surprise when a Wall Street Journal editorial appointed me
dean of the Pat Buchanan school of neo-isolationism.
Believing that the Pentagon's new strategy - America as "Globocop"
- could render the United States a hollow superpower.
All agree we need
the military capacity to defend our vital interests - by
ourselves when need be. The question is grand strategy. With
the Journal's endorsement, the Pentagon has called for a Pax
The U.S. should
cast so large a military shadow that no rival dare emerge.
American hegemony might be a pleasant idea, but is it
economically, politically or even militarily wise? Bristling
with weapons, we would continue our economic decline, while
rising industrial and financial giants in Europe and Asia
viewed our military pretensions with indifference or
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney outdid even the Journal,
dipping deep into the well of Cold War argumentation to
accuse Pax Americana critics of thinking "America's world
presence is somehow immoral and dangerous.
Why doesn't the Journal stop the namecalling, get its
schools sorted out, and court an honest debate over
America's proper role in the new world order?
Pat Buchanan's "America First" preaches martyrdom: We've
been suckered into fighting "other" people's battles and
defending "other" people's interests. With our dismal
economy, this siren song holds some appeal.
But most Americans, myself included, reject 1930s-style
isolationism. They expect to see the strong hand of American
leadership in world affairs, and they know that economic
retreat would yield nothing other than a lower standard of
further that many security threats - the spread of high-tech
weapons, environmental degradation, overpopulation,
narcotics trafficking, migration - require global solutions.
What about America as globocop?
- First, our
21st-century strategy has to be a shade more clever than
Mao's axiom that power comes from the barrel of a gun.
Power also emanates from a solid bank balance, the
ability to dominate and penetrate markets, and the
economic leverage to wield diplomatic clout.
- Second, the plan is passive where it needs to be
aggressive. The Journal endorses a global security
system in which we destroy rogue-state threats as they
let's prevent such problems early rather than curing
them late. Having contained Soviet communism until it
dissolved, we need a new strategy of "containment" -
based, like NATO, on collective action, but directed
against weapons proliferation.
The reality is that we can slow proliferation to a
snail's pace if we stop irresponsible technology
nearly all suppliers are finally showing restraint. The
maverick is China, which persists in hawking sensitive
weapons and technology to the likes of Syria, Iran,
Libya, Algeria and Pakistan - even while pledging
The Senate has tried to force China's leaders to choose
between Third World arms sales (1991 profits of $500
million) and open trade with the U.S. (a $12.5 billion
annual Chinese surplus).
we have convincing intelligence that China's leaders
fear the use of this leverage, the president
inexplicably refuses to challenge Beijing.
Weapons containment can't be foolproof; and against a
nuclear-armed North Korea, I would support pre-emptive
military action if necessary. But let's do our best -
using supplier restraint and sanctions against outlaw
sellers and buyers-to avoid having to round up the
Why not an anti-proliferation "czar" in the cabinet to
give this objective the prominence it urgently needs?
- Third, Pax Americana is a direct slap at two of our
closest allies - Japan and Germany - and a repudiation
of one of our panel1.
denigrating collective security, we should regularize
the kind of multilateral response we assembled for the
breathe life into the U.N. Charter? great postwar
American leaders argued that building democracy in
Europe and Asia would guarantee stability because
democracies don't start wars. Now the Pentagon says we
must keep our military large enough to persuade Japan
and Germany "not to aspire to a greater role even to
protect their legitimate interests."
How has our success suddenly become a threat?
but the Pentagon plan could become a self-fulfilling
prophecy. By insulting Tokyo and Berlin, and arrogating
to ourselves military stewardship of the world, we may
spark the revival no one wants.
Secretary Cheney says he wants the allies to share the
burden on defense matters.
Americana puts us on the wrong end of a paradox:
Hegemony means that even our allies can force ever
greater U.S. defense spending the more they try to share
- Fourth, collective security doesn't rule out
unilateral action. The Journal says I'm among those who
want "Americans... to trust their security to a global
But no one
advocates that we repeal the "inherent" right of
self-defense enshrined in Article 51 of the United Nations
Cheney says his plan wouldn't undermine
Who would know better than the U.N.'s
usually understated secretary general?
says Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Pentagon's strategy
would spell "the end of the U.N."
denigrating collective security, we should regularize the
kind of multilateral response we assembled for the Gulf War.
Why not breathe
life into the U.N. Charter? It envisages a permanent
commitment of forces, for use by the Security Council.
That means a
presumption of collective action - but with a U.S. veto.
Rather than defending military extravagance, the
administration should be reallocating Pentagon funds to meet
more urgent security needs:
sustaining democracy in the former Soviet empire
supporting U.N. peacekeepers in Yugoslavia, Cambodia
and El Salvador
rebuilding a weakened and debt-burdened America
strategists and their kneejerk supporters could broaden
their horizons, they would see how our superpower status is
We must get lean
militarily, revitalize American economic strength, and
exercise a diplomatic leadership that puts new muscle into
institutions of collective security.