Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Editor’s Column Winter 2000

Editor’s Column Winter 2000

Good riddance, twentieth century. May the future never cause us to look back to you with nostalgia. But I speak as a 53-year-old, and people the age of my students, who have known nothing but victory in the Cold War, Gulf War, and stock market, may at some point refer to the 1990s as the good old days. For even if we Westerners are ultimately right in our enlightened belief in linear progress, the Chinese and others who believe that history is cyclical are always right in the middle run. Human beings just can’t stand prosperity. It makes them complacent, and makes them forget. Greed swallows up healthy fear, and empires crumble. Will the United States itself survive as we know it until the year 2100? And if not, will that be because it cracked up, or because it was subsumed in a still larger polity? Arnold Toynbee came to believe that history moves as a carriage on wheels that go round and round in cyclical fashion, yet propel the carriage forward in a straight line. But where does the line lead, in the fourth dimension that is time? Archimedes boasted, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.” If only we had a place to standoutsideto observe the world. But perhaps it is better not to know where we are going. In any event, I still say good riddance, twentieth century.

In These Pages

No one knows better that empires crumble than the rulers of China. On October 1, 1999, they celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their People’s Republic, but it was strangely hollow, as if the Communist leaders and people shared Arthur Waldron’s suspicion that the PRC may not have many birthday bashes left. Other Western pundits, not to mention policymakers, are more concerned to know whether Communist China will die of ice, as the Soviet Union did, or spew dragon fire, for instance in a war over Taiwan. That is why we have assembled an unusually strong panel of authors to examine one or another key variable that will determine the fate of the regimes based in Beijing and Taipei. The four issues on which Taiwan’s future will hinge are its status under international law (as interpreted by the ROC, PRC, and the world community), its ability to deter or defend against an attack from the mainland, the political and possibly military cover given Taiwan by the United States, and (not least) the fate of economic and political reform on the mainland.

University of Pennsylvania legal scholar Jacques deLisle addresses the first issue in a probing analysis of the “Chinese puzzle.” Tom Christensen tackles the second with a risk/reward analysis of the hotly debated proposal that Taiwan be allowed to participate in the U.S.-Japanese program to develop theater missile defenses in the western Pacific. The eminent Taiwanese analyst Jaw-ling Chang confronts the third by asking what lessons can be drawn from the history of the Taiwan Relations Act, now twenty years on the books. And economist William Overholt looks inside the turbulent PRC for signs that Beijing will escape the economic squeeze it is presently in and what the political fallout may be if it fails.

Americans, meanwhile, are at pains to learn the lessons of a decade of interventionism that seems at once to demonstrate their overwhelming technological and military superiority, and their limited ability to “solve” problems of ethnic violence and regional conflicts. Hence our continuing debate in these pages on American postÛCold War strategy. Dennis Gormley and Thomas Mahnken assess the much-touted Revolution in Military Affairs and the performance of smart conventional weapons to reach a conclusion that will be surprising to some: hang on to the nukes. Stephen Blank offers strong evidence for why that is necessary in his disturbing account of how widespread are Russian sales of high-tech weapons abroad. Mark Clark reviews recent books on the use of military force to coerce compliance from rogue regimes. Richard Harknett and his co-authors critique the enthusiasm over the “Information Revolution” sweeping the Pentagon. Bruce Kuklick reviews the latest public confession of an earlier ardent technocrat, Robert S. McNamara, and the lessons he spies in the Vietnam War. And finally, Thomas Henriksen presents an equally provocative brief on behalf of covert action as the way to escape our present Hobson’s Choice between doing nothing against brutal regimes and bombing them back to the Stone Age. Are the CIA’s best days still to come?

Night Thoughts of an I.R. Professor

While everyone obsesses about China and the U.S. presidential race, the rivalry that may really define the twenty-first century is largely ignored. One who senses that our angst is misplaced is Andrew Roberts, who concluded his review of Pat Buchanan’s new book by asserting that American hegemony is indeed ending, but not because of the “imperial hubris” Buchanan denounces. “It will not be on foreign battlefields that America loses its global lead, but in foreign boardrooms. No empire in history has ever stoked up its own funeral pyre so enthusiastically as the U.S. is currently doing in its suicidal encouragement of closer European integration. . . . In our lifetimes this new European superpower, with its 320 million well-educated and hard-working citizens, will gradually wrest global trading hegemony from the U.S. When it happens . . . recall that you were warned; not by Pat Buchanan, but by me.”

By coincidence, the very day that review appeared I was scheduled to lecture on U.S.-European relations after the Cold War. Having done my historical homework I, too, was disturbed to discover how deep and enduring is the tension between the Atlantic and European movements. I offered hope that the structural problems in the Euro-American relationship can be overcome. But I smelled trouble aheadtrouble that began, ironically, at the moment of the West’s greatest triumph.

Harvey Sicherman relates a story from 1989 when he was helping James Baker prepare for his confirmation hearings. Harvey was told not to bother discussing Europe because Asia was where all the action would be. Famous last words. Within twenty-four months the Soviet bloc and Soviet Union collapsed, Germany reunified, and the Maastricht Treaty blueprint for a full European Union (EU) was drafted. But victory in the Cold War also obliged Americans and Europeans to reassess their relationship. If, as Lord Ismay quipped, NATO was designed “to keep the Americans in, the Germans down, and the Russians out,” then all that remained for NATO today was “to keep the Americans in.”

Some neo-realists say there is no purpose to NATO anymore, or conversely fear that the absence of a common threat may spark a reprise of nationalism and isolationism. Samuel Huntington even warns that in the coming “clash of civilizations” Europe and the United States will either “hang together or hang separately.” Neo-liberals, on the other hand, see the end of the Cold War as an opportunity vastly to expand the geographical and functional purview of NATO and the EU.

So far, the liberals have carried the day. In 1995, Secretary of State Warren Christopher scoffed at those “who question whether Europe and the U.S. have the will to maintain our partnership.” He imagined a common market “from Honolulu to Helsinki,” and called for global cooperation on proliferation, drugs, crime, terrorism, human rights, and the environment. In 1997 Madeleine Albright predicted, “The children of the next century will come of age knowing a very different NATOone that masses its energies on behalf of integration, rather than massing its forces on the borders of division,” and told NATO that “Atlantic unity and European unity remain our common vision.” In 1999 President Clinton promised “to do for Southeastern Europe what we helped to do for Western Europe after World War II and for Central Europe after the Cold War,” and help its people build multiethnic democracies, open their borders, and “make war unthinkable.” Prime Minister Tony Blair celebrated Kosovo as the first battle in “the humanitarian war,” while Clinton announced his doctrine to the effect that “if somebody comes after innocent civilians and tries to kill them en masse because of their race, ethnic background, or religion, and it’s within our power to stop it, we will stop it.”

But turning the Balkans into a laboratory for multicultural experiments is only the tip of the iceberg. In its 1999 report on transatlantic relations, the Council on Foreign Relations called for “a global U.S.-European partnership” to manage the Asian economic crisis and overhaul the world’s financial architecture, dismantle Russia’s nuclear weapons and promote its democracy, forge a “single transatlantic market” for investment and trade, preserve Turkey’s pro-Western orientation, broaden NATO strategy to include the whole Middle East, present a united front toward Iran, Iraq, the Arab-Israeli peace process, and all regional conflicts in Asia, mount a much larger defense effort to project force worldwide, and take united stances toward weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, the environment, drugs, health, crime, and human rights.

Those are laudable goals. But the vision of NATO and the EU as twin engines jetting the world into a brave new era of peace, wealth, and democracy may be more dangerous to the alliance than the nationalist and isolationist ghosts that frighten the neo-realists. First, an effort to arrogate to the Western alliance the roles of world policeman, nanny, and civics instructor will be denounced by Chinese, Muslims, and others as neo-imperialism. Secondly, such rapid expansion of missions will multiply disputes over policy and burden-sharing, and thus weaken cooperation even on matters the allies do agree on. Thirdly, this ambitious program perpetuates a damaging historical myth to the effect that the Atlantic and European movements are harmonious, whereas in fact their story has been one of tense coexistence.

A Spanish economist, Pedro Schwarz, quipped that Europe was not born in the 1957 Treaty of Rome, but on Sigmund Freud’s couch in Vienna: “The Germans want to forget Hitler, the French want to control the Germans, the Spanish want to forget Franco, and the Italians want any government but their own.” My own intuition tells me that the European idea was conceived in the autumn of 1916, at Verdun. There 800,000 French and German soldiers were killed or maimed in the most concentrated bloodbath in the history of war. Verdun was the equivalent of forty Gettysburgs, but Verdun was no turning point, no glorious victory. It was meaningless slaughter. And the museum and monuments built there by the French bear this out. One might expect to see statues of courageous poilus rallying their comrades with General Petain’s cry, “Ils ne passeront pas!”they shall not pass! Instead, the statues depict soldiers grim and resigned, bearing the wounded, or dying beneath bayonets forming a cross. Verdun’s art gallery depicts life in the trenches as suffered by soldiers on both sides, the crucible of mechanical war as seen from both sides, the disillusionment felt on both sides. There is a cemetery for fallen Frenchmen, and another for Germans, but larger than either is the field planted with unidentified corpses from both sides. By the end of 1916 the French and Germans seemed to have made an unspoken agreement to stop killing each other. When French generals tried to launch their own offensive in 1917, the soldiers mutinied. When the Germans attacked in 1918, they abandoned attrition tactics in favor of infiltration and targeted sectors manned by Belgian, Portuguese, or colonial troops, and gaps between British and French armies. By that time many stretches of the Franco-German front had fallen still, except for ritual bombardments at the same time every day so that no one on either side would get hurt. In the interwar years, the French and Germans drafted their war plans with one aim in mind: no more Verduns. The French relied on the Maginot Line and the Germans on Blitzkrieg. And I suspect many Germans saw the collaboration of France in 1940 as a natural expression of the continental unity first felt at Verdun.

The end of 1916 also conceived the Atlantic movement, because it was failure at Verdun that persuaded the German command to resort to unrestricted submarine warfare, which provoked U.S. intervention. Wilson’s Fourteen Points were really the first Atlantic charter, because even though he spoke in universal terms, he had the Atlantic world in mind. Wilson wanted self-determination for Europe, but did not believe Africa and Asia were ready for it yet. He wanted freedom of the seas and free trade in the Atlantic, but had no intention of opening the door to Japanese imports and immigrants. And it was understood that the League of Nations would be run by the Western powers according to Western values and law.

In sum, the European and Atlantic communities that bloomed after 1945 began their gestation in 1916. But the ideas nourished by blood were rooted in the peculiar ambiguities of the Euro-American relationship that predated World War I by more than a century.

How compatible were they? We know the contempt that European intellectuals, upper classes, and the French usually felt for America. Thomas Carlisle declared the United States “a dirty chimney on fire.” Georges Clemenceau called America “the only nation in history which has gone directly from barbarism to decadence without the interval of civilization.” And Freud dubbed America “a magnificent mistake.” But my favorite portrait is that of Sir Charles Dilke, who reported in the 1860s that in America the children are spoiled, the women too independent, the streets rife with crime, the courts legalistic and lenient, and the cities clogged with foreigners. Needless to say, the millions of immigrants hailed the New World’s freedom and opportunity, but Europeans of culture considered Americans philistine, crude, self-righteous, and altogether too powerful.

In America, the reverse was the case. Here it was lower-class and less-educated people who were likely to resent a Europe they associated with monarchy, monopoly, privilege, and poverty, not to mention imperialism, war, taxes, and bureaucrats. It was the cultured and wealthy Americans who admired Europe and looked to it for cultural, scientific, and political instruction. Jefferson and Franklin considered themselves members of an enlightened Atlantic community. American schools were modeled after those of England and Germany. The latest European ideas fueled polite conversation in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, while wealthy Americans sought titled spouses for their children and built English- or French-style country estates. But above all, America rose to greatness on the strength of capital and labor imported from Europe, while America’s diplomatic principlesfrom “no entangling alliances” and the Monroe Doctrine to the Open Door and a League to Enforce Peacewere borrowed largely from Britain.

What is more, Americans in the Progressive Era recognized their stake in the balance of power. Theodore Roosevelt welcomed Britain’s offer of strategic partnership in 1903, brokered peace between Russia and Japan in 1905, and urged the United States to enter the Great War lest German militarism invest the Atlantic. Once Americans did spill their blood in France, it would have been strange indeed if they had “reverted” to “isolationism,” and they did not. Over three-quarters of the Senate and public were ready to ratify the Treaty of Versailles if only Wilson had honored their reservations regarding the League Covenant. The Republican 1920s were no less interventionist. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes hosted the conference that approved the biggest disarmament pact in history and established collective security in the Pacific. He then settled the Franco-German clash over reparations, and under the Dawes Plan of 1924 American bankers provided hundreds of millions of dollars to promote European recovery. As Hughes put it, “we cannot dispose of these problems by calling them European, for they are world problems, and we cannot escape the injurious consequences of a failure to settle them.” During the Great Depression, America did turn its back on the world. But the isolationist 1930s were the real aberration, not the return to some norm.

If Atlanticism informed U.S. policy in the early twentieth century, so did Europeanism inform French and German policy. Conventional wisdom says that a vengeful France tried through the Treaty of Versailles to cripple Germany, while the Germans felt cheated and burned for revenge. But their business leaders realized that the continent’s prosperity and social stability required cooperation, so even as their governments clashed, French and German industrialists groped for ways to forge a cooperative framework. In 1921 and again in 1924 they were close to succeeding, but guess who stepped in to squelch those first plans for a European community? The British, who saw any Franco-German entente as a continental bloc aimed at them, and the Americans, who offered loans on condition that the Europeans practice “free enterprise,” not cartels. Still, the French and Germans concluded a commercial treaty in 1926 and a coal-for-iron agreement in 1927, encouraging French premier Aristide Briand to reach for the ultimate prize. In 1929 he proposed a European Union in which nations would merge their sovereignty and make war impossible. No doubt the Depression would have punctured his dream, but the British and Americans instructed the Germans to give Briand a cold shoulder if they wanted financial concessions. Incipient Atlanticism had gone on record as opposed to incipient Europeanism.

That tension would seem to have dissipated after 1945, when a Western Europe wrecked by war and shivering in the shadow of Stalin eagerly embraced American-led institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and NATO. The United States in turn made it a condition of the Marshall Plan that the Europeans cooperate, and applauded when France, West Germany, the Low Countries, and Italy forged the European Coal and Steel Community in 1949.

For five years thereafter the European and Atlantic ideas marched forward together. The British touted their “special relationship” with America, Konrad Adenauer wooed Washington and Paris alike, and even the French muted their criticism of “the Anglo-Saxons” (not least because Washington paid 75 percent of the cost of France’s war in Indochina). But Stalin died in 1953, the Korea and Indochina wars ended, and the French parliament rejected the European Defense Community. As fear of communism waned, resentment of America waxed. First, the Eisenhower administration strongly opposed the other French war in Algeria and sided with the Soviets to force Britain and France out of Suez in 1956. Then the United States refused to share its nuclear secrets and (according to France) exploited the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

The resulting tide of anti-Americanism contributed to the hasty formation of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957. But it culminated in Charles de Gaulle, who came to power in 1958 and proceeded to denounce Anglo-Saxon hegemony, forge his own special relationship with West Germany, pull French forces out of NATO command, build a French nuclear deterrent, pursue d‚tente with Moscow, and veto Britain’s application to the EEC on the grounds that Britain was a Trojan horse whose membership would create “a colossal Atlantic Community under American dependency.” Throughout the 1960s, West European governments rued the Vietnam War, protested U.S. dictation of NATO strategy, and fretted over America’s cultural and economic hegemony. In 1968 Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber wrote of “an economic system in a state of collapse. It is our own. We see a foreign challenger breaking down the political and psychological framework of our societies. We are witnessing the prelude to our own historical bankruptcy.” Unless Europe fought back, he said, it would be reduced to a mere colony of IBM, Boeing, and Bank of America.

To be sure, American rhetoric was always benign. Eisenhower hoped to live long enough to “see a United States of Europe come into existence.” Kennedy said progress toward a united Europe “has been the basic object of our policy for 17 years.” Lyndon Johnson said that the drive for unity in Western Europe was not only desirable, but necessary. Nixon observed that “no element of American foreign policy has been more consistent than our support of European unity.” Carter pledged “unqualified support” for the EEC. Reagan considered “a strong and united Europe not a rival, but a partner.” Bush insisted that America “supports this goal today with the same energy it did 40 years ago,” and Clinton welcomed “stronger European institutions” and recognized “that we will benefit more from a strong and equal partner than from a weak one.”

But behind the scenes, U.S. support for the European idea was always contingent on whether it strengthened the Atlantic community or veered off into neutralism or protectionism. Thus, after the rise of de Gaulle, Eisenhower sent a clear message that “NATO should be the principal forum for cooperation and consultation among member nations . . . complemented in the economic field by the [transatlantic] OECD.” When Europeans waffled during the Berlin crisis of 1961, Dean Acheson barked, “We don’t need to ‘coordinate’ with our allieswe need to tell them!” When de Gaulle and Adenauer signed a bilateral treaty in 1963, Acheson called it “an insult to my intelligence” to suggest that the treaty was not anti-American. He was furious that “the greatest imperial power the world has ever seen” was made “to kiss de Gaulle’s ass!” And James Reston wrote, “If they are asking us to defend a Europe which questions American good faith, . . . spreads nuclear weapons to France and perhaps to Germany, . . . rejects and humiliates Britain and . . . puts the continent before the Atlanticthen they are asking [for] things that have never been, and never will be.”

The crisis came to a head after President Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold and Henry Kissinger’s Year of Europe ended in mutual recriminations over the Yom Kippur war and Arab embargo. Kissinger concluded that America had overestimated its influence and that a supranational Europe and an Atlantic community were “likely to prove incompatible.” For the rest of the 1970s and 1980s, Washington repeatedly pressed the Europeans to prove themselves good citizens of NATO, while the Eurocrats quietly worked to broaden and deepen the EEC without alarming Washington. Britain and Ireland were admitted in 1971, and the community gradually grew to a dozen members (it has fifteen today). By the mid-1980sunder the whip of Jacques Delors and despite the resistance of Margaret ThatcherEurope was drafting plans for a common currency, common defense and foreign policy, and the EU.

Then the Cold War ended, and the European locomotive accelerated, not least because the Soviet collapse reduced America’s leverage. In 1992, President Mitterand propagandized for the Single European Act with posters depicting a Texas cowboy squashing the globe, and the insulted President Bush was obliged to remind Europe of its Atlantic identity. As late as January 1999, when France, Germany, and Britain discussed creating a force outside the NATO framework, Madeleine Albright rushed over to scold them. The United States would welcome a strong European pillar, she said, but only if it reinforced the transatlantic link.

Where does this history leave us today? Recent developments would seem to indicate that the Euro-American partnership is stronger than ever. France has rejoined NATO command. Tony Blair boasts of his friendship with Clinton. Gerhard Schr”der’s Germany is willing to take on new burdens while avoiding any hint of nationalism. The new NATO membersPoland, Hungary, and the Czech Republicare the most pro-American of all. And opinion polls on both sides of the ocean show support for NATO almost as strong as during the 1980s. Meanwhile, the euro is launched and the European Commission’s new chief of cabinet, David O’Sullivan, has pledged to work with the European Parliament in Strasbourg to design a supranational government.

But what is the purpose of a unified Europe? To make it a worthy partner, or to challenge American leadership? As always, many who harbor the latter ambition speak with French accents. Mitterand denounced Euro-Disney as a “cultural Chernobyl” and declared that “we are at war with America. . . .  Yes, they are very hard, the Americans. They are voracious, they want undivided power over the world.” Foreign Minister Hubert V‚drine warns that America has gone beyond superpower to hyperpuissance, and urges Europeans to resist with nerves of steel. Two-thirds of Frenchmen claim to resent American dominance, and in 1998 the newspaper Le Monde declared it a “matter of national importance” that a French film celebrating Asterix, the Celtic comic book hero, do better at the box office than Titanic. But the French are not alone. Germans resent the CIA’s seizure of East German Stasi files, and call America “barbaric” for executing two German nationals convicted of murder. Italians fume over the acquittal of the two U.S. Marine pilots who accidently killed twenty people in the Alps. All Europeans are disgusted by U.S. sanctions against firms trading with Iran, Cuba, and Libya, and the coalition against Saddam Hussein has all but evaporated.

At the same time, Europe’s dependence grows ever more glaring. Eighty percent of the air strikes in Serbia were flown by Americans, and the European sorties relied on U.S. intelligence, command and control. Europe’s defense budgets for 1997 totaled a mere $173 billion compared to America’s $270 billion, and its spending on research and development was only $11 billion compared to America’s $37 billion. But a European buildup is also unlikely given the absence of major threats and the budgetary discipline required for the euro.

Another disturbing trend involves the role of Britain. Author Hugh Young made a good joke in his book on Britain and Europe when he captioned a photo of John Major with the words: “My hesitation is final.” But as Peter Rodman has observed, Britain’s skill at keeping one foot in the Atlantic and the other in Europe allowed it to act as Europe’s mouthpiece in Washington and NATO’s advocate in Europe. Now, Blair is jumping with both feet into Europe, which may complicate efforts to reconcile American and European interests.

Where do all these currents and crosscurrents leave our ships of state in the year 2000? First, European integration has indeed been driven by the desire to stand up to the United States. Secondly, NATO has indeed been a tool of American policy insofar as the United States can exploit its allies’ dependency to keep them from drifting too far from shore. Thirdly, America and Europe are nonetheless stuck with each otherunless they prefer to face the twenty-first century alone. And that means they have no choice but to bury mythical pasts and futures alike, and tackle the practical problems of the present.

Consider the European Monetary Union. Should Americans hope for the euro to flop? No, because a collapse of the common currency would hurt American exports while making European goods cheaper here, putting more pressure on our balance of payments. Should we hope for the euro to succeed? No again, because a strong euro will rival the dollar as a global reserve currency, putting pressure on U.S. interest rates and making European firms more competitive thanks to continental economies of scale. The only way to minimize friction is to create that Transatlantic Free Trade Association. The domestic barriers to it are prodigious, but the fact that the cost of labor is so high in the EU means that U.S. labor unions do not object to TAFTA the way they did to NAFTA. Another encouraging sign is the trend toward transatlantic mergers such as DaimlerChrysler, and still another is that even Europe’s socialists recognize the need for reform. But whether or not a full TAFTA emerges, Euro-American conflicts can be muted if market forces are allowed to prevail over politics.

The greatest danger, however, is that the core purposes of NATO and the EU tend to pull them apart. Sam Huntington fears that a unified Europe would be “an extraordinarily powerful entity which could not help but be perceived as a major threat to American interests.” While the Pentagon’s own defense plan states that “the US . . . must seek to prevent the emergence of European-only security arrangements which would undermine NATO.” Some policy analysts suggest that the best way to deal with divergence over roles and missions is to institutionalize them: that is, accept a division of labor whereby Europe takes the lead in local crises and America handles the rest of the world. But former NATO commander Alexander Haig damns such divisions of labor, warning that allies must be in it togethereverywhere in every wayor they will soon cease to be allies.

If Haig is correct, then it logically follows that the worst mistake the United States and Europe could make is to try to “save” their alliance by committing it to a metaphysical partnership in pursuit of an unlimited agenda. For if every contingency around the globe becomes an existential “test of the alliance,” sooner or later the alliance will flunk, recriminations will fly, fair Atlantis will sink ‘neath the waves . . . and Andrew Roberts’ jeremiad will come to pass in the twenty-first century.