There has been much discussion in the last few years about the decline of American power. While American military capabilities remain enormous thanks largely to persistent technological advance and while the American economy remains the most powerful in the world, many observers have noted the discrepancy between capabilities and achievements. As the fall of Indochina, the rise of OPEC and recent events in Angola attest, the United States has had difficulty shaping the movements and outcomes of world affairs.

American power has been inhibited by several factors. First among these has been the increase in the number of actors on the world's stage. This has led to a greater emphasis on multilateral diplomacy and has allowed many of the new actors, though weak, to form coalitions which have damped the use of American power, particularly in arenas where the resort to force is inapplicable. Second, the exercise of American power has been inhibited by the increased economic interdependence of the world. Measures aimed at hurting others can boomerang, injuring allies or those whose cooperation we might seek in other areas. Our very interest in preserving the open world economy from cartels or an epidemic of protectionist measures induces us to seek compromises even on efforts, such as the exploitation of the seabeds, which we could undertake on our own. Third, our chief adversary has increased his military might. It is difficult to show much of an effect of nuclear parity on U.S. policy, but the ability of the Soviet Union to project its conventional power (or that of Cuba) far away from its borders, has made possible interventions that were once our monopoly: compare Khrushchev's feeble attempts in the Congo in 1960 and Brezhnev's policy in Angola. While it has always been Soviet policy to exploit the weak spots in Western positions, what is new is greater Soviet ability to carry out this policy.

Finally, despite our recovery from Vietnam and Watergate, there are new domestic restraints on the use of American power. Ethnic pressure groups have become more vigorous; economic interests threatened by foreign competition are more powerful, especially since they now include the American labor movement; and Congress has proven unwilling to return to the practice of submissive abnegation characteristic of the cold war era. In addition, the nature of the issues on the "global agenda" and the absence of consensus on the priorities of American foreign policy, put far greater inhibitions on presidential predominance.

There are older restraints as well. The existence of nuclear weapons continues to constrain America to considerable prudence both during crises (such as Cuba in 1962) and in the resort to conventional force in areas of almost assured escalation (such as Eastern Europe). The desire to control the strategic arms race also limits our ability to push the Soviets too hard on issues such as human rights, even though we proclaim there is no linkage. Finally, those of our allies whose security we deem essential to our own, or to whom we have given a commitment that we must sustain lest there be a domino effect (such as Korea) are able to manipulate our policy through bilateral ties, just as economic interdependence allows others to manipulate the United States through collective diplomacy.

Given these restraints, the problem for American foreign policy consists in maximizing our opportunities for influence. The fundamental question is: influence for what? Identifying limits is not enough: we must set goals that correspond both to the imperatives of the world situation and to the desires of the American polity. Given the continuing domestic concern for the creation of an international milieu hospitable to American values and interests, given the dangers inherent in the superpowers' arms race and in the proliferation of nuclear and conventional weapons, and given the risks of chaos inherent in the manipulation of all by all presently entailed by interdependence, the only sensible rationale for American foreign policy is contributing to world order.

We should strive for the advent of an international system that goes beyond the past forms of moderation characteristic of balance-of-power eras. The resort to force and the accumulation of weapons will have to be drastically curtailed by a combination of balances of force and of cooperative schemes for arms control and the settlement of disputes. Interdependence will have to be made bearable and beneficial both by collective management and by the reduction of excesses of mutual dependence or of the dependence bred by inequality - so that the actors will be provided with greater autonomy and with a greater sense of security. The preliminary task before defining such a policy is the description of certain guidelines about the proper conduct of American power.


Some of the needed guidelines emanate from America's strategic choices: what kind of international system do we want to establish? Some refer to our tactical choices; they concern the methods the United States ought to use and the role it ought to play.

A first strategic directive concerns the nature of the exercise itself. We must protect and support the elements of order that exist already. While the conditions for chaos and the ingredients for disaster are present in the international system, there are threads of order that can be woven into a common tapestry. First are the restraints of nuclear and economic interdependence. Second are the fragile flickerings of "universal consciousness." They may not have the moral content of past norms for international behavior whose existence was alleged by those political philosophers who described international relations not as a state of war but as troubled peace. Nevertheless, two of these flickerings could light up a path to world order. One is, quite simply, the desire to survive. Nothing new, except that for the first time it is directly connected to the performance of the international system, not merely in the matter of physical protection from violent annihilation, but also in that of starvation, pollution, and an end of vital resources. Another common imperative, only slightly less global, is the race to welfare. Neither this desire nor this race ensures an orderly world. The will to survive has not abolished the determination to prevail, or to expand, or to free oneself of the chains others have imposed. The desire for development may well, as Robert W. Tucker has reminded us, breed more conflict than consensus, given all the divergences on goals and methods, all the uncertainties about the limits of growth.1 Our goal must be to prevent state interactions and interdependence from becoming malignant. The existence of collective forces capable of making such transactions benign allows one to work toward this goal with some hope.

The problem of world order policy, thus, is double. On the one hand is the imperative against any regression: the restraints must be preserved, the two slim foundations of commonality must be sustained. On the other hand they must be strengthened. At present, the elements of moderation are partly mechanical, partly organic. Some result from the nuclear stalemate and the various balances of force, some spring from the nature of economic interdependence. But the latter, if pushed too far, can easily lead to reactions that could destroy these organic links. It has happened before. Today's restraints correspond to a recognition of common interests or of necessity: fragile motives for conduct, because calculations of interest can change, and necessity is often resented.

Thus, progress toward world order requires the gradual emergence of a sense of obligation. A sense of common duty often requires a common faith; there is little chance of one emerging from the present cacophony. But such a sense can develop when the restraints and rules based on necessity and reciprocity have lasted sufficiently long, and when the leaders to whom they apply have established sufficient ties among themselves to be able to curb their respective dogmas and to resist the centrifugal pulls of domestic pressures. In other words, in the absence of a worldwide, single ideology, there is a need for some ideological erosion.

The goal would be, not to reproduce the conditions of domestic integration at a higher level, but to translate these conditions: no central power, but effective international institutions; no social or political consensus on a broad range of values, but a dense web of ties signifying the prevalence of mixed interests over adversary relationships and of behavior corresponding to a minimum of common values. Since actors tend to behave according to their beliefs and in response to internal pushes and pulls, the emergence of such a code requires, not merely the ideological erosion already called for, but the observance of minimum standards in domestic affairs. A tall order, and obviously a goal with two peculiarities: it cannot be reached soon, or ever fully realized.

Three policy directives can be derived from this definition. The first one is the imperative of no regression. Top priority must be given to preventing the unraveling of the present incomplete tapestry. In the games of economic interdependence, this entails safeguarding the principles of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) and preventing violent monetary fluctuations (i.e., through managed floating) or new crises with the oil-producing nations. In short, policies should be aimed at preventing the breakup of the world economy into separate blocs engaged in the varieties of economic warfare.

In the strategic-diplomatic realm, protecting the present tapestry of world order means, on the one hand, preserving the central balance of deterrence and regional balances (especially in Europe), and on the other hand, preventing the return to an unregulated strategic arms race between the superpowers. A SALT agreement that is not perfect - complete, drastic, or symmetrical - is far better than none at all. Therefore, in the realm of weaponry, the competitive aspects of world policy ought to be clearly subordinated to world order concerns. (I am, of course, aware of two facts: this would constitute a revolution, and it is difficult to pull off.) It means that abstract considerations should prevail over the most concrete of all criteria: the distinction between friends and adversaries. In the realm of conflict par excellence we must seek the cooperation of our rivals, and be ready to oppose our allies and clients when they pursue policies that run counter to the interests of world order.

The imperative of no regression, however, does not require self-destructive self-abnegation. All it requires is that the world order yardstick must be applied first; that the yardstick of "are they for us, are they against us?" not be the decisive one. World order concerns require that alliance relations not be claims for unconditional and total solidarity. But if world order considerations were applied by us as if the contest of the great powers, and the need for balances of force, did not exist, the consequences would be fatal both for world order and for domestic support.

The second and third directives translate the imperative of progress and are both less "angelic" and more controversial. If universal legitimacy is to be based, at first, on the consolidation and psychological internalization of survival and development needs, then those formulating a world order policy must stress what is minimally objectionable. This means that the cutting edge of one's own ideology, of one's own notion of the ideal social order, ought to be smoothed down. We ought to put forward, not the proposals that will certainly arouse the hostility of all those who do not share America's preference for liberal democratic regimes, or her belief in the market system, or her desire to keep the control of common institutions, but those that aim at strengthening the restraints of nuclear interconnection and economic interdependence.

Some will declare that stressing the minimum means avoiding the hard and real issues of politics. In reality, it means separating two political processes: agreements on a framework and arguments on dynamics, controls, and rewards. The former is no guarantee of final success, but if the framework is agreed upon, then - as the example of the Common Market has shown - there is at least some pressure to fill in that framework, lest the whole attempt fall away.

The third suggestion consists of stating that the choices in policy that were offered some years ago and still creep into political rhetoric - the U.S./U.S.S.R./China triangle versus trilateralism, North versus South - are not alternatives.2

Equal attention must be given to each of these configurations. The neglect or demotion of any one of these will have bad effects, both because of its intrinsic importance and because of their inter-relatedness. In Kissinger's foreign policy, the effect of the first triangle on other issues was exaggerated. Balance-of-power diplomacy failed to cope with the global and regional management of force in a world of multiple arms races. The application of balance-of-power methods to the monetary relations with America's allies - once these relations were no longer being subordinated to cold war priorities - proved disastrous.

On the other hand, the downgrading of détente and the new emphasis on the traditional alliances, either for security reasons or because of the role of the industrial powers in the world economy, or because of - often exaggerated - common values, should not mean a victory for the trilateral concept. It has as little to say about the management of force, and especially nuclear proliferation, as triangular diplomacy. Trilateralism also contains an implicit assumption that the U.S.S.R. and China do not create major world order problems because they are absent from the modern arena of world politics, or that they will change their behavior if confronted with a successful "trilateral" organization of the noncommunist industrialized world. This implies that what happens in the traditional arena can somehow be kept separate. In fact, the continuing importance of the strategic-diplomatic chessboard, and the worldwide scope of the triangular contest, argue against an excessive swing of the pendulum. Having overestimated détente, let us not underrate it now.

Originally, neither the strategic triangle nor the trilateralists had much to say about the South. Yesterday's official doctrine had assumed that as the competition between the great powers abated, their interest in the Third World as a possible source of "marginal advantages" would diminish. Consequently, the capacity of the poorer nations to stir up trouble among the great powers by playing one against the other would crumble. "Decoupling" between the great powers and the others was seen as a necessary part of the "stable structure." But the decoupling concept was empirically and normatively unsound. Empirically, it did not take into sufficient account the difference between the strategic-diplomatic chessboard, where decoupling makes sense, and the other arenas. There, although some of the players are private enterprises, all are at least half politicized. The companies of the rich deal with the states of the poor: they play too important a role in the economic strategies of their parent countries for any decoupling between them and their own governments to be carried very far. Many of the problems of the Third World, from population to genocide, from industrialization to pollution, are linked to the world of the rich.3

Trilateralism is a process with two uses: "to prevent any one of the poles from doing mischief to either of the others and to consult about problems on which the 'trilateral' countries share identifiable interests."4 In each of these problems, there are divergences within the trilateral framework and some community of interests with outsiders. Basically the concept remains an American device for ensuring smooth U.S. leadership of the industrial "triangle," which may explain why, after the oil crisis, the shaper of the other triangle, Kissinger, borrowed so heavily from what its creators had designed as a counter-Kissinger strategy.

Normatively, everyone recognizes that the goal for world order must be "creating a global community that is stable and progressive."5 But neither of the two triangles can effectively mobilize for world order purposes the reservoir of American idealism. It is not only a Machiavellian foreign policy that is "incapable of tapping the moral resources of the American people"; a "trilateral" policy, which appeals only to the skills of the professionals in diplomacy, academia, business, and the media would deepen the gap that, in all of the advanced countries, exists between an indifferent or indignant "next generation," and the managers of what has been called the "established disorder."

None of this suggests that one reject the two North-oriented policies only to follow a predominantly southern strategy. Those who believe in giving priority, at least for the long run, to the concerns of the less advanced nations, have often failed to deal seriously with the problems internal to the two northern triangles.

What we need is an integrated and coherent policy for all three worlds. None of the three is homogeneous; the Third World is undergoing rapid differentiation, and all the issues are interconnected. Even if the North resumes its growth, a new cold war, or an escalating and universally spread arms race would leave few resources for North-South relations. A prolonged economic slump in the trilateral world would have disastrous consequences for the heavily indebted oil-poor developing countries. A failure in the Arab-Israeli process of negotiation could lead to a new oil price increase, which would severely tax the "recycling" facilities of the industrial world, and so on. The drama of world order lies in this interconnection, and in the absence of any simplifying formula whose manipulation would lift all the troubles. There are different, partial ways for coping with some of them: détente is one, trilateral consultations another, the North-South dialogue a third. But each one is incomplete and imperfect. Any policy that would give priority to one of these ways would find that the frustrations of the neglected realms would spill into the others.


A second strategic guideline can be defined in a single word: pluralism. The best chances for world order lie in allowing others to share actively in the management, benefits, and burdens of international agreements or regimes. This allows us to accept their greater share precisely because they too will have a stake in preserving that order.

Pluralism has three implications. The first is flexibility. Structures of order must not be frozen in concrete: an international regime, such as that of Bretton Woods, that can be preserved only at costs that become as obnoxious to the chief reserve currency holder as to its creditors, is a bad precedent. One needs international agreements that will be open to revision. Their absence invites unilateral coups to change the rules or to impose new ones. Moreover, the more rigid a proposed convention, the more it will seem like a diktat imposed by a preponderant power or group of powers, like a straitjacket aimed at institutionalizing some explicit or implicit discrimination or inequality (a problem of considerable importance in matters of arms and nuclear proliferation). This would only fuel the determination of the second-class citizens to undermine the structure. We must remember that the function of procedures is two-fold: to strengthen the restraints on a state's capacity for violence, while allowing the actors to pursue safely their internal goals and the external policies necessary to the achievement of these goals.

A second implication of pluralism might be called voluntarism. Not all nations are likely to cooperate in the search for rules and regimes, even if efforts toward world order stress what is common to all or least objectionable to most. As long as we live in a fragmented milieu, Rousseau's logic of the stag hunt may prevail over that of world order: in an uneven contest for scarce material and psychological goods, each hunter may still be concerned only, or primordially, with having his interest prevail over that of his rivals. In the realms of economic interdependence, the absence of some potential actors (such as the U.S.S.R. and China) may persist, and others may be divided by divergences over models of development and different attitudes toward the world economy.

Rather than letting discord prevent the establishment of any rules or regimes, one ought to deal with those who are willing, even when their substantive preferences are far from ours. To get the other actors closer to where we would like them to be, traditional diplomacy, with its retinue of incentives and disincentives, will remain indispensable. Again, we may borrow from the European Economic Community: it started among those who were willing to accept a certain process; later, attention shifted from the process to substance, and at present, the membership has increased, there is a wide circle of associates and candidates, and the process itself has been modified as a result. Just as Europe à la carte is a bit messy, world order à la carte may be untidy. But it is our best hope.

A third implication of pluralism is the need for a fallback position. A world order policy must build in the possibility of failure - a lesson from the plight of détente. We shall need, on each issue, an alternative to success. It should be designed to safeguard U.S. interests, yet allow for ulterior progress, rather than perpetual competition. The failure to arrive at explicit rules and formal regimes, as in the case of the oceans, or of arms limitation treaties, should not force one back to the logic of the "state of war." Room should be made for informal understandings or partial agreements that would, to take two examples, save the seabed from becoming a jungle for the technologically advanced, or keep the strategic arms race this side of unilateral or mutual first-strike situations.

A new administration often comes confident that its fresh approach will make breakthroughs possible. When the suspicions, resistance and intractable interests of other actors puncture such confidence, we tend to blame them, rather than our excessive expectations, and to fall back into traditional routines. This vicious circle must be broken, not by any shrinking of our goals, but by greater skepticism about easy achievements, a more long-range approach, and a preparation of second-best positions.


A third strategic imperative follows from the first two. It could be called turning national security into an aspect of world order policy. More specifically, it deals with the conflict of two logics, that of enmity ("us" versus "them") and that of relationships that are only partially adversary and allow for sufficient cooperation to make order possible. The pursuit of the latter logic is plagued by three problems. The first is the absence of any substantive consensus among the actors. In a world where many relations are patterned on the logic of hostility, our very efforts at promoting order are bound to be seen as self-interested by those who do not share our views. Secondly, we run the risk of turning our ties with friends or clients whose search for conventional or nuclear weapons, or whose violations of human rights we dislike, into adversary relationships. We also run risks in making concessions to hostile powers (for instance in the Third World) in order to gain their partial cooperation. Such risks entail a weakening of our power position, which is crucial because of the third problem - our relations with the Soviet Union. The Soviets are obviously concerned about confrontations with us and about nuclear proliferation. But they are worried mainly because their own survival or influence could be put in question thereby: their policy may be one of muted hostility toward us - muted by the existence of these threats, by the need to keep watching China's behavior, by the burden of preserving the status quo in Eastern Europe, by the imperative of internal development - but it remains one in which world order is defined as the triumph both of their ideology and of their state.

There is little contradiction between the logic of hostility and the logic of world order in their vision: order will exist when their system has prevailed over ours. There is a contradiction in our case, because we aim - or ought to aim - at a lasting, not merely a transitory coexistence of the two social systems, and at turning hostility into permanent cooperation. We may of course hope that such collaboration would induce extensive change in their system, but this is not our aim. Theirs remains the exploitation of cooperative relationships to the advantage of their cause and country.

How, then, can we overcome the conflict of the two logics? Are we not obliged, in order to survive, to give full priority to the logic of hostility? The answer is no, even if one professes agnosticism about Soviet intentions and looks only at Soviet acts and capabilities. Since our view of world order is different from theirs, our determination to preserve the central strategic balance, and to avoid being pushed, as in Western Europe, into the dilemma of accepting lightning defeat or else provoking a world holocaust, is perfectly compatible with our concern for order - as long as we keep making unilateral and negotiated efforts at preventing a "mad momentum" and at reducing the levels of force. We have the means to thwart any Soviet attempt at strategic superiority, and to prevent the conventional imbalance in Europe from becoming militarily and politically disastrous.

The Soviets' very tendency to play military cards above all in the world game - because of their deficiency in other kinds of cards or of their reluctance to play them - makes it more difficult for them to give up any sizable amount of might. Their remarkable paranoia about the outside world, fed by 60 years of insulation as well as by the existence of formidable foes, contributes to this unwillingness. It also explains their reluctance in regard to multilateral diplomacy, which both requires and promotes mixed relationships rather than "us versus them" confrontations - or "we and they" collusion. The Soviets are undoubtedly bothered by the costs and the risks of further escalation, and are aware of our technological advance. A lack of will, on our side, to preserve the balance would deprive them of any reason to strike deals. But if this will exists, so do the chances for agreements.

As for the contest in other parts of the world, it is bound to persist. The Soviet Union cannot let China exploit whatever revolutionary potential exists, and cannot fail to exploit Western weaknesses, lest the West consolidate its power in the contest. But, on the one hand, the most appropriate way for us to respond is not exclusively or even primarily by force, as in Vietnam - or as we tried in Angola. We cannot allow our adversaries to select the battlefields. We have other means to combat their influence. On the other hand, even if our motives differ, our interests converge in a number of instances, such as proliferation and the Law of the Sea. In other cases, such as arms sales, a partial convergence may occur. Thus, world order considerations can be given their due.

A danger for our position in the contest would still arise, if their pursuit weakened our main alliances and estranged us from other powers in ways the Soviets could exploit. But most of the states whose policies would collide with ours because of our drive for world order are totally unwilling to be connected to the Soviet side. They are more likely to pursue a nationalist course, and denounce us for colluding with the Soviets. Only if we decided to pursue relentlessly the logic of hostility against the Soviet Union would we avoid any such risks of estrangement - with, say, Brazil, or South Korea. But the costs of this logic would be unbearable, for us and for the world. Thus, we must keep seeking the cooperation of our chief rival, even if this does not put an end to rivalry, even if it does not solve all problems, and even though we must, in accordance with the principles of voluntarism, proceed without him whenever he refuses. Leading such a quest has a chance of affecting his behavior by fracturing his isolation.


How do these general guidelines translate into suggestions for U.S. methods? We shall try to provide the elements of an operational code. A first commandment would be: avoid inconsistency. There are three familiar kinds of inconsistencies we should guard against. The first is the failure to think about the impact abroad of measures taken (or of the failure to take certain measures) for domestic reasons. One can think of President Truman's 1945 decision to extend U.S. jurisdiction over the resources of the continental shelf and to establish fishery conservation zones, because of the pressure of fishermen's and oilmen's lobbies. More recently, there was the signal contribution made by changes in U.S. food policy around 1972 to the food crisis that followed - the decision to go back to the market mechanism, to let prices fluctuate and food reserves and food aid drop, to use American fertilizers on newly released land to increase home production and exports. We lacked adequate stocks. The fertilizers that could have produced more wealth abroad were not available for export.

But if priority is to be given to world order, not only must a coherent set of external priorities be defined, but the pressures and moods these priorities ignore, reject, or anger must be neutralized. These internal pushes and pulls risk becoming irresistible if they arise, for instance, out of fear of foreign competition in automobiles, or shoes, or textiles, or television sets, at a time when the domestic market suffers from a recession. Indeed, the recent recession provides a prize example: the domestic measures that provoked it failed to take adequate account of their effects abroad. And these measures themselves were aimed at fighting an inflation that had also spread abroad and undermined the monetary system, because of Washington's failure to take domestic measures to reduce the balance-of-payments deficit.

What this suggests is that a world order policy must prevail not only abroad, over the traditional policy of the stag hunt, but also, at home, over the tendency for domestic concerns to become decisive. The barrier between domestic and external affairs has fallen. Our internal energy policy, with its encouragement to the nuclear energy industry, has created powerful domestic obstacles to our foreign antiproliferation policy. Paradoxically, the "primacy of foreign policy," which was almost tautological when the barrier existed, becomes indispensable now that its disappearance creates a real contest between internal and external concerns.

A second kind of inconsistency consists in forgetting or ignoring both the interconnections and the contradictions between the various games. Making nuclear energy (or weapons) more easily available to foreign clients may help one's balance of payments and give one a hope for political leverage; but it also contributes to the danger of proliferation and war. To provide conventional arms to potential regional hegemonic powers may diminish their incentives to become nuclear states, but it also contributes to the danger of classical violence, and it may undermine both their economic development (the Prussian model - building a country around an army - is hardly convincing: we are not in the age of Frederick the Great, and can form no instant Prussias) and their internal political stability. To provide weapons (as we do in the Middle East) to all sides of existing or latent conflicts may help preserve a balance that will deter violence, but it could also fuel the flames.

Yet if there exists a contagion of bad policies, the contradictions between good ones are no less formidable. Each problem, as technocrats like to believe, may have a solution. But these solutions often turn out to be incompatible. A bigger flow of resources to the countries of the Third World may simply feed their demand for advanced weapons, conventional or nuclear, and their ability to buy or build them. A stringent nonproliferation policy may make its victims, if they are Third World nations, thoroughly uncooperative on North-South issues; or else it may well make the economic development of such nations more difficult by depriving them of the energy that nuclear technologies could produce.

Thus, we return to the need for long-range thinking and integration - not only of foreign policy, but of foreign policy with domestic policy. Without such integration, either bad policies will be pursued for short term or narrow reasons, or else good ones will be initiated in such a way as to cancel each other out. The best is often the enemy of the good, and thus we must try to establish a clear order of priorities.

A third inconsistency concerns the style that could be called neo-Gaullist or the aggressive defense of self-interest. To be sure, this tone has exploited a domestic mood of hostility to outside entanglements. It also helped Washington recover some liberty of maneuver - or resort to the same practices as everyone else, especially those who had used them to increase their margin of maneuver at Washington's expense. But such tactics, merely irritating when adopted by a lesser power whose capacity to disrupt world order is feeble, do not suit a great power. In the international jungle, the lion, not the rooster, is the pacesetter. Others are at least as likely to copy his behavior as to cower when he roars. The adoption of a "world order style," however, is not without problems. At home, it is as risky to ignore the strain of xenophobia as to let the pool of idealism evaporate. To try to outfox the champions of toughness by wrapping a world order policy in self-righteousness (a temptation that threatens our antiproliferation policy) could backfire abroad. Many remember that America's often hegemonic policies in the containment era were sold in the loftier wrapping of global idealism.6

Thus, a return to an idealistic tone, even on behalf of a true world order policy, could breed sour misunderstandings between our good conscience and other nations: a readiness to suspect in our stance either a clever disguise of crass interests or a way of freezing the distinction between developed countries (entitled to their sophisticated conventional and nuclear weapons) and the developing ones (summoned to restraint on behalf of world order). (The "Gaullist" style has at least the merit of its defects: brutality leaves no dark corners, no ambiguity about motives.) It could also encourage allies and dependents to exploit American meekness-for-world-order, either by playing the familiar blackmail of weakness or to preserve their special advantages. Concerns for world order must be spread wide, and even though the United States may play a special "shaping role," others may use Washington as a huge procrustean bed. But, as in many other areas, the role of American leaders will be to explain at home why a world order policy, even if it does not entail the spreading of American features all over the world, and even if it means concessions aimed at convincing others that we are not just protecting our power and status, is in America's interest. And it will be their duty, abroad, to convince others that they cannot simultaneously leave all the work to us and resent us for trying to do it.7


A second commandment is: play the politics of bargaining. Here again are three implications. The first is the need to engage other nations in negotiation. To reject demands outright is the surest way to reinforce ideological solidarity and to provide our chief rival with fine opportunities at our expense. A declared willingness to deal with our challengers on concrete issues would expose the profound conflicts of interests among them and allow us to exploit our greatest advantage: the need of other nations for America's technological know-how and resources. Even in the traditional arena, more can be obtained by appropriate forms of bargaining than by mere threats and sanctions. Both in the case of the Conference on the Law of the Sea, and in that of our dealings with OPEC, we have learned that protracted bargaining brings out the splits among bargaining nations. At the General Assembly session of the fall of 1975, Kissinger's multiple proposals on North-South issues produced a remarkably mellow mood and a moderate consensus. His delegation's greater reticence at the UNCTAD meeting in Nairobi in 1976 resulted in greater intransigence and difficulty in reaching a compromise. At the Conference on International Economic Cooperation in Paris in June 1977, where the new American delegation was a bit more flexible, some agreements were reached.

To pursue such a course, the United States would not have to give up building its own coalitions for bargaining purposes. And it would still, in each case, have the choice between trying to deal with an issue solely on its merits and within its own arena, or linking it to another set of issues or arenas. What the United States would have to give up is the high-powered tone and the hard-nosed act. The United States would have to learn to react, not as a corporate "free enterprise" society but as a state skillfully maneuvering with other states. The United States should not react as a state whose huge power allows it to crush or ignore others, but as a partner in collective bargaining who aims at entangling his opponents in agreements that it would not pay for them to break.

To keep the balance of influence favorable to the United States at the end of the bargaining, we would have to learn not to interpret every sign of hostility abroad as an act of aggression, to which we react with sanctions, subversion, or sermons. But we should do better than that. A second implication could be called the rule of non-collision. One bargains effectively only with the authentic representatives of other states (or non-state actors); and one has a chance of bargaining successfully only if one does not put oneself, at the outset, in a losing position. Thus, the rule takes two forms, and both go against much of past U.S. foreign policy. On the one hand, non-collision means refraining from interventions in the domestic affairs of others aimed at overthrowing their governments or at thwarting the free exercise of popular suffrage. (I am leaving aside the problem of intervention on behalf of human rights; and I am not excluding the legitimacy of help given to a democratic government, or to a regime that has taken over after a long dictatorship, if it finds itself threatened by subversion.)

But interventions aimed at "destabilizing" regimes or at fixing electoral outcomes also ought to be avoided. Not only are they morally repugnant, but they are usually inadequate at ensuring control of events. One supports the idea of a generals' coup, and it is the colonels who take over, as in Greece in 1967. Or one "wants to give a chance to democratic opposition forces" in Allende's Chile, and one gets Pinochet. Moreover, one's puppets or protégés, once in power, often want to show that they are authentic nationalists. The Greek colonels objected to the U.S. resupply of Israel in October 1973. The Shah of Iran, restored to power by the CIA in 1953, expressed his gratitude by leading OPEC's oil price increase 20 years later. Even when the client behaves nicely, the result of intervention is usually to make the United States the chief villain in the eyes of domestic opposition and of many other nations - and thus to create opportunities for the U.S.S.R. or Cuba. Also, the necessary promotion of multiple management in international institutions and regimes will remain fragile as long as the voices that speak for the partners in conferences and agencies are not the true spokesmen of authentic national regimes.

In the Third World, no action taken by any such regime can be so seriously destructive to American interests as to justify U.S. intervention unless it deliberately opens up avenues of strategic and political control to our chief rival. Even this is most likely to result from a U.S. policy of support for weak, corrupt or oppressive regimes. Some governments are more likely than others to provide a favorable milieu for U.S. public interests and private investments. But were this the criterion of U.S. policy, it would commit Washington to permanent entanglement in an unending quest for unachievable control. Moreover, multinationals that find themselves unwanted here or there can always move elsewhere - or return home. Both the United States, in need of domestic investments, and host countries, often more likely to benefit from trade than from import substitution, might find some such "disinvestment" from the South advantageous. Here, some decoupling, some relaxation from extremes of interdependence, is necessary. In Western Europe or Japan, a hostile regime might produce disastrous results for the American power position in the East-West contest. But even there, little can be said to support American manipulation. Where manipulation can be attempted, as in much of the Third World, the stakes are not vital enough. Where the stakes are higher, our reach is shorter: public directives backfire, covert shenanigans easily get uncovered.

A policy of world order need not have, or spread, illusions about the willingness of present states to reserve their beliefs for the home front and to behave on the world stage according to a different set of principles. They will try to act out their beliefs, as we do. As always in political affairs, moral considerations and practical considerations are inseparable. I have emphasized often enough the collapse of the distinction between domestic affairs and foreign policy. But the target of foreign policy, for world order's sake, should be the external behavior, not the internal makeup, of governments. We can make it difficult for them to act out their principles, if their acts entail the forcible destruction of a vital military balance, or the unilateral repudiation of accepted rules of economic interdependence. If they act within the shrinking rights of sovereignty, we ought to respect them - for instance, if they ask for the renegotiation of our bases on their soil, or if they nationalize their resources or certain industries. "Friendly" regimes have done this, too. Eventual erosion of ideological hostility can only follow stoppage. Discouragement, not subversion, ought to be the goal. For years, we have applied this criterion to our relations with Russia, China and Cuba, precisely because we are stopped from going beyond. Where we have the means of doing so, we should not.

On the other hand, we should, more generally, avoid any direct collision between the United States and rising nationalisms that provide the irresistible dynamics of world politics. Some of these nationalisms we dislike, because they have been captured by, or have allied themselves with, communism. But when these are authentic nationalisms, as in Indochina, their coming to power amounts to neither an extension of Soviet (or Chinese) power, nor a drastic decline of ours. Should they become expansionist, then the world order criterion would allow, and indeed urge us, to apply the usual methods of deterrence or defense; but not before. Mostly, the nationalisms that are either in power, or struggling to come to power (like the blacks of southern Africa) are not communist. They will, however, be anti-American if the power and policy of the United States stand in their way (as when we divide the governments of an area into moderates and radicals - an artificial and unstable division - and throw our support to the moderates, however flawed) or if the U.S. government chooses to identify the American national interest with private American interests that collide with local nationalisms. Even in an area where the United States has a recognized sphere of influence - Latin America - a confrontation between Washington and a Latin American nation will produce ripples, such that the nationalist victim will become a model in areas where our vulnerability is greater. Such confrontations open the way to Soviet (or Cuban) bridgeheads, as we have seen in Angola - a dangerous development, if one believes that world order requires some dissociation of regional balances from the tensions of the central balance and some moderation of the regional by the central one.

Precisely because the Soviet-American contest is here to stay, any collision between Washington and a rising nationalism that gives a chance for Moscow to intervene restricts thereby the scope for world order politics. It is not only the Soviet Union that has to be contained, it is the irreducibly zero-sum game component of world politics. The multiplicity of nations and of their interests provides opportunities for global peace and possible protection from the spillover or escalation of regional violence. These chances must be preserved. Collisions would also disrupt the conditions of mutuality necessary in the arenas of economic interdependence. The unevenness of interdependence between the United States and most Third World nations makes these collisions possible. But interdependence exists, and a battle could lead to one of two results: the choice, by the nationalist nation, of a path of self-reliance or of complete non-reliance on the United States; or its choice of a policy of antagonistic coalition-building aimed at the collective reduction of dependence. Neither would make world order, or bargaining for it, easier.

A third implication of the politics of bargaining is the need to let others form their own coalitions. As we have just seen, our own behavior will determine in part whether these will be hostile or cooperative. Let us call this imperative the encouragement to grouping. Some years ago, I used the word "devolution," to refer to the need to create, enlarge the scope of, and reinforce the authority of international or regional agencies, and to the need for the middle powers to assume more responsibilities.

Institution building is obviously a collective task: the United States cannot create them alone - in this realm, collective devolution is called for. Moreover, the establishment of world order, issue by issue, is so formidable an enterprise that if Washington alone tried to shoulder all the burdens, it would breed not only irresponsibility and resentment abroad, but a violent domestic desire for disengagement. In many parts of the world, states or groups of states have quite simply acted to increase their power and influence - often, as in the case of India or OPEC, by means that we disapprove of yet that resemble those we have used: sometimes, as in the case of Iran or Brazil, with our help. We have not really "devolved"; they have taken.

In one part of the world, devolution turned out to be meaningless. In a sense, opening American markets to Japanese goods and capital was a devolution, because it allowed Japan to become a major industrial power. But we have nothing to gain by encouraging Japan to become a major military power. It would upset the internal consensus in Japan and revive fears of Japanese domination in Asia. South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Indonesia clearly prefer our presence to Japan's exclusive one. The best way of preventing Japan from seeking to translate economic power into military might, is to organize the world economy so that Japan will have greater economic security: access to the energy and raw materials it needs, outlets for its goods and capital. Moreover, it makes no sense to bolster China's power by providing Peking with weapons it could use in a war against the Soviet Union: the costs, for our relations with Moscow, Tokyo and Delhi, as well as the risks of seeing these arms used against Taiwan, far exceed the possible advantages for Chinese-American relations.8

Devolution continues to make sense in Western Europe, which we have not encouraged to organize its own system of conventional defense, and which recent American policies have boxed in. We have done so economically, through the creation of agencies such as the International Energy Agency; militarily, by equipping NATO with American weapons whenever we could; and politically, by discouraging European diplomatic initiatives. The European Community, already troubled by internal discrepancies and by a lack of common will that 30 years of dependence on us have bred is caught between two new dangers - losing its identity in larger international institutions or else becoming a mere appendage to the American-German preferential relationship. (One must note that the trilateral formula also puts the formation of a broader coalition, the trilateral one, ahead of any strengthening of the European Community's limp identity.) By the spring of 1977 the members of the Community were looking to Washington for initiatives on all their problems - economic recovery, steadier North-South relations, energy and monetary policies, the fate of European armament industries - a sad reflection on the merging of European issues into global ones and the lack of European autonomy (because of insufficient cohesiveness) in facing these. Here, the failure of devolution has been doubly detrimental to world order: politically centrifugal forces are growing stronger, unconstrained by a distinctively European defense system, and the lack of coherence and substance in Europe has prevented it from picking up monetary leadership once America's started slipping - despite the Community's importance in world trade - or sharing it with the United States.

Our indifference to devolution, and to the process by which middle powers or key coalitions have emerged, is due to our dream of primacy. Kissinger's design emphasized the traditional chessboard, on which bipolarity persisted, and tried to exploit America's provision of the "public good" of security to its allies, to regain lost ground in the economic arenas. We have seen what happened to Kissinger's design after 1973. The trilateral sketch for "common policy planning" greatly favored the one power that has, for 30 years, developed the practices, tools, positions, and lingo of globalism.

The alternative I suggest is based on the conception of a world of many coalitions with a stable central military balance. It is gloomier about American skills and the enthusiasm of others for playing our game, yet more optimistic about pluralism and the convergence of essential interests, even (perhaps especially) without American attempts to pull all the strings.

The advantages, of course, are exactly the reverse of the flaws of primacy. We would be relieved from playing Atlas, and others would be rescued from the frustrations, humiliations, narrowing of vision, self-doubts, or petulance that dependence breeds. We would become, in effect, a more responsible player by being less intoxicated by world responsibility, and others would become more responsible by having to deal with world (and not just parochial) issues. Above all, the perils of a centralized system in which every local crisis involves the great powers would be reduced.

The disadvantages have until now appeared to the policymakers far to outweigh the advantages. Dependence is self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating; to let go might create vacuums that rivals would fill; heady displays of immature independence could lead to nuclear proliferation or upset the networks of fragile relationships woven over the past 25 years. For devolution to be smooth, rather than destabilizing, one may need extraordinary psychological skills and diplomatic subtlety. Moreover, all bureaucracies are better at incremental tinkering with instrumentalities such as alliances, whose worth has been sanctified by time, than at the kinds of mutation that a world of coalitions and middle powers implies. Some of these would entail material costs as well: a West European military entity would want to buy less of its weaponry in the United States. Yet, whatever the risks and losses, we cannot stop the process of devolution. It is going on wherever we have had no control. And where we have control, as in Western Europe, our reluctance to encourage a new entity has not prevented its members from competing with us in selling arms abroad or from selling their nuclear technology to third parties, after having received most of their nuclear fuel from us.

The task of tightening the nets and strengthening the restraints of world order requires that the extreme discrepancies of power between actors be reduced. As one wise commentator has put it, there are two difficulties: small countries all too easily become "free riders" who benefit from common rules without contributing to their establishment or to the costs of their maintenance; and excessively mighty and psychologically overburdened big powers wish to remain "the heavy riders" (or raiders).9 The formation of bargaining coalitions and the rise of middle powers or entities helps in restoring some balance, and ought to be encouraged by us - as long as it helps consolidate what I have called "moderation plus." This means that these powers and entities must be carefully placed, with their cooperation, within the constraints of economic interdependence and the imperatives of limiting violence. In turn, they shall accept such restraints only if we behave in the same way.

Our national style and international experience have not prepared us for a world in which our interest lies in disconnecting dominoes, discriminating among challenges, and allying ourselves with foreign nationalisms. Yet we must learn to do so.


This suggests a last tactical guideline: let our policy for world order be political. Let us recognize that we are dealing with a world of states, i.e., interests and dogmas, ambitions and fears made effective and sometimes lethal by state power and by the legitimacy conferred on states by sovereignty. It is at the level of the state that policy is integrated, linkages and trade-offs are made constantly. It is the existence of states, the fact that the rights and duties of individuals are controlled by them, that the common good of mankind is defined by them, that they have at their disposal, however unevenly distributed, formidable weapons of destruction and chaos, which makes "moderation plus" both necessary and difficult.

What we need is an awareness of their perspective and an understanding of their concerns. All too often, our approach has been grandly unpolitical. Sometimes we have looked at their interests only from the viewpoint of our contest with communism, or our quest for stability. Now, we seem to be treating the world as a sum of discrete problems. We seek functional solutions for each of them on its merits, apart from its significance for each state. In both cases, this amounts to our substituting our wisdom for theirs. We "know" for instance that the developing countries do not possess the capital skills, resources and need for nuclear power. We "know" that the satisfaction of many of the Third World countries' economic demands would not improve their condition. We may, of course, be right. But in politics it is consequences that matter. We have to convince them, by providing them with carefully selected incentives and disincentives. A combination of lecturing and strong-arm tactics is likely to lead to conflict, to feed local nationalism and self-righteousness, to increase resistance to our "solution." We have experienced this in our conflict with France under de Gaulle. We may, of course, have to put pressure on countries whose behavior we deem dangerous. But just as we have learned to avoid humiliating foes, we must learn not to antagonize countries whose cooperation we need on a variety of issues. If we ask them to give up some course of action, we must at the same time either reward them in a way that serves their interests, or provide them with a substitute. In no realm is this more important than that of weapons proliferation, nuclear or conventional. To brandish sermons and threats first, incentives and alternatives later, is a recipe for serious trouble.

A quest for world order inevitably leads to a preoccupation with the diverse issues that crowd the agenda of states and international agencies and with multilateral rather than bilateral diplomacy. Yet it also feeds on the grand American faith in technical solutions - solutions that result from the mere application of reason and expertise and avoid the passions and prejudices of politics. But reason and expertise prevail only if there is a consensus on the nature of the problem. This is not what we find in most of the cases we shall have to deal with. It is hard for people used to an engineering approach to acknowledge that what we deem instrumentally best may be judged politically unacceptable elsewhere. But we will have to, and therefore while dealing with each problem on its merits, we must also ask what the effect of each proposed solution would be on military, economic and political relations in each part of the world, and on the fortunes of each country.

The strategic and tactical suggestions listed here aim at making possible new understandings, agreements and regimes. But above all, their purpose is to contribute to a change of what might be called the mores of the international milieu. In every society, the effectiveness of the laws, indeed their substance, depends on the customs, on the internalized rules of behavior of the members. It is a truth that has inspired political thinkers from Montesquieu to Rousseau and Tocqueville. It applies to the international society as well. We cannot, by ourselves, shape its mores, even if in our moments of greatest arrogance we see ourselves as the teachers of manners and methods. But we can, by our own behavior, profoundly affect that of others. We regard ourselves as benevolent. Others, even when they seek us out, often fear us as a threat, both because of our dynamism, our impact on their societies, and because of our policies. The guidelines recommended here will not curb the devastating effects which modernization, especially in American garb, can have on traditional society, but they may make us reconsider policies that contribute to turning a heterogeneous world into a very dangerous place. That countless actors contribute to it, nobody denies. But the ability of the main players to influence the tone and quality of the international state remains considerable.


1 See Robert W. Tucker, The Inequality Of Nations, New York: Basic Books, 1977.

4 Richard H. Ullman, "Trilateralism: 'Partnership' For What?" Foreign Affairs, October 1976, p. 12.

5 Zbigniew Brzezinski, "U.S. Foreign Policy: The Search For Focus," Foreign Affairs, July 1973, p. 724.

7 Ibid.

9 Peter Katzenstein, in a forthcoming volume edited by him.

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  • Stanley Hoffmann is Professor of Government and Chairman of the Center for European Studies at Harvard. This article has been adapted from his book, The Lure of Primacy and the Logic of World Order: American Foreign Policy since the Cold War, to be published by McGraw-Hill, (c) 1978 Stanley Hoffmann.
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