Courtesy Reuters

Regionalism as Geopolitics

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

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