymakers should perhaps have evaluated in the 1950s and which they now will have to confront in the 1980s and 1990s. It will become increasingly difficult for enlightened American leaders to contain comparably divisive protectionist and isolationist pressures in the United States when it can be pointed out that America's partners in the Western scheme of things are no longer even pretending to play by the rules of the immediate postwar era. The path of good regionalism may become extremely hard to define, quite apart from becoming worse domestic politics in the United States. More than a decade after his diagnosis, Kissinger might agree that his prescription for Europe as "a counterweight that would discipline our occasional impetuosity and, by supplying historical perspective, modify our penchant for abstract and 'final' solutions" owed more to hope than to experience.6
These are long-term concerns, and they were not noticeably aggravated in 1979. Indeed, this past year ended on a better note of mutual respect and comity than the last several years have. But the fact remains that the mutual involvement of the United States and Western Europe is taken for granted rather than nurtured, while the original sources of that cohesion in the concepts and institutions of the immediate postwar period are being neglected. The continuing, indeed increasingly powerful, threat of the Soviet Union still breathes life into NATO; but even in military matters there are dangerous tendencies: on the Left to neutralism, on the Right to independent European defense capabilities. At present they are small straws in the wind, though it has taken a major diplomatic effort to haul the ambiguous concept of Euro-strategic balance back from the implication that European powers need to be able to do nuclear damage to the Soviet Union comparable to that which the Soviet Union can do to them. Such a program would be the heresy, naked and unashamed, of "decoupling" the United States from Europe. The eventual theater nuclear force modernization also denied the neutralists what could have been a dramatic success; but it was not a total victory and they remain in the field, especially in the smaller countries, ready to seize every new pretext for appeasing the Soviet Union and disparaging American purposes and will. This brings us back yet again to the need to identify and reaffirm what the West stands for, what its global interests are, what responsibilities and mutual obligations it imposes on its members and what the relationship should be between the imperatives of Western health and those of European identity.
If U.S. foreign policy toward the West European region faces a grumbling crisis there far more serious than the cheerful enumeration of summits, formal agreements and affable declarations can fully disguise, there is very little the United States can do about it. Washington can seek discreetly to strengthen benign forces in Europe, to discourage malign ones, to avoid reacting or, worse, overreacting to "European irresponsibility" with "American unilateralism"; it can continue to shoulder without protest the political odium for hard decisions while offering as much show of consultation and participation as Europe seems to want from time to time; it can minimize by leadership and cooperation in economic and monetary affairs the economic slump of the 1980s; and it can deter the Soviet Union from exploiting the inevitable tensions and incoherence with siren calls for the neutralization and demilitarization of Europe. But it is likely that the lessons of the 1930s will be gradually forgotten, the institutions of the 1940s will be allowed to decay and the characteristically nationalist impulses of European history will once again flourish-until the consequences of this folly force people yet again to relearn the essential facts of peace and prosperity.
It was above all in the Third World that the Carter Administration gave new emphasis to the desire to associate the United States with the forces of change in the world. And the strongest manifestation of this emphasis has for the past three years been its human rights policy. The articulation of both principles may have been more apt to cause alarm among the wrong kind of friends abroad and the opposition at home than to enchant potential supporters who wondered what the Administration meant. But this reflected a perennial dilemma of those who embark upon new policies. The benefits of any such changes in posture are bound to be reflected only in general terms, for the most part.
But over the last three years there can be little doubt that the Carter Administration has succeeded in changing the image of the United States that had been created during the cold war and accentuated by the Realpolitik of the Kissinger years. No longer is the United States regarded as indifferent to issues of human rights, and the record in this area during 1979 was a good one.
In Africa and Latin America, in particular, the year was remarkable for the number of modest steps taken in the direction of less tyrannical, or more constitutional, or even more democratic, governance. Moreover, this was achieved, if not by the United States, then either with American encouragement or at least without U.S. opposition and therefore without the United States being made to look like the champion of shameful oppressors. While the examples certainly do not all fit any general formula, still less reflect the working out of a master plan, nonetheless the catalogue is worth emphasizing at a time when it is fashionable to see the United States suffering ubiquitous geopolitical defeat.
In Africa, the fall of Ugandan President Idi Amin could not but be regarded as beneficial to human rights; and the United States showed wisdom in leaving Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere in no doubt of its benign neutrality during the Ugandan-Tanzanian war that led to Amin's downfall. Nigeria began a return to civilian rule with its first national elections since 1964. The particularly odious Central African Emperor Bokassa was overthrown, albeit at the instigation of a French-managed coup which substituted a somewhat unconvincing stooge as successor, one David Dacko. Earlier in the year, Macias, the tyrant of Equitorial Guinea, had been overthrown.
But it was in Latin America that the most significant changes in the direction of more democratic rule took place. An amateur in Latin American matters can only speculate on the degree to which these changes owed at least a psychological debt to the continuing progress since 1975 of democracy in Spain, still to some extent the cultural mother country for much of Latin America. During 1979, Spain held its first elections under its new fully democratic constitution, and a comparatively strong single-party government was elected. Whether or not its example exerted a significant influence on Latin America, the events of 1979 seem to demonstrate a new surge in democratic feeling in that area.
Among the notable events there was the restoration of constitutional government in Ecuador in April. A similar return to constitutional government in Bolivia in August was briefly aborted by an ensuing military coup, but in the end a new civilian president was able to take office in November. Neither of these changes could be attributed directly to U.S. influence, although the efforts that top American representatives made to indicate their approval were important symbolic actions. Far more directly relevant to U.S. policy was the expulsion of Somoza from Nicaragua and his replacement by a new Sandinista regime.
The United States was deeply involved in Nicaragua, and its policy there could hardly be counted an unqualified success, since the United States would undoubtedly have preferred a moderate and constitutional successor government. U.S. moves for a regional military force designed to assure fair elections were rejected by the Organization of American States, and in the final stages any moderate regime could only have been installed by some form of covert action, which indeed appeared to be advocated by such critics as Henry Kissinger but was categorically rejected by an Administration deeply conscious of the adverse repercussions throughout the region of past covert action in Chile and elsewhere.
But the Carter Administration broke new ground in not only disassociating itself from a client dictator of long standing but actively working for his removal. And by the end of the year the Administration had laid out a policy of seeking to work with the Sandinista government, especially through economic aid. In this course it was in tune with the predominant sentiment of the Latin American region as a whole, which had strongly supported the overthrow of Somoza. At an earlier time, the United States had applied the hard-line policies of the Dulles era to the advent of Castro to power in Cuba, and harsh American pressures contributed to Castro's present pro-Soviet posture, with all its damage to U.S. interests not only in the Caribbean but in Africa and elsewhere. Plainly the Carter Administration is determined to avoid repeating this classic example of bad regionalism.
Evidence of democratic advance in Asia was harder to find in 1979. Apart from the extraordinary and baffling surges of activity on Beijing's Democracy Wall, whose potential seemed at first significant and later less so, the main event was a setback. Pakistan President Zia ul-Haq aborted his country's planned return to a democratic form of government and reimposed draconian constraints on political activity.
In neither of these situations did the United States have any significant influence. The real test case of American policy occurred in South Korea, a classic case of an American client dictator, Park Chung Hee. His turn to martial law in 1972 and subsequent repressions had been unquestioningly accepted by the Nixon and Ford Administrations. Under the Carter Administration, the human rights policy was applied through constant urgings for the release of opposition leaders and others.
Thus, when Park was assassinated in November 1979 by his own central intelligence chief, the United States was at least in the position of not being inextricably associated with his fate, as happened in Iran. At the end of 1979 it was far from clear that a new constitution and new elections would be achieved, but Secretary Vance had been quick to seize the opportunity to throw U.S. influence behind liberalization.
Similarly, the human rights posture of the Carter Administration has led it to disassociate itself from the martial law rule of another client dictator, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, who survived 1979 but is plainly increasingly under pressure for change. Neither there nor in Korea can the United States wholly avoid the past legacy of unquestioning support, but the new American posture should serve to permit the United States to retain strong, and geopolitically important, relationships with both countries should a democratic opposition find its way to power in either.
It is easy to be skeptical about the significance of those democratic straws in the political wind. Few of them directly reflected U.S. policy. Hard-nosed Realpolitik critics will contrast them unfavorably with the muscularity of the Soviet arms build-up and crude intervention in Afghanistan. Moreover, democracy and human rights can never by themselves be an adequate counter to Marxism as a comprehensive banner under which to fight the geopolitical battle for hearts, minds and friendly governments, especially in the emerging nations. Nonetheless, a start has been made, as previous administrations never managed to do. And the American people have been reconnected to U.S. foreign policy.
Despite Cuban President Castro's rhetoric and Khomeini's abuse, a grudging recognition that the President of the United States is a man with honorable intentions toward other countries (which do not consist in supporting the status quo however oppressive) has gained ground. Inevitably those who have developed a vested interest in the old order, under which America was expected to take care of its friends with no questions asked, have been noisily unhappy and have prated of weakness. But the price of opposition was inherent in embracing a framework for change and in any strategy of withdrawing from the foreign policy culde-sac of Dulles and, despite his advance warnings against it, of Kissinger: namely, reflex trusteeship of "every noncommunist area."
Strength and toughness have their place, as does the ability discreetly to aid well-disposed internal political forces in key countries whose geopolitical orientation hangs in the balance. All of these are necessary conditions; but none is a sufficient condition. A successful superpower must be able to display overt principles which are, in Kissinger's words, "relevant to one of the great revolutions of our time" if it is to catch the regional tides that lead on to geopolitical success.
Perhaps the clearest test of the Carter Administration's policy of seeking to identify the United States with regional aspirations and attitudes has been in southern Africa. No set of problems more vividly illustrates the contrast between good regionalism and the results that might have flowed from a continued overriding emphasis on the Soviet threat.
Under the Carter policies, U.S. geopolitical interests have been much better served over the last three years than those who only read the headlines may suppose. The perception in 1978 was that the Soviet Union, in the shape of ten-feet-tall Cuban puppets, was sweeping through the continent unopposed by a weak and soft-headed U.S. Administration which naively believed that the triumph of civil rights in the American South could be exported as a universal bromide for indigenous African struggles. Britain's Labour Government, also suspected of soft sympathies for black Marxists, was believed to have led Carter's McGovernite foreign policy makers into a shameful geopolitical betrayal or misjudgment in southern Africa. The reality was different.
Over the past several years, U.S. policy in fact lost a country and gained a continent. Indeed, that may in one way be too cautious a judgment. The country which the United States was supposed to have "lost" was Ethiopia. Yet, the disposition to see the Soviet Union's political transfer in 1978 from Somalia to Ethiopia as a coup for communist world aims is evidence chiefly of a determination to discern deep cunning and unerring efficiency in one's adversary, and only blundering incompetence in one's own side. The facts were that the U.S.S.R. forfeited in Somalia 1,000 miles of Indian Ocean littoral, a strategically located potential sea base, a quiescent interior and an admirable jumping-off point for interference in the Red Sea and the Arabian peninsula. And in plunging into Ethiopia at the cost of one of the largest and most expensive airlifts in history, the U.S.S.R. reaped in return a heavy and not easily reversible involvement in an internal political quagmire.
In 1979, however, the hidden and ubiquitous hand of the Soviet Union went largely undetected even by the most imaginative analysts. This was not, by any means, because the Soviet Union is in any way benign or without ambitions in Africa which threaten geopolitical equilibrium. They most certainly have such ambitions. But they had for the moment been outsmarted, principally by U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young's astute perception of the appeal to Africa of mature political and economic relations with the West. Andrew Young's personal credibility in representing a new and different American attitude to Africa undoubtedly contributed importantly to the speed with which good regionalism in Africa succeeded in fostering America's geopolitical interests there.
In order for a healthy and constructive relationship between newly independent Africa and the West to develop, a lot of ghosts had first to be laid: ethnic Europeans on either side of the Atlantic as the natural "kith and kin" of white racists in southern Africa; imperialist America wishing to impose capitalism and to exploit Africa's resources; superpower America making African states and peoples pawns in its struggle with Russia for world hegemony; hypocritical Britain talking independence, but still hankering after neocolonial opportunities and retaining huge economic interests in apartheid-ridden South Africa. Steadily and gradually, the Carter Administration did begin to gain credence for the idea that there was a new U.S. policy in Africa, that the Organization of African Unity principle of African solutions to African problems was respected, that the United States was not just in the business of playing cynical geopolitics and that it wanted mature and good relations with any country that was willing to reciprocate.
The two most important demonstrations of that policy were in the negotiations over Namibia and Zimbabwe Rhodesia, which are perhaps the purest examples of good regionalism being good geopolitics just where glib opinion sees the clearest clash between the two. As stated at the outset, big gains are made in U.S.-Soviet competition outside Eastern Europe and the Western Hemisphere only by the superpower that successfully catches the locally prevailing political winds. In Africa that wind has for 20 years been black nationalism, but the leaders of the surrounding black front-line states do not relish prolonged chaotic warfare on their doorsteps, nor eventual Soviet domination.
Lord Carrington, the British Foreign Secretary, brought negotiations for internationally recognizable independence to final success during the year with outstanding skill and firmness. But much of that skill-and much of President Carter's as well-had to be used in resisting the determination of the Right in Britain and the United States to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If the United States had committed itself to massive defense of white interests in southern Africa, as the Right urged, it would have ended by fighting with its back to the sea, facing North, condemned by the entire world, on political terrain where it was bound in the end to lose. The Soviet Union would have had its pretext for expansion in southern Africa in the name of support for legitimate African nationalist liberation movements. For the time being it has been denied that geopolitical prize precisely by a Western strategy which harnessed the interest of African politicians and the principles of post-colonial African politics to a settlement in Rhodesia which was also consistent with broad Western interests. Despite South Africa's resistance, the success in Zimbabwe Rhodesia could yet persuade Pretoria to give a similar formula a chance in Namibia.
How, then, do the principles of good and bad regionalism relate to the Middle East, now by far the most acute area of competition between the Soviet Union and the United States and the West? There, during 1979, the overthrow of the Shah was beyond question a major geopolitical setback for the United States, and the extreme anti-Americanism of the new regime of Ayatollah Khomeini was underscored by the hostage crisis that began in November and was still unresolved at the end of the year. Meanwhile the Soviet Union, confronted in Afghanistan with a growing insurrection against the Marxist government it had helped to install in early 1978, moved in December to carry out a military coup and then to a full-fledged invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet forces.
It is the fashion in many quarters to see these events as the result of an alleged decline in the military power and prestige of the United States in the area and the growth of Soviet military power, coupled with Soviet influence on local Marxist regimes. While no one can argue that these factors were wholly irrelevant, the significant reality was quite otherwise. What happened in Iran, as it related to the United States, was overwhelmingly the result of bad regional policies in the past. And in the case of the Soviet takeover of Afghanistan, a takeover always within the military capabilities of the U.S.S.R. for the last 30 years, the Soviet Union may once again have gained a country but lost a region-provided that the United States and the West work in concert with the genuine anti-Soviet feelings in the area which the Soviet invasion may now have brought into flame. Good regionalism remains at the heart of the terribly serious problems the United States now faces in the area, both in the need to carry forward the peace process between Israel and the Arab nations and in the need to work with and through those and other nations in countering the new Soviet presence in the area.
There was nothing in 1979, and probably not in either of the two preceding years, that the Administration could sensibly have done to prevent the fall of the Shah. This was, if only in hindsight, the inevitable harvest of a quarter of a century of creating and fostering as a bastion of Western influence a regime which was not merely irrelevant to one of the great revolutions of our times (to use Kissinger's measure), but also, and even more to the point, not durable. When doom came, albeit at an unforeseeable moment, it was idle to blame the Administration for not being able to prevent it or for looking uncomfortable as the grisly events of the Shah's departure, the Ayatollah Khomeini's return and subsequent barbarities unfolded. The essential trick by then was to adjust to the inevitable while limiting the geopolitical damage, not only by discouraging any temptation the Soviet Union might feel to exploit the opportunity, but also by reassuring friendly regimes in the area that might otherwise feel insecure.
In theory, the Administration seems to have read the situation aright and to have set out to accommodate its policy to the Iranian revolution, while containing its side effects. The Administration also moved rapidly to act on its correct perception that Saudi Arabia needed prompt reassurance. Unfortunately, perhaps because events moved so fast, bad geopolitics for a while took over from good regionalism with predictably unfavorable results. The Administration seems to have assumed, in sending Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and his party to Saudi Arabia in February and in offering demonstrations of U.S. military support, that the Saudis' principal anxiety would also be geopolitical, and that they would be prepared to participate, at this stage, in new and broader military relationships.
The Saudis appear not to have seen it that way at all. They saw Iran as illustrating the danger for their own feudal regime of Arab radicalism and of anti-American Islamic fundamentalism. They perceived the remedy for this as lying in the resolution of the unifying issue from which Arab radicalism and Islamic anti-Americanism drew their cohesion, namely the problem of Palestine. At the very least, the Saudis felt the need to align themselves with prevailing moderate Arab opinion, which anyway coincided with their perception of the manifest rights of the question, especially over Jerusalem. To be suddenly and flamboyantly embraced by the United States in a demonstration of crudely geopolitical purposes cloaked in a military mantle was the last thing the Saudis felt they needed at such a moment.
Worse still, a vicious circle was created over the implementation of Camp David. Good regionalism in the Near East, as well as the critically important geopolitical reassurance of Saudi Arabia, demanded essentially that the second Camp David "shoe" should be made to drop in the course of 1979-i.e., that a negotiated agreement on Palestinian autonomy be established which could realistically lead, whatever may have been said on paper, to a Palestinian homeland within a few years and to internationally backed guarantees of Israel's security. Yet Saudi alarm at U.S. handling of the Iranian aftermath-despite successful U.S. moves to restabilize the jeopardized balance between North and South Yemen-made it much harder to secure moderate Arab support for the process and increased the formidable pressures on Egyptian President Sadat at a most critical time for him, though he survived them with notable fortitude.
Some may doubt whether the "second shoe" could ever have been made to drop. But 1979 probably began with the best prospect that there had been for decades for starting that process. At Camp David President Carter and his principal advisers sincerely believed in and thought they had accomplished the makings of a comprehensive settlement, albeit in two parts. Moderate Arabs would have liked to have believed this, but were not sure and could not afford to take forthcoming positions until they were sure. And the chances of confounding the skeptics and of outmaneuvering the cynics and outright opponents of a comprehensive settlement depended on attracting the early support of the moderate Arabs for the Camp David process.
This was indeed a daunting task and had from the start the seeds of failure through cumulative and mutually reinforcing hesitation and skepticism. But Israel was at least formally committed by the Camp David agreements to embark upon negotiations. President Carter, Secretary of State Vance and National Security Adviser Brzezinski were jointly and severally more sympathetic to righting the legitimate Palestinian grievances than any of their predecessors since the war. Egypt was deeply committed to the process. The Palestinians themselves had even shown some weak signs of being willing to compromise over the more extreme and rhetorical demands of the Palestine Liberation Organization's charter, if they could actually believe that Israel could be induced to make real concessions. Begin seemed strongly placed, if he would, to lead his countrymen to take some calculated risks, just as de Gaulle had been the right man to persuade France to surrender Algeria. Elections in the United States were 18 months away-time enough to tackle the issue on its merits. Even so, the obstacles were formidable.
The critical battles for suspension of moderate Arab hostility seem to have been lost early in the year. By the fall, Ambassador at Large Robert Strauss conceded in his characteristically blunt fashion that the negotiations for Palestinian autonomy were "stalemated." Thus the United States was left without a credible policy for tackling the region's central problem as perceived by most of the people who live and govern in the area. This regional fiasco was also a geopolitical setback because, despite the temporary advantage of the Egypt-Israel peace, the U.S. position in the area had come to rest far too heavily on the survival of Sadat. The Soviet Union was left free, whenever SALT was ratified or abandoned, to ride the inevitable tide of Arab wrath against Israel and the United States.
At the end of the year the game was not over. President Carter's personal commitment and energy remained a wild card of great potential force, and the true self-interest of the moderate Arabs and of Israel still favored successful autonomy negotiations. The Iranian revolution remains a huge complication; but, handled in the right way, it is also a powerful reminder of the broader instability and unpredictability of the area and therefore the prudence of pushing forward with the one and only initiative which in 30 years has offered a tangible prospect of a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict.
Unfortunately, the Iranian revolution itself took an especially nasty turn in November, when Iranian militants took hostage the staff of the American Embassy in Tehran, with the approval of Iran's leadership under the Ayatollah Khomeini. The extreme anti-Americanism in Iran was the direct result of past American policies-a legacy once again of bad regionalism.
In its handling of the crisis, the Administration earned some fierce criticism in the early days from its most hawkish domestic opponents; but as the crisis wore on respect for the President's measured response increased, especially in the eyes of the American people and foreign governments. Even the most savage early critics of Administration weakness and vacillation muted their criticisms, though it was also clear that others were restraining themselves until it could no longer be said that their attacks were endangering American lives and weakening the American President at a time of national emergency.
Perhaps the clearest lesson of the ongoing Iranian crisis is the great difficulty of trying to practice good regionalism in the wake of two decades of bad regionalism. Those two decades of excessive reliance on the Shah and his politically unrealistic programs had led to a situation from which no strategist would have chosen to start out. But at least the Administration seems to have kept its eye on the two essential issues: first, that under no circumstances must the United States be seen to contemplate concessions, justified or not, in response to the taking of hostages; and second, that the United States should not be provoked into emotionally dictated military actions that could only lead the Iranian regime to unpredictable reactions and that would, as events have already demonstrated, be overwhelmingly likely to cast the United States in the role of villain in the eyes of Muslim sentiment throughout the area.
Now, of course, the situation in the whole Middle East has been drastically altered by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. To see this as the result of some new correlation of superpower military forces in the area is, to repeat, a false reading of both history and present circumstances. The Soviet Union has always had it in its physical power to take over Afghanistan. Whether its present actions succeed in any wider purpose must depend upon the effectiveness of the measures already under way to penalize the Soviet Union directly through economic and political measures, and above all-in terms of the Middle East-on the capacity of the United States and other Western countries to work with the anti-Soviet feeling that prevails there today in taking effective countermeasures within the area.
Unquestionably, an element in those countermeasures must be the strengthening of American military capacity to act in support of threatened Middle Eastern nations, starting with renewed arms supplies to Pakistan. Already these nations, as well as nations in Africa, have shown themselves much more ready than in the recent past to provide at least limited military facilities for U.S. forces. And there are those who urge that the United States seek to create some new alliance structure in the Middle East that would bring together formally the moderate Arab nations, perhaps even with Israel.
But surely the whole history of Soviet-Western competition in the Middle East in the last 25 years argues for a much more sophisticated and cautious approach. The fates of the Baghdad Pact and later of CENTO-not to mention past Soviet efforts to create their own alliances-testify to the ineffectiveness of formal structures. Indeed, any attempt to depict the struggle in the area as one between the Soviet Union and the United States is bound to be counterproductive. It is, in fact, one between the Soviet Union and the independent nations of the Middle East, and it is on the basis of their often divergent attitudes and interests that any fabric of security cooperation must be created.
In short, if the United States should now turn to a policy of naked power that neglects the political realities of the area, it will lose. The essence of sound policy even in the face of this new and unprecedented crisis remains the practice of good regionalism. And one of the key elements in this must remain the achievement of early progress toward the resolution of the Palestinian issue, thus laying the foundations for a lasting Arab-Israeli peace. Only if this bone in the throat of leading Arab nations is removed can the United States hope in the long run to see the area as a whole free itself of the threat of extended Soviet influence or control.
The aims of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union at the start of the year were to maintain détente, to reach an agreement on a strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT II) and get it ratified, and to discourage Soviet adventurism around the world. All three were gravely jeopardized by the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan at the end of the year, an action which may now necessitate a complete reappraisal of U.S.-Soviet relations. But the 1979 record still deserves to be studied in full and on its merits.
Détente was already in some jeopardy at the outset of the year from the unexpected announcement in December 1978 of the decision to recognize Peking, from increasingly hawkish reactions in the United States to the Soviet arms build-up, the pattern of Russian machinations in Africa and the northern tier of the Middle East, the killing of U.S. Ambassador Dubs in Kabul in February, and the remorseless pressure of Hanoi on the rest of Indochina. The SALT II agreement looked attainable; but it and its ratification were always vulnerable to unforeseen developments-such as the loss of intelligence bases in Iran, and the "discovery" in September of a Soviet brigade in Cuba, never mind crude aggression against a neighboring state. As for discouraging Russian adventurism, the Administration faced the perennial problem defined by Kissinger of navigating between dangerous confrontation and equally dangerous passivity.
Dealt this hand-and before the invasion of Afghanistan threatened to bring the roof down-the Administration on the whole did surprisingly well in preserving its basic bilateral objectives and avoiding, sometimes only just, the main hazards which events at home and abroad threw in front of it. The abruptly announced decision to recognize China apparently put back the signing of the SALT treaty by several months; but détente was not at that time significantly derailed, once it was made clear that the United States was not fully playing the China card. The SALT II treaty was signed, though not ratified. Overreaction to the Soviet brigade in Cuba was avoided, though not without some initial Lear-like threats of unspecified retaliation on the President's part. Indeed, the most visible action of the Russian leadership in the latter part of the year was ostensibly pacific, namely Soviet President Brezhnev's offer to withdraw some Soviet forces and theater nuclear weapons from the European zone, if NATO would agree to forego modernization of its theater nuclear weapons. Whatever the motive-and there were certainly those who saw this as a cynical and transparent maneuver to prevent NATO from plugging an important gap in its defenses preparatory to renewed Soviet politico-military pressure on Western Europe-it was consistent with the spirit of détente.
But if the fundamentals of U.S.-Soviet relations were preserved, this was achieved at a cost to a number of subsidiary policy aims. The full impact of the restoration of diplomatic ties with China, which could have had important dividends for American self-confidence and global standing, was blurred, not only by the need to reassure the Soviet Union that no change in U.S.-Soviet relations was intended but above all by the feeling that perhaps China had played the American card as a preliminary to its "punitive" adventure against Vietnam in February. Even so, Russian behavior in Africa, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and even in Indochina after the Chinese invasion of Vietnam seemed for most of 1979 remarkable chiefly for its restraint, at least judged by the standards of the acute alarm that was being expressed in normally responsible quarters early in the year.
The blurring of the impact of normalized relations with China was not the only price in 1979. Neither the Administration nor the Russians showed much skill in translating their restraint in mutual dealings to advantage in building a stronger constituency for détente within the United States. What should have been seen as a cool Administration keeping its head when all about were losing theirs-and securing Soviet restraint and cooperation by skillful exploitation of Moscow's anxiety for SALT ratification-was too easily replaced by the more excitingly sensational picture of a weak American leadership nonplussed and outplayed by ineluctable Russian cunning. As a result, the cold war constituency in the United States gained ground-well before the Afghanistan intervention gave it its biggest windfall in years. Substantial defense expenditure commitments, some of them not then well thought through, had to be made. These came on top of both the substantial reversal already made by the Carter Administration of the previous decline in U.S. defense budget shares in GNP and of successful U.S. leadership of reluctant NATO partners in the same direction in 1977 and 1978. Even Kissinger judged it politic to cast his great influence as the most skillful architect of détente on the side of alarm in a spine-chilling address in Brussels in September, which cast doubt on the security of the American guarantee in light of the Soviet military build-up.
This failure to strengthen domestic support for détente had many causes: hand-to-mouth public relations disguised rather than emphasized the unifying rationale of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union; the theme of President Carter's Annapolis speech of June 1978, advocating sensibly modulated cooperation and competition, was not sufficiently repeated; an insufficiently suppressed urge to demonstrate spasmodic toughness found trivial, rather than substantial, outlets (e.g., the strange affairs of the non-absconding wife of the absconding Russian ballet dancer, and the White House's "tough" reaction, which later had to be reversed, to the Soviet brigade in Cuba). Other more seriously fumbled gestures-the dispatch of unarmed fighters to Saudi Arabia, the widely advertised refusal of landing rights for U.S. military aircraft in Spain, the Turks' consent to such landings only if the Soviets did not object, the dithering of U.S. aircraft carriers in and out of the Indian Ocean-too easily captured attention which should have been directed to the consistency of the Administration's essential handling of the Soviet Union.
Last, there was the unquestionable reality of the Russian arms build-up, the only really substantial element-pre-Afghanistan-in the whole litany of Soviet misdeeds. But here again the effort should have been made to communicate convincingly the validity and continuing success of the Administration's initiatives in rousing the NATO allies to an appropriate response, both in total defense spending with more cost-effective procurement procedures, and in facing up to the need to modernize NATO's theater nuclear forces. The first tended to get lost in the auction for Senate SALT votes, with higher percentage figures for the growth in defense spending being hawked round by all parties without much precision about what they would buy and why. Even the modernization of theater nuclear forces seemed for a while to have been unnecessarily hazarded by the premature commitment to a land-based solution. This could hardly have been better calculated to maximize the political risks of the European allies ducking their responsibilities. But at the crucial NATO meeting in Brussels on December 15 an affirmative decision was finally achieved. It remains vulnerable to a change of the political coalition in Italy, to the fragility of Belgian and Dutch policy and to West Germany's determination not to be alone in accepting deployment of new nuclear weapons directly threatening Soviet territory.
But for 1979, the actual achievement was real and important, demonstrating that a sensitive and cooperative U.S. response to anxieties originally expressed in Europe can lead the Alliance to face its responsibilities without America alone having to bear the odium of thrusting a controversial decision down complaining European throats. The message to the Soviets should have been clear: NATO is capable of a coherent response to a threatening Russian arms build-up; the United States has not lost control of its allies; détente is still a high alliance priority; and arms control is desired but will not be negotiated from a position of Western inferiority.
It is too soon to judge how far this interpretation of the progress of U.S.-Soviet détente in 1979 as it seemed at the time may have to be revised in the light of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and its consequences. If the Soviet Union should proceed not only to take over Afghanistan for keeps but to threaten other nations in the area from a new Afghan base, or if the Russians should breach the ceilings set in the now-shelved SALT II agreements, then indeed the West may have to gird itself, militarily and economically, for a long period of much more ruthless direct competition from the Soviet Empire, though the shared global interest in preventing a nuclear holocaust will remain as valid as ever.
But if the Soviet Union clearly confines its actions to Afghanistan and encounters difficulties both there and in the rest of the Middle East, so that it finally realizes the mistake it has made, then the basic principles discussed can continue to apply, though in a more watchful spirit.
Détente must never be confused with appeasement. A decision to abandon any search for détente should not be made instantly on the morrow of a shocking event. Nonetheless, the need to compete effectively in the rest of the world-beyond the direct military balance and the immediate border areas of the superpowers-will be at least as great as ever.
The broad theme underlying this review of U.S. foreign policy in 1979 has been that geopolitical success and failure depend on regional success and failure, which in turn depend on how the superpowers relate to locally prevailing political winds. The West and, in particular, the United States as its leader, has operated under two general handicaps: the legacy of bad regionalism engendered by a simplistic geopolitical strategy from Truman to Nixon; and the lack of a positive political philosophy with which to combat the appeal of Marxism and the stigma of colonialism and imperialism in the ideologically uncommitted parts of the developing world.
As a result, a serious crisis of confidence in American power has begun to develop. The old strategy of overt and covert support for every non-communist regime, however unsavory, no longer worked; nor did its characteristic methods and weapons. This was partly because those methods and weapons had come to be too widely rejected in the United States, and even more because "friendly" regimes inevitably built up so much opposition locally that they either collapsed or had to be propped up by even more naked American sponsorship. If one asks why the Soviet Union, whose own regime and whose client regimes are even less savory, can successfully carry its sponsorship to any lengths with comparative political impunity, the answers must be in part sheer ruthlessness uninhibited by a free political democracy at home, in part the philosophical edge that Marxism has enjoyed throughout much of the world in the immediate post-colonial age.
The attempt to move U.S. foreign policy toward a new strategy has been enormously difficult, partly because human rights and democracy are not by themselves sufficiently relevant to the concerns of most of the world's new nations, and partly because dropping the least savory of the old clients causes instant tremors of alarm among America's friends while encouraging their opponents. Moreover, once the credibility of a superpower is called into question, it can suffer for a while an almost catastrophic loss of effective influence.
Some critics have argued that the United States should go back to the old strategy, building up its military strength and bloodying more noses. But they cite no evidence that that strategy would now be immune from the weaknesses which defeated it before. A sophisticated and fully coordinated program of action that restored a sustainable political equilibrium in the Middle East could indeed restore confidence in American power, to say nothing of American will. But a ham-handed emphasis on delusive military "solutions," however "tough," would do more harm than good.
The real problem is deeper: to manage global turbulence in such a way as to prevent a major geopolitical upset for long enough to enable the more promising new strategy to be understood and to earn some dividends. Some encouraging signs, especially in Africa and Latin America, have already been cited. But the size of the task is still vividly illustrated in the state of the North-South dialogue. One of the true disappointments of U.S. foreign policy was symbolized during the September 1979 Havana Conference of Nonaligned States. For all the stage-management and hypocrisy, the plain fact was that the nearest approximation of a moral consensus at this gathering was on the Soviet side. It does little good to point out how unjust this is, how bogus, how little account it took of the real achievements of the Carter Administration in promoting diplomacy based on just those principles Kissinger had advocated in 1968, i.e., relevance; morality; creativity; pluralism; and legitimacy. Geopolitics is about winning. As measured-however imperfectly-by Havana, the moral balance of the world has not tilted to the champion of freedom, democracy, human rights and all that-not yet.
Had the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan preceded Havana, however, things would probably have fallen out differently. In early January 1980, the defeat of Cuba's candidacy for a Security Council seat above all and the overwhelming vote of the General Assembly to condemn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan showed a sharp rise in anti-Soviet feeling-though again it would be a mistake to interpret the switch as pro-American. The issue in the General Assembly was rightly presented by American representatives and others, not in U.S.-Soviet terms, but as a threat posed by the Soviet Union to the independence of all nations.
Thus the massive condemnation of Soviet behavior was much more than a generalized expression of that "world opinion" so often derided by tough-minded "realists"; it may not get Soviet forces out of Afghanistan, but it will plague the Soviet Union for a long time to come all over the world, and in concrete and power-related ways. And the vote would scarcely have been so decisive if the United States, under the Carter Administration, had not been conducting itself in the past three years at the United Nations in the spirit of Andrew Young rather than Patrick Moynihan, or if the Administration had not, in its whole conduct, given the convincing lie to Soviet charges that old-style U.S. manipulation contributed to the Afghanistan situation.
But there is much more still to do. The attitudes reflected in Havana still persist, and at their root lies not only the fact that many of the governments of the so-called nonaligned world came to power as a result of struggles against Western powers or their client regimes, but also the persistent neglect of the economic dimension in U.S. global policies. The substance of Western trade and aid policies for developing countries has been better than their reputation among both donors and beneficiaries-and far better than anything the Soviet Union has had to offer. But there has been no imaginative effort-Kissinger's speech at the U.N. Seventh Special Session in 1975 apart-to weld this into an overall political strategy for winning friends and shedding the ideological handicaps which the West has incurred from the colonial era and Marxist propaganda.
Despite the good intentions and different approach of the Carter Administration, no real progress was made on this front in 1979. Indeed, domestic attitudes in the United States tended to sour against Third World countries, with prominent commentators arguing with new impatience that no American interest was served by cultivating good relations with them. This again underlined the difficulty of a strategy which can only yield dividends over a decade or more.
There is scope indeed for an imaginative approach. It must start from the indivisibility of the globe, from the need for nations to coexist peacefully on it; from the threat to that posed by extreme economic inequality and absolute poverty; and from the enlightened self-interest of the developed countries in tackling poverty and extreme inequality in ways that are politically acceptable to the beneficiaries. In this spirit the more affluent countries could together offer to underwrite the minimal, bottom-line, balance-of-payments needs, based on an expertly assessed rolling development program, of each developing country or group of such countries. Then each would be invited individually to sign up with the donor consortium. Once this was done there would be much less reason for the developing countries to confront the developed as a hostile bloc talking ideological abstractions, and much more scope for reasoned negotiation about alternative forms of development assistance through trade and aid, since the bottom line would no longer be an issue.
But even an imaginative world economic policy would not by itself plug the philosophical gap in the West's armor. The answer, if one is to be found, will not lie in some instant new "ism". The ability of the Western countries to overcome their social, economic, energy and environmental problems and to demonstrate that free societies can be stable, just and successful will indeed be very important. That may involve quite radical changes away from the centralization of power in large and remote public and private bureaucracies. But, to be philosophically successful, the West will also have to identify more clearly with the general and specific goals of the Third World. It will have to offer a world political and economic order that makes small countries feel secure, poor countries confident of development, aggressive countries fearful of retribution, and all countries properly independent within their necessary interdependence. The order must offer better prospects than disorder.
Many of these concepts already underlay the postwar order built round the U.N. Charter and organization, international law, an open world economy and world development institutions. The American contribution to them has been preeminent. But too often the United States has allowed that initiative to be taken away from it by its perceived failure to demonstrate sustained fidelity to them or by excesses perpetrated implausibly in its name. The Carter Administration has done much in its U.N. role, if not in the North-South dialogue, to reestablish the American willingness to play by the rules of a system of international law and collective deliberation, most notably in its handling of the Iranian seizure of American hostages late in 1979. But the threads of a particular action have not been woven together into a generally understood Carter doctrine or strategy to capture the imagination and respect of a suspicious, cynical and unstable world. That will be a worthy task for a new year, a new decade and, perhaps, a new presidential term.
2 Compare Kissinger's 1968 apothegm-"Our goal should be to build a moral consensus which can make a pluralistic world creative"-with Zbigniew Brzezinski's 1977 peroration, "It is our confident judgment that our collaboration [with the 'global community'] can enhance the chances that the future destiny of man is to live in a world that is creatively pluralistic."
3 Berkeley Commencement Address, April 5, 1979.
4 In the first volume of his memoirs, Kissinger writes of the legacy of Acheson and Dulles that "our doctrine of containment could never be an adequate response to the modern impact of Communist ideology, which transforms relations between states into conflicts between philosophies and poses challenges to the balance of power through domestic upheavals." Henry Kissinger, White House Years, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1979, p. 62. Closer still to the heart of the matter, he writes, "no nation could face or even define its choices without a moral compass that set a course through the ambiguities of reality and thus made sacrifices meaningful." Ibid., p. 55.
6 Op. cit., p. 599.