THE collapse of the Berlin Wall, the dissolution of the Soviet
Union, and the spread of democracy from Johannesburg to Santiago to
Ulaanbaator - how are Americans to react to these fundamental
changes? Perhaps we can begin with the realization that we have
before us an incredible array of choices concerning our new "grand"
strategy or national mission. The current range of foreign policy
options is arguably greater than at any time in the post-World War
Some political leaders fear that the American public, especially
the younger generations, will choose isolationism. Their fears are
justified. For with the end of the cold war, the strategic rationale
for maintaining military forces capable of projecting power into
every global corner has dissolved.
In the third world there exist no more credibility tests. The
Persian Gulf aside, this area of the world has been of relatively
minimal intrinsic value to the United States. Instead, throughout
the cold war, the third world has served primarily as an arena in
which to demonstrate our resolve vis-a-vis the "Red menace." Our
ability and willingness to counter perceived Soviet aggression in
Southeast Asia, southern Africa, and Central America supposedly
demonstrated our ability and willingness to counter possible Soviet
aggression in Western Europe and Northeast Asia - areas which
because of their military-industrial potential were of immense
intrinsic value to us.
Now, for all intents and purposes, it no longer matters what
happens in Vietnam, Angola, and Nicaragua. Because no countries of
any significance seek to emulate the Soviet economic and political
model (whatever it is these days), all talk of dominoes is archaic.
And Moscow's decreasing ability to maintain order within the Soviet
Union itself renders ridiculous all fears of a globally expansive
The Soviet strategic nuclear arsenal is still massive, of course.
So is ours. Consequently, arms control reductions aimed at a more
stable nuclear balance should continue to be a major foreign policy
priority. But it is becoming almost impossible to dream up scenarios
in which nuclear weapons could be used to achieve political goals.
So the post-cold-war strategic environment offers the US the
option of drastically retrenching militarily. At the same time,
however, we cannot revert to the extreme isolationism of the
pre-cold-war era - an isolationism which forsook security alliances
and multilateral commitments. …