Foreign Policy's Future

Article excerpt

IN 1989 the top debate within the White House foreign-policy staff was: Is Mikhail Gorbachev a true reformer? Or do his policies mask a return to aggressive Bolshevism?

Today, this seems a stone-age debate. East Europe's revolt ended a 40-year cold war. Popular uprisings toppled rigid and corrupt governments, the Berlin Wall fell, and the world political landscape changed overnight, as if in time-lapse photography. The Soviet Union is gone. Germany is unified. Moscow joined a United States-led coalition against Iraq. Small states - from Cuba to Zaire - no longer play East off against West. Mideast leaders are at the peace table, partly because of the new strategic situation.

US foreign policy faces a new and uncertain world.

The next president will address three main themes:

First, post-cold war change. Security is no longer just deterrence and arms control. Aid to Russia is a security matter. The United Nations is increasingly important, and Germany and Japan want seats on the Security Council. The US wields the most influence, but does so among more diverse groups of nations and interests.

* Second, a rise of global trading blocs: a Japanese bloc that may include South Korea and China; a European Community bloc coming together in fits and starts; an emerging US-led North American bloc. Competition means that a strong foreign policy must be linked to a strong domestic economy.

* Third, new tensions between sovereignty and nationalism. The post-Soviet vacuum is being filled by ethnic contention and violence. In Estonia, ethnic Russians were not allowed to vote in recent elections. Serbs in the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia bring a grim new phrase - "ethnic cleansing" - to the West. Will new angers slowly burn out? Or do they represent a regressive, tribal dynamic that will spread if unaddressed? China, Cambodia, South Africa, and Haiti raise ongoing human-rights dilemmas.

Practically, the next president must reevaluate the cold-war government apparatus formed in 1947 through the National Security Act. In response to containment policy, the act created the Department of Defense, the CIA, and the White House National Security Council. …