The tendency of Americans to think of foreign policy in universal terms goes back to the beginning of the Republic. As George Kennan has pointed out most forcefully, from "no entangling alliances" to "making the world safe for democracy" to the Truman Doctrine, the argument over what to do abroad has habitually been conducted as if it concerned the acceptance or rejection of some single touchstone principle or slogan. Temperament and geography joined to form this tendency; we were a nation set apart both physically and in the perceived roots of our national identity. And history decreed that in its terms of time we should move with breathtaking speed from a nation seemingly unaffected by the wars and struggles of others to one that has seen itself, at least since 1941, deeply affected by any substantial conflict anywhere in the world.

Today, misguided universalism is one of the principal charges brought against postwar American policy, especially in universities and among younger men and women. The Truman Doctrine, distorted well beyond its language, let alone the practical actions of its authors, is seen as the root of a worldwide American posture that became, in the 1950s, a new "imperialism."1 And in the 1960s President Kennedy's Inaugural appears as the rhetorical apogee of American activism, and the tragedy of Vietnam as its ordained culmination.

One could argue at length the substance of these views, especially the charge of "imperialism." If one insists (with the backing of history and the dictionary) that the primary meaning of empire requires an intent to control or dominate in one's own interest, then it seems to me a total distortion of anything that even John Foster Dulles, let alone John Fitzgerald Kennedy, had in mind. I incline to the recent judgment of Alastair Buchan, a discerning, and on occasion unsparing, critic of the United States:

. . . if one examines serious American thought over the past quarter-century . . . one will find a consistent thread-going back even to the wartime years-that rejects any ambition of American dominance, in favour of a plural relationship of many centres of power and responsibility, codified by a variety of multilateral agreements and subject to the constraints of international law.

To follow up this thought with the care it needs would be beyond the scope of this article.2 What is relevant here is that one of the principal contributors to the charge of imperialism, and to its ready acceptance in many quarters, has been just this tendency of American leaders to express themselves in universal terms. The worst case and grossest miscalculation thus became symbolic instead of aberrant, and colored all else.

Ironically, the critics of universalism all too frequently fall into the very vice they condemn. Because America got into trouble in the Third World, it becomes a "plain lesson," apparently, to ignore what goes on there. And even on a more sophisticated level the theme of "intervention" has been the centerpiece of much writing and of many college courses in foreign relations, as if all choices were somehow generically alike, all starting points the same, and history and geography compressible into the vise of some single theorem.

While the searing experience of American participation in Vietnam continued, prolonging its torture year by year, it was perhaps natural for disillusioned Americans to seek the origins of the war in an oversimplified version of postwar history, and to project its lessons in terms that tended to be as universally negative as the previous policies had been thought to be unthinkingly activist. And perhaps one should even be tolerant of the urge that led the Administration in 1969 to propound the Nixon Doctrine, seeking to define American security policy in terms of universal principles of common action, chiefly that associated nations should take a larger share of the responsibility for their own defense. In hindsight, perhaps the kindest thing that can be said of that Doctrine is that it was only a smokescreen pending the development of new relationships with China and the Soviet Union. At any rate it left unanswered all the key questions of relative importance and closeness of ties even among the nations more or less aligned with the United States, and gave no guidance at all for such situations as the Arab-Israeli conflict. Even in East Asia, the geographical area where it most clearly applied, it was often ignored, while in the case described by its author as "its purest form"-Cambodia-the results hardly call for emulation.

If the first Nixon Administration is seen by history as a largely successful rear-guard action to limit the reaction to Vietnam and prevent it from swinging right over to an isolationist and militarily weak posture, this considerable accomplishment will surely be ascribed rather to its dealings with Peking and Moscow than to any contribution from the Nixon Doctrine. As it has wisely been allowed to fade into limbo, however, the same President was caught up beginning in 1972 in a new wave of oversold slogans and descriptions of policy, with "détente" and "a generation of peace" leading the way.

"Let us talk things, not words," Justice Holmes once wrote. The hard problems of international security have not disappeared. Indeed, more than ever, in a time when economic problems have top priority, is it necessary to be as careful and precise as possible about the claims of security on American attention and effort. Suppose, then, one were to wipe the slate clean of slogans and doctrines and even to proceed without seeking to frame at the outset some abstract formulation of American national interest. Suppose, specifically, one were to examine the regions of the world, one by one, asking for each particular region two questions: (1) In view of power realities and potential threats of international conflict, what conditions there would be most hopeful for relative peace and for national independence and development? (2) How much does it matter to the United States whether those conditions are maintained (or attained where they do not exist), and what should the American role be?


To think of the world in regional terms is, in fact, justified by more than the desire to get away from pernicious abstractions. In the leveled world that existed after 1945, it was inevitable that two superpowers should come into being, and their interaction remains central. But now, as the glacier of the cold war has receded both in Europe and Asia, the regions of the world have reasserted a life of their own; their resistance to outside domination and influence is much greater; most are, in the true sense, nonaligned; and the number of nations entitled to rank as major powers is much larger, with some of these aspiring to dominant roles within their regions. Moreover, the Sino-Soviet hostility is now at least as important as the continuing rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Indeed, as Alastair Buchan has noted, the whole power structure of the world has changed out of all recognition in the short space of only about ten years. In the new situation, it makes sense on the face of things for American policy to handle each regional arena as separately as possible-to identify with the forces at work in each region, dealing directly with the superpower rivalry where we must, but striving to keep that rivalry, or the quarrels of any great powers outside a particular region, out of the picture to the maximum extent possible.

It turns out that there is "something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue" in such an approach. "Old" where the superpower rivalry persists and is reflected in a major force confrontation, "new" where the rivalry has receded and should be kept that way; "borrowed" where an additional transition is briefly required; and "blue" for the toughest set of cases, where the rivalry cannot be soon disentangled and where the gravest threats to world peace exist-or at least those the United States is most in a position to affect. There remains one area little subject to American influence or action, the land frontier between the Soviet Union and China, and one cannot omit a coda on this subject.

Let us start, then, by examining three "old" areas, in which the American role remains inescapably at the core of what happens. These are: the strategic balance between the United States and the Soviet Union, the security of Europe, and the security of Northeast Asia, above all Japan and Korea. The basic analysis of the late 1940s-that it would be gravely threatening to world peace and to American security alike if the Soviet Union were ever in a position to gain effective control of the major resources of Western Europe and Japan-remains at least as valid today, when the economic power of these two great centers of civilization has multiplied beyond the furthest dreams of postwar American policy-makers. And the security of these areas depends on the maintenance of some sort of strategic balance by the United States.

Until the last five years or so, it has been possible to take that balance almost for granted. Even when the Soviet Union, after the humiliation of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, set out to catch up completely with the United States in the latter 1960s, one could not see the basic effectiveness of the American strategic nuclear posture being seriously disturbed-for it had been clear for years that each side had an ability to damage the other, even if it hit first, that went far beyond any rational use of force. This was Churchill's balance of terror raised to new peaks.

In about 1969, however, it began to be clear that the Soviet Union meant to press still further, to create a situation in which it attained what is called nuclear superiority and used the psychological impact of this achievement to overawe others. This is the situation that the United States sought to meet-with limited success, it now appears-in the SALT I negotiations, and that now has been addressed both in the SALT II discussions and in Secretary Schlesinger's challenging proposals in the current defense budget.

Obviously, it should remain the American objective to keep a situation of effective parity, and at the same time to work toward major reductions in strategic nuclear capabilities. But, especially after the Moscow experience this June, we must now face up to the distinct possibility that the present Soviet leadership, far more heavily influenced than American leaders have ever been by military voices, will not settle readily for mutual agreements that would meet these objectives. Fine if they will, but if not, what should we do? Do we pursue them wherever they go, or stand pat at a certain point, adding to our own capabilities only those elements clearly required?

I think the latter must be our basic answer. One cannot ignore psychological factors, but I am strongly attracted to the line of argument developed by General Maxwell Taylor in the April issue of Foreign Affairs, that if we remain competent and above all cool, the spectre of Soviet nuclear superiority becoming important additional power will turn out to be a will-of-the-wisp that has simply wasted vast Soviet resources. Refinements and continued research may be needed-all I understand Secretary Schlesinger to be now proposing-but in the last analysis the United States should refuse to be lured further in an unending strategic arms race. At some point, I believe, we must in effect say to the Soviet Union: "What you are doing is a colossal diversion of resources that should be employed for your people and for others. Neither we nor others will let you obtain the power advantages you apparently seek in this crude way. Moreover, we and others will take your diversion of technical capacity into account in weighing whatever economic exchanges you may propose to meet deficiencies in your people's welfare that your own policy has permitted." If it came down to just such a test of economic power versus nuclear/psychological power, I do not believe we would lose.

In advocating this course, a major consideration is that it is not, in fact, new increments of Soviet strategic nuclear power that could at any time overawe Western Europe and Japan. In the outpouring of rather esoteric writings on the present problem of European security, some writers talk as though the jeopardy of American cities were a new factor; on the contrary, it is an old story, a case of déjà vu if ever there was one, which in fact formed the core of de Gaulle's appeal against reliance on America more than a decade ago. To the extent that this thought could enter the European (or Japanese) bloodstream, it must have done so then; the "more" that is now in question will not make any significant difference.

However, the growth of Soviet military power in recent years has, it seems to me, had one very major effect on the continuing role of America in helping Europe and Japan maintain their security-by which one must mean not only simple independence but an atmosphere free from pressures or compulsion. Over the years, it has been axiomatic in American policy statements that in due course, and preferably sooner rather than later, the European NATO countries should assume greater responsibility for the defense of their own territories.

On the nuclear side, however, this makes even less sense today than it did a decade ago, when the United States went wrong at Nassau. Meaningless beyond a certain point in relation to American nuclear power, Soviet nuclear power nonetheless makes any such European power more than ever vulnerable, if anything an invitation to attack rather than a useful deterrent. More than ever, however unfortunate it may appear to some, strategic nuclear power cannot be truly shared.

The real question in Europe is, of course, whether the Europeans cannot do more to assure their defense on the ground. This is a tangled subject, on which any direct cut gives only the illusion of an answer. Obviously, as George Kennan points out in his recent article in Foreign Policy (and Michael Howard earlier in Britain), the idea of Europe being cowed into compliance with Soviet wishes-what is called "Finlandization"-is both an exaggerated spectre and one that, to the extent it exists, could be readily avoided if the European NATO nations put modest additional effort into their ground (and air) defenses. Equally obviously, a Europe lulled by détente and preoccupied with economic concerns is not about to make such an effort unless the threat comes to seem much greater, or unless more economical defensive military techniques come into play (here, especially in the light of the Yom Kippur War, there must be real possibilities in the field of conventional weapons alone, within this decade).3

The result is a conundrum I believe Americans simply have to live with. The increase in Soviet conventional forces and weapons in the European theater is formidable. Europe is more than ever dependent on the American nuclear umbrella, and the required degree of confidence in that umbrella is linked to substantial American forces on the ground and to continued American leadership in NATO military affairs. Of course, this does not mean that present force levels are sacrosanct-but any reductions should not be significant unless compensating Soviet force reductions could conceivably be agreed at Vienna. As for the balance-of-payments impact, of course we should have as much offset as possible for the foreign-exchange cost of our troops, but in a world where the slightest change in comparative exchange rates-or oil prices-can dwarf the impact of troop costs on the economies of America and her NATO partners, it is time to put even that aspect into proper perspective more than Congress did in the Nunn-Jackson amendment last year.

The same basic conclusions concerning the American role apply in the case of Japan and Northeast Asia generally. Japan has been through a series of shocks in the past three years, two named after President Nixon in 1971, one more recently that Japanese leaders sometimes call the "Arabushokku." Nonetheless, it is striking, especially to the visitor who experienced the moods of 1971 and 1972, how much Japan has become in the process more independent, more resilient-and much more clearly oriented away from military measures of any sort, let alone nuclear power, as an answer to the serious problems of her economic interdependence with the world.4 When Mr. Fukuda slashed the budget last December to fight inflation, he lopped off a full proportion of the Japanese defense budget-and in the mood of Japan today any idea of nuclear weapons is completely to one side. I believe Japan's mood is not only inevitable-beyond our capacity to influence if we wished-but healthy for the whole structure of peace in Asia.

Rather Japan-and Korea which remains, in the Japanese term, the dagger pointed at Japan's heart-must depend for their security and continuing confidence on two conditions. One is a continued balance among the four great powers of Asia, which appears reasonably assured, barring a complete reconciliation between China and the Soviet Union. The other, now I believe more fixed than ever in the Japanese mind, is the American Security Treaty. Lately, of course, Japanese opposition to that treaty has been muted by the known Chinese acceptance, even endorsement, of it; more basically, my hunch is that even as Japanese subjective feelings toward the United States have been rudely shaken by a number of disagreeable incidents in the past four years, so the rock of objective reliance and interdependence has emerged if anything more firmly fixed.

As for Korea, it lives surrounded by the three great resident Asian powers and for that very reason dependent on the fourth, the United States. I see no serious threat to peace in Korea at the present time, though I am deeply concerned over domestic trends that seem to reflect a too-familiar Asian cycle in the embryonic stages of learning democratic self-government. But Korea remains by geography alone a dangerous place, and one where any local eruption would almost surely engage great powers directly. The insurance premium of American military assistance and 20,000-40,000 forces on the ground, which none have reason to fear, is a very modest one indeed, and one that no other country, least of all Japan, could handle.

Painful as is the present American position in the face of Park's inexcusable repression, I would not join with those who urge a deliberate reduction in American support for Korea, to show our disapproval. If repression should clearly affect the very capacity of the Republic of Korea to use military assistance, that would be one thing. To go further and apply what Koreans see as pressure-by-action is quite another. The experience with Diem in Vietnam in 1963 has shown us two of the difficulties of such a course-the unpredictability of the result (that the "right" people may not be the ones encouraged to take power), and above all the deepening of American involvement that comes from having played a visible role. In the wake of the tragic assassination of Mrs. Park, one does not know what to predict in Korea. But whatever change may take place, its sources should be wholly Korean (as indeed they were in both 1960 and 1961).

In short, if one looks at the great centers of economic power in the world, which are also the great historic centers of war in the twentieth century, one sees that there are structures of peace in being that have worked remarkably well for 20 years or more. Call them local balances of power, cases of effective deterrence, even situations of strength, their existence is vital to any structure of world peace, and worth a great deal of effort to preserve. And, I believe, on any objective judgment the American role in these areas remains today as important as it has been at any time since World War II; one cannot imagine a structure of peace in Europe or Northeast Asia that did not involve a major American presence and ties there. Here is where American policy since 1945 has clearly worked, and with some impact on the opportunities for peaceful and constructive living of hundreds of millions of people. If it be argued that the chances of aggression in these areas are small-as they are-the response should be (1) that it is the American posture that has kept these chances low, and (2) that in an affluent atmosphere, the requirement of confidence is, if anything, more demanding-the threshold of disruptive external pressures lower-than in the earlier years when turmoil was almost taken for granted.

At the same time, neither the major NATO nations nor Japan are now in any significant sense actors on the security scene in other areas of the world. In the light of history this is a startling fact, and if history were our guide we should expect to see it change. I am inclined to think that it will not do so, that the combination of multiple dependence on other countries for the substance of economic life, basic trends away from nationalist goals, and the effect of affluence will keep Western Europe and Japan "soft" areas in terms of exerting traditional forms of power around the world. Yet this does not for a moment diminish the importance of maintaining security in these areas for its own sake. And in terms of its effect on world peace the result surely is mixed: one may mourn Western Europe's abdication from a responsible role especially in the Middle East (as Fritz Stern does brilliantly in a recent Commentary),5 but East Asians generally would be deeply concerned if Japan ever became assertive there.

At any rate, few formulations have deserved, and had, more rapid burial than the talk of a five-power world balance of power in which President Nixon and Mr. Kissinger engaged two short years ago. It is fundamental-and was before the flash of lightning of the October War made it starkly clear-that Europe and Japan are today powers that neither threaten the independence of others nor can be expected to act effectively in the security sphere except solely, and even there modestly, in their own defense. Perhaps they are models of what all nations might become in an interdependent world.


From Europe and Japan-where the structure of security and the U.S. role are clearest-let us move to the polar "new" case of Africa. Egypt and North Africa apart, here the clash of great powers in the postwar world has been least, after a near-collision in the Congo in the early 1960s. More recently, the experience of the Biafra rebellion suggests not only that outside nations do well to avoid taking sides in African quarrels (as the French did to their cost), but that even humanitarian outrage may lead to misguided policy conclusions through inadequate understanding.6 In short, it is plainly the right rule of thumb to let disputes in Africa sort themselves out and to avoid great-power involvement.

This rule may again be strained if conflict should arise between a grouping of the Black nations of the area and the white-dominated countries of the south, a possibility that may have been brought nearer by the impact of change in Portugal. In such a case, there would certainly be most uncomfortable choices of posture for many nations, the United States included. And it would be an immense test of diplomacy, ending-one must hope-in a new boost for U.N. peacekeeping.

In short, if Western Europe and Northeast Asia are cases where it is impossible to visualize lasting peace without an American role, exactly the reverse is true in Africa. There every consideration of geography, limited local power and past history converges to a clear conclusion. There the action and interaction of the great powers must and can be kept to levels that will never cause their relations one with another to be drastically affected. In such a region of dissociation, military forces of superpowers and great powers alike should not appear except in response to a Resolution of the United Nations or the clear-cut request of a responsible regional group of nations.


In geography, historical association, depth of American private involvement, and at the present time in alliance ties, Latin America could hardly appear more different from Africa. Yet I would argue that in a spectrum of American involvement that runs from Europe and Northeast Asia, at one extreme, to Africa at the other, Latin America belongs not only nearer, but very near, to the African pole. From now on, its security problems should be left to Latin Americans to resolve.

There are four strong reasons for this conclusion; all have evolved rapidly in the past decade; together they warrant a complete change in the kind of thinking that led to the formation of the Organization of American states (OAS) in 1948, the disastrous Bay of Pigs expedition in 1961, and the Dominican intervention as recently as 1965. First, experience in Cuba and elsewhere has made it evident to the Soviet Union, and to Communists generally, that there is no prairie fire of wars of liberation to be lit. As Moscow must see it, support of Latin American communism is expensive and unrewarding; as Latin Americans see it, homegrown leftism varies from nation to nation, with no common pattern. Whether it is a threat or not, it calls less and less for anything resembling concerted OAS action.

Second, Latin America now has a diversity of outside nations to turn to, especially for economic ties. The resurgence of European investment and the growth of Japanese interest are economically healthy and good for easing, over time, the frustrations of excessive dependence on the colossus of the North. Less happy, but largely beyond our control for the moment, is the multiplication of arms sources for too-eager purchasers.

Third, individual Latin American nations are much stronger than in the past, with Brazil in particular emerging as a major regional power potentially dominant over her neighbors. This situation may have its dangers in terms of intra-regional threats to peace, but the problem is not one on which outsiders can help.

In such a plural and self-reliant Latin America, the fourth aspect is that the United States cannot now play a useful security role even if it would. At best we can ease tensions by keeping a low profile and, I suggest, guiding our economic treatment of difficult regimes (left or right) more by the consensus of Latin American opinion and less by principles for the protection of foreign investment that have less and less abstract appeal or validity in the eyes of developing nations generally. In Chile, for example, we went far enough to be blamed, not far enough to affect the outcome. Our acceptance of Allende was right; some of our economic pin-pricks, through multilateral organizations, were ill-advised.7

My own conclusion (hardly original) is that it is time we wound up the OAS tie, or at least put to one side its security aspects. (We would thus be shedding at one stroke 22 of the 43 formal allies so ringingly invoked by advocates and detractors alike of the past American posture.) Let Latin Americans decide how they wish to handle threats to security there. Let all the great powers have access to Latin America freely, provided they behave themselves as judged by Latin Americans. We would find, I believe, that our cultural and trade ties both would benefit from such a security divorce between Latin America and the United States.

Left thus to itself, Latin America may not be wholly peaceful, but the chance that its problems will engage the risk of wider hostilities could drop to zero-and above all it would be a much more healthy situation for all Americans, North and South. If a capsule term were needed, one might speak of a neutralized Latin America, just as Africa has always regarded itself as neutral.


"Neutralized." The word is like a bell, bringing back associations with Southeast Asia, to which I turn next.

It is a slippery word, used about Southeast Asia at times as a euphemism for Chinese control (notably by the French in the mid-1960s; it is a feature of French views that they have always tended to see China as inevitably dominant throughout East Asia)-at times too it has been the label for individual agreements that were in fact temporary makeshifts, as in Laos. But as a broad description of the proper situation for Southeast Asia, it has plain validity today, and is more and more the way events and policies on all sides are moving.

Not that movement toward a wide regional association has been rapid or yet important; the high hopes some of us in government held for a while in the late 1960s, especially for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), do not seem likely to be soon realized. Perhaps, in a self-reliant Southeast Asia, Indonesia may at some point pose the kind of threat to its smaller neighbors that Brazil might do in Latin America; and North Vietnam may end up in control of most of Indochina, one way or another. There is no way to assure peace in Southeast Asia, or development either-although it now seems likely that oil and other minerals will make most of the countries more prosperous than anyone supposed possible a decade or two ago. (Let the New Left economic revisionists account for the fact that important economic stakes have come into being only as the United States withdraws.)

The real point, though, is that a modus vivendi among the four great powers of Asia does exist fairly solidly with respect to Southeast Asia. For a long time to come China will have as her top priorities a potential conflict with Russia and her own internal development (not to mention the succession problem now so acute). Japan remains wholly an economic actor, and while Russian interest has grown in recent years, it remains well below a level that can be regarded as threatening.

In this situation, the United States should remove its military presence from the mainland just as rapidly as possible. One must allow a short grace period for Indochina to sort itself out: from a recent visit there I believe the greatest chance of collapse in Vietnam, by far, lies on the economic side, and that it would be tragic if an American refusal of adequate economic aid (to recover from an artificial economic situation we did so much to create for them) were to contribute to that result. But essentially we must accept that our withdrawal is irrevocable, and specifically that the continued presence of U.S. air forces in Thailand is both a wasting bluff vis-à-vis North Vietnam and a substantial impediment to Thai progress. Thailand does remain a crucial country, and there is a case for disbanding SEATO in favor of a limited-term American treaty of support for Thailand (which is all SEATO has really been for years). But the large American military presence in Thailand makes no sense at all that the visitor can discern, while it is wholly out of keeping with the promising move to civilian government there, and with the efforts of that government to return to the traditional, and now very sensible, Thai policy of dealing evenly with all great powers.

Offshore, our naval and air bases in the Philippines have the weight of tradition, and the negative merit that they do not seriously aggravate the local situation but are on the whole welcome and accepted. Nonetheless, once the end game in Indochina is over, the case for retaining anything substantial there seems to me much weaker. A major naval base can be useful in support of the Seventh Fleet, but certainly neither naval nor air bases are worth any significant cost either in terms of aid to the Philippines or, perhaps more serious, in terms of potential involvement in Philippine politics or internal insurgency problems. Whatever we need for strategic purposes should be available in Guam-and at first blush I am most skeptical of the case now being pressed for bases in Saipan or anywhere else in the present Micronesian Trust Territory.8

Southeast Asia is, then, a "borrowed" situation, which should and can move to the new and desirable status of great-power dissociation-or, if you will, strategic dissociation coupled with full economic access for all, on terms laid down by the local countries. The question today is how long the transition period must be. So far as the American posture is concerned, I hope it can be very short.


An eminent advocate once had to argue before the Supreme Court an appeal that involved three crucial issues, two very strong for his side, the third weak-to-fatal. As he began his argument, Justice Holmes put his head down on his arms and closed his eyes, after saying gently: "When counsel reaches the third point in his brief, he may count on my undivided attention."

My "third point" is, of course, the Middle East and its surrounding areas-South Asia and the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf area, the Arab countries and Israel, and the Balkans.

South Asia and the Indian Ocean, if they stood alone, would be an easy case for the "new" principle of great-power dissociation. Certainly no great power should covet India, or any part of South Asia, for its own sake. At an earlier period, the United States became for a time deeply concerned with India's security at a time when she was threatened by China; more recently, the Soviet Union has been trying to enlist India, and to take advantage of Indian territory, as part of its effort to contain and oppose China at every point around the periphery of Asia. As long as China courts Pakistan, India will be somewhat responsive to extra Soviet efforts-but a serious perceived threat from China seems unlikely again, and the India of Mrs. Gandhi, or any likely successor, will, I believe, be most unlikely to give the Soviets significant military bases or any other direct help. The whole thrust of Indian policy remains rightly opposed to this, directed toward serving India's own interests along basically nonaligned paths.

Yet the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean forms a part of the Soviet efforts to exert power in the Persian Gulf and in the Horn of Africa. It is the connection with the Middle East that tends to drag South Asia into great-power rivalries-just as it was this connection that led the United States into what I regard as one of the clearest single errors in all our postwar policy, the 1954 decision to bring Pakistan into the Baghdad Pact (and SEATO as well) and to arm Pakistan extensively.

Unfortunately, whatever the United States does toward India today is darkened in Indian eyes by the memory of our posture in the 1971 Bangladesh war. There, apparently largely to keep on the good side of China during the courting period of our rapprochement with Peking, we tilted toward Pakistan and sent the Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal. Our policy then seems to me to have been a classic case of doing the wrong thing in a regional situation for the sake of wider relationships-exactly the reverse of the priorities I am urging in this article, and one of the prime examples against "universal" principles as a guide. It is in large part the memory of this episode that makes Indians unanimously condemn the current Administration effort to build up the remote island of Diego Garcia as a base from which naval and air transport forces could operate in case of need.

Compared to the numerous ships the Soviet Union may have in the Indian Ocean area at any time, the expansion of Diego Garcia is, even in regional terms, a modest response. With the Suez Canal opening up sometime this year-which will take most Soviet ships but not the larger American ones-I am prepared to believe the Diego Garcia development makes sense. Another factor may be that, since the experience of the Yom Kippur War has made alarmingly plain how difficult it can be for the United States to send any kind of arms or forces to the Middle East, we need even the most roundabout means of access. Ideally, as Iranians in particular are suggesting, an overall agreement for both superpowers to keep their forces out of the whole Indian Ocean area would be the most sensible solution, but that is not yet in sight. For the time being we have to live with a partial exception to the rule of a South Asia left to itself, but only at sea and I hope not for long.

The crucial problem, of course, is the Soviet offensive in the Middle East generally-an offensive aimed at effective influence in the Arab countries and with a special thrust at Iraq, an opportunistic backing of the Dhofar rebels, and political action in Somalia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. One can understand a Soviet desire not to have hostile states to the South-and the recent trend for Iran and Turkey, for example, to put their relations with the Soviet Union on a reasonable footing is wholly understandable. Yet the attempt by the Soviet Union to take advantage of the Arab-Israeli struggle, for whatever influence it can get, and to spread its efforts all through the area remains all-too-reminiscent of classic Russian policy aims in the past, made far more critical by the dependence on Middle East oil of Europe, Japan, increasingly the United States, and-as we realize more today-a host of developing nations.

In weighing what kind of security structure could preserve peace in the Middle East, one must start with the fact of Soviet military preponderance. Turkey is protected by NATO, and Iran by its own rapidly growing, military capabilities and by a relationship with the United States so close that in the event of clear aggression the chance of the American nuclear deterrent coming into play must appear substantial; if worst came to worst, Iran would make of its northern areas a "scorched earth" to resist Soviet invasion. But in the area as a whole, it is inevitable-and merely underscored by the British withdrawal from the Gulf and by the difficulties the United States experienced in 1973 in bringing its power to bear-that the Soviets could prevail in any large-scale conventional confrontation in the area. It is not in the cards for the Middle East ever to become an area where peace is kept by "total engagement"-by a combination of nuclear deterrence and an effective barrier of conventional forces. With the advantage of hindsight, one can now see the whole formation of the Baghdad Pact as a mistake simply for the reason that it appeared to be aiming at such a situation, but with no real possibility of achieving it.

Similarly, if one thought even partly in the obsolete patterns of the 1950s, it could be argued that the American position in the Middle East should rest on close ties with Iran and Israel, the most powerful nations in the area militarily. The picture of Iran and Israel as American surrogates is one that haunts intelligent Arab minds; even today one has to fight it off when discussion becomes really frank in Arab countries. It is, I am sure, a profoundly false picture-belying not only the independence and self-reliance of these nations, which are not by the furthest stretch of imagination "client states," but the intent of American policy-makers for many years past. We support the independence of these two key countries for their own sakes, gratified at the progress each has made in improving the lot of its people (and seeing in this the vindication of past policies that go back to 1946 and 1948), and we see in them nations that can play important roles in a regional structure of peace-but not for one moment at American bidding or for the sake of specifically American interests.

What, then, of a regional structure of peace? Already one can see such a structure emerging in the Persian Gulf area, disrupted only by excessive Soviet military support for Iraq and by Soviet political and subversive activities around the periphery of the Gulf. With the withdrawal of the British in 1971, many feared a vacuum there. Instead, Iran and Saudi Arabia have emerged as effective regional powers, capable of handling any but the most grave threats from the outside. If, and it may be a big if, these two very different nations can learn to work together, if both exert their power with restraint, and if Iran balances its relations, as it is now doing, with Pakistan and India to the south, then a stable and reasonable structure may be well along in the making.

The Arab-Israeli confrontation is, of course, far more difficult-not to see the answer, but to realize it. That Egypt and Syria have now joined Saudi Arabia and Jordan in seeking measured ties to the United States is a major change for which President Nixon and Secretary Kissinger deserve great credit. It reflects once again the ingrained tendency of Arab nationalism to resist Soviet influence-not to become dependent on any great power-and this is one of the cornerstones for the future. But new ties with Arab states will not be permanently effective and constructive unless they are accompanied by a reasonable and just settlement of the basic issues between the Arab states, as well as the Palestinians, and Israel. If, the biggest "if" of all in the world today, that could be accomplished, then and then only would self-denial by the Soviets, the giving up of their 20-year effort to fish in troubled waters, be virtually forced on them by the stabilized force of Arab sentiment.

Moreover, as negotiations continue toward an ultimate settlement, it is not too early to seek to frame the kind of superpower situation that should be an explicit or implicit part of the ultimate structure. The Arab-Israeli conflict has been a major magnet-but not the only one-tending to draw the Soviet Union and the United States into direct involvement and commitments in the Middle East. The easing of that conflict would be only a partial success if the outcome brought either superpower into a position the other could regard as threatening. Specifically, the United States may have to take on substantial added commitments, to both Arab states and Israel, as part of the process of getting a settlement. I heartily concur with the argument of Nadav Safran, elsewhere in this issue, that such commitments will be worth making if they are the price of peace. But at the same time it seems to me axiomatic that as much of the burden as possible should be placed on the United Nations, and that whatever bilateral aid is furnished by the United States to one group of nations should not become the occasion for the Soviet Union redoubling its efforts with another group.

To put it differently, the United States may have to accept an interim role as the warrantor (Mr. Safran's phrase) of the agreements, and as the power with strong ties to both sides. But it should be the object of American policy to disengage from such commitments just as rapidly as possible, and in the meantime to take every possible step to make sure that the Soviet Union cannot regard them in an adversary light. For in the long run, although a strategic Middle East cannot ever be "neutralized" in the sense that areas more remote from the superpowers' territory and interest can be, it must at least be an area where no major power feels threatened, and where all have access for peaceful purposes. This is no small order.

Before leaving the Middle East, I must refer to one area that Americans do not usually link to that area, but that the Soviet Union does. This is the situation in the Balkans, and most particularly the question of Yugoslavia. Here I cannot improve on the analysis and prescription of John C. Campbell in last July's Foreign Affairs. Conceding the present dangers, especially in the period after Tito dies, he sees the long-term hope in just the terms I have been using throughout this article:

A respectable degree of regional cohesion, combined with a tacit code of nonintervention by outside powers, is the kind of pattern that may be emerging in other areas of the world such as Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Persian Gulf. It is still a rather nebulous concept for those regions, and to envisage it for a group of nations so close to the U.S.S.R. and including members of the "Socialist Commonwealth" requires more than a little imagination. Yet it is not unimaginable that the Balkan nations may increase, inch by inch, their cohesion and their ability to act in their own behalf; that a network of peaceful economic and other relationships between them and the rest of Europe will grow up, which no one will want to destroy; and that the weight of the United States and of China in the world balance, though neither attempts to build a specific anti-Soviet grouping in the area, can have some restraining influence on Soviet decisions. For a complex border region which has never known security it may be the only way out.

As for the situation of Greece and Turkey-linked partly to the Balkans, partly to NATO, partly to the Middle East-no regional rubric would have helped the United States to guide its actions through the tragic events of this summer. American policy toward both countries has suffered from other preoccupations, and in Greece from a failure to show much greater coolness toward the colonels and all they represented. But Cyprus was and remains inherently an apple of discord, and the most one can hope is that Soviet hopes of an enduring shambles will be disappointed and the NATO flank restored. For NATO and American protection do still matter here.


In going through the regions of the world and assessing what a reasonable structure of peace might be, I said earlier that a coda had to be reserved for the contingency of armed conflict between China and the Soviet Union. Although the influence of the United States on that situation may be small, it is extremely helpful that we now have balanced relationships with both nations and have made clear our total opposition to a conflict that would be both a disaster for mankind in itself and a breeder of deep trouble for the future however it came out. If the threat should at any time become more acute, I see a strong case for the other nations of the world, acting in concert, to apply the strongest possible deterrent measures. Economic sanctions in particular have a new meaning today; one need not be guided by their failure against Italy in the 1930s, or more recently against Rhodesia.

As for the state of the Sino-Soviet relationship short of war, their hostility has of course been a major factor tending to defuse the dangers to peace in East Asia during this transition period. Yet we need not fear that the two will ever again work together as they did in the 1950s, and if a change in either should produce an easing of tension between them, it could contribute in a different way to a world of regional security systems based on the self-denial of great powers.


I have gone on too long and still only scratched the surface of a vast subject. To the long catalogue of possible conflicts between nations, one must add the problem of terrorism by groups or individuals, to which no answer is yet in sight. And some would argue that the question of access to resources raises whole new, or very old, possibilities of military action; it is a nightmare that I cannot see coming to pass unless there is a failure of world statesmanship, including American, on a scale amounting to breakdown. Surely an equitable pattern of sharing and rewards can be brought about well short of that point.

Most of all, I have not tackled the question of reducing the appalling burden of armaments in the world today-this has been deliberate, for on the old chicken-and-egg question whether arms races are more important than tension, I am on the side of tension. If regional situations can be stabilized, then it will be possible to get nations to reduce their arms, and even the problem of multiple sources of sophisticated arms, now involving our friends more than rival Communist suppliers, could lend itself to specific agreements limiting a traffic that less and less has any fragment of economic excuse.

Nor have I tried to apply my conclusion to an assessment of the conventional American force posture. Here, in a nutshell, I believe psychology vis-à-vis the Soviet Union is more important than at the outer reaches of the strategic arms issue. If we are to maintain the kind of firm posture I believe is essential in Europe and Northeast Asia alone, these needs would dictate something very close to the ground and air forces we now have. Moreover, I believe our naval forces must now be emphasized somewhat more, as part of a general posture of fire prevention-"counter-intervention" in Professor Samuel Huntington's phrase-that is, the capacity to bring small increments of military force quickly to bear at any point where Soviet or other intervention is threatened. It is a hard time for military planners; the range of contingencies is great, and should more and more embrace joint military participation with several other nations, acting at the request of the United Nations or of regional groups of nations and with the objective of stopping or at least localizing conflict where it arises.

Unfortunately the prospect of outright and enduring peace remains remote-as we have been reminded too much since President Nixon employed that rhetoric. The world is more complicated than that. The challenge to limit conflict, to permit people to get on with the business of living, is one that will not go away. I hope it is some help in meeting that challenge to suggest that from now on, as we Americans become able to think more coolly and objectively about problems of peace, we should also do so on a more precise and regionally oriented basis, pursuing many policies rather than a single over-arching one, accepting complexity as a fact of life, and adapting the American role not to any single vision of the world but to the realities of power and political attitudes in its diverse parts.


1 See John Lewis Gaddis, "Reconsiderations: The Cold War: Was the Truman Doctrine a Real Turning Point?" Foreign Affairs, January 1974.

2 The Buchan quotation is from his Reith Lectures, of the fall of 1973. For a recent acute comment on the issue of American imperialism-drawing a useful distinction between "imperial" and "imperialist" behavior-see Charles Frankel's review of Raymond Aron's The Imperial Republic: The United States and the World, 1945-1973, in The New York Times Book Review, July 21, 1974, p. 2. In the longer lecture from which the present article has been adapted, delivered at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service in April 1973, I went a little further into the issue, far enough to be amply persuaded that it is complex and demanding, above all, of precision both in example and definition.

4 See Saburo Okita, "Natural Resource Dependency and Japanese Foreign Policy," Foreign Affairs, July 1974.

5 Fritz Stern, "The End of the Postwar Era," Commentary, April 1974.

6 See Jean Herskovits, "One Nigeria," Foreign Affairs, January 1973.

7 See Paul E. Sigmund, "The 'Invisible Blockade' and the Overthrow of Allende," Foreign Affairs, January 1974.

8 See Eugene B. Mihaly, "Tremors in the Western Pacific," Foreign Affairs, July 1974.

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