Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Policy Misses World as It Really Is

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Policy Misses World as It Really Is

Article excerpt

The Clinton administration's foreign policy problem is not that a plan is lacking but that its plan rests upon a misconception of reality. The plan is to "enlarge" the space occupied by democracy in the contemporary world. This rests upon an unrealistic assumption about the significance of events since the fall of communism and a confidence in the United States' "nation-building" capacities, which developments in Somalia and Haiti have again shown to be unwarranted.

Mr. Clinton has appointed two men experienced in foreign affairs to his principal foreign policy posts: Warren Christopher as secretary of state and Anthony Lake as national security adviser. Both are experienced staff officers; neither has demonstrated original thought or policy vision.

The Clinton people believe that interlinked democracy and market economics are steadily enlarging their sway not only over the former communist countries, but in Africa, Asia and Latin America as well. Their view combines the triumphalism of the late Reagan-Bush years, when communism did crumble, with the naive assumption, made fashionable in 1991-92, that history is "finishing" in universal democracy, market economics and something closely resembling the American way of life. Believing this, they see American policy as essentially a matter of cooperating with the inevitable.

This supposedly involves multilateral action through a reformed United Nations and "nation-building" in the backward countries, to accelerate the latter's' march toward democracy and the free marketplace. American policy today in Somalia and Haiti is conceived in such terms. The right methods have not yet been found, but the search is on.

None of this is intellectually serious. There certainly has been a turn toward Western political and economic ideas after communism's collapse, since market economics provides the only surviving model for industrial society. But to see democracy as necessary to markets, and the two together as an irresistible force in contemporary politics, is to ignore the role of power and greed in history, as well as the immense barriers that exist to transnational transfers of social assumptions and institutions.

Africa has seen ostensibly democratic reforms, leading to free elections in some countries. It has in recent days and weeks seen elected governments overturned by military coups in Burundi and Nigeria, attempted coups in Sierra Leone and Chad, sham elections in Togo and Cameroon, and stubborn defiance of democracy from America's former client in Zaire, "Marshal" Mobutu. …

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