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

Editor’s Column Fall 2000

Such is the hectic flow of life in middle age, when the work load peaks just as the body begins to break down, that I let a personal anniversary of sorts slip by unnoticed in our previous issue. The Summer 2000 issue of Orbis was the twenty-fifth under my editorship. “Hard to believe, Harry,” in the signature phrase of Hall of Fame Philadelphia Phillies outfielder and broadcaster Richie Ashburn. Harvey Sicherman continues to quip that my biggest regret in life was taking on Orbis, but I would regret many things more than that if I were disposed to dwell upon past mistakes, and in any case editing Orbis has its compensations. We may not be the most prestigious or widely read journal of world affairs, but nowhere else can experts publish such in-depth, annotated analyses of international issues bearing on present and future foreign policy choices. In that, I believe, we combine the best features of policy-oriented journals with the best features of scholarly journals.

That is why I want to do something here that I ought to have done last time, which is to thank the authors who contributed articles and review essays to the past twenty-five issues. Without you I would have had to fill all the pages myself, in which case I would truly have regretted this job. Please continue to think of Orbis when future manuscripts exit your printer. I also want to thank all those who have worked in the FPRI publications office during my tenure, especially associate editors Roger Donway, Adam Garfinkle, Virginia Montijo, Thomas Eckmier, Shaynee Snider, Jill Garner, Heather Chapin, Bridget Grimes, and Stephen Winterstein. Because of you my life has been considerably less hectic than it would otherwise have been.

In These Pages

The Economist ought to win an award for the best magazine cover of the year. In June, following the unprecedented summit meeting in Pyongyang between the leaders of North and South Korea, it depicted Kim Jong-il, mysterious son and heir to the immortal Great Leader Kim Il-sung, smiling and waving beneath the headline, “Greetings, Earthlings.” Is the summit another North Korean ploy to dupe foreign powers into assisting the country with aid and technology, thereby propping up the communist dictatorship? Or is Kim Jong-il serious about opening up and perhaps liberalizing North Korea in the same manner that Chiang Kai-shek’s son began the process of democratization in the Republic of China on Taiwan? Indeed, have we witnessed the beginning of the process of Korean reunification, and if so, will that process go smoothly in the manner of Germany’s reunification, or create new tensions and crises in the only region of the world where three great powers (Russia, China, and Japan) live as uneasy neighbors while a fourth (the United States) endeavors to manage their neighborhood?

The next U.S. administration will be obliged to reckon with those questions, albeit the answers will not become apparent for years. Hence, we are pleased to present in these pages a rich collection of perspectives on the relations among the great powers involved in Northeast Asia and the various triangles they appear to form. Stephen Blank, our inveterate Russia watcher, begins by exposing the sham that is America’s “strategic partnership” with the Russian Federation. Li Jingjie, versed in history and strategy as they appear from the standpoint of Beijing, describes the principles that define the Russo-Chinese strategic partnership and assesses the degree to which it is an anti-American combination. Gilbert Rozman of Princeton, a veteran theorist of triangular diplomatic systems, elaborates on Li’s analysis and explores the real or alleged interests lying behind the friendly Russo-Chinese rhetoric. June Teufel Dreyer and Victor D. Cha take hard looks at Taiwan and Korea, the most delicate flashpoints in East Asia, and James A. Robinson and Deborah A. Brown examine exactly what is meant by mature democracy and the progress made toward it by the people of Taiwan in the wake of their latest presidential election.

Our review essays continue the theme. No individual casts a longer shadow over the Asia-Pacific than Mao Zedong, and the eminent Chinese historian Arthur Waldron reviews for us three recent reassessments of Mao’s persona and legacy. Likewise, no American initiative casts a longer shadow over the present diplomacy in the region than Nixon’s opening to China in 1972. Its wisdom, timing, and legacy remain subjects of intense debate, as Michael Jay Friedman describes.

Finally, Robert J. Lieber takes polite exception to my Winter 2000 column arguing that the push for European integration has always been in a state of tension with the push for transatlantic cooperation, and that the end of the Cold War has only exacerbated that tension. The truth, Lieber argues convincingly, is that Europe and the United States simply have too many interests in common and too much at stake to permit their strategic and economic partnership to collapse.

Night Thoughts of an I.R. Professor

It was said of George Washington that he was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” In the twentieth century that gave rise to a quip among baseball fans to the effect that Washington (speaking now of the city) was “first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” That could not have been coined before World War II, because the Washington Senators won two championships in the 1920s and another in 1933, all in the era of Babe Ruth’s Yankees, and only finished last twice (1944 and 1949) so long as the truly pathetic Philadelphia Athletics were in the league. Sadly, the Senators left Griffith Stadium for the Twin Cities in 1961 to be replaced by an expansion team that fled in its turn for another pair of twin cities (DallasÛFort Worth), leaving the nation’s capital bereft of Major League Baseball.

Meanwhile, in international politics, the Cold War ended and the U.S.-led coalition won a stunning victory in the Gulf War, but otherwise the Bush and Clinton administrations stumbled into the post-Cold War era unsure of what they meant to accomplish or how to go about doing it. Hence, if one were to update the old quip it would have to read “Washington: first in war, last in peace, and out of the American League.”

Last in peace? Is that not rather harsh, not to mention unjustified? Perhaps so, but it is also a clich‚ that the United States is perversely skilled at winning wars only to lose the peace that follows them. Statesmen versed in the tradition of realpolitik have, their alleged amorality notwithstanding, been far more adept on balance in that most delicate of diplomatic arts, war termination. I use the term “war termination” instead of the usual term “peacemaking” to shift our perspective on what it means to bridge the transition from war to peace. Peacemaking implies ending the fightingno argument therebut also “making” a “peace.” If this is taken to mean crafting a treaty that everyone can live with, resolving the issues left over by war, and planting no new seeds of discord, then that, too, is unobjectionable. But if peacemaking is taken to mean crafting some new world order, some entirely new system of international relations that is supposed to eliminate or transcend the issues and conflicts of interest left hanging by the war just ended, then it amounts to something quite different than what is implied by the term “war termination.” Some historical examples may suffice to illustrate the distinction.

As Henry Kissinger explained with theoretical exactitude and historian Paul Schroeder demonstrated with empirical thoroughness, terminating the wars of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic era was simply impossible before somebody won complete victory. The revolution had declared war on the monarchical system itself and pledged to assist all the peoples of Europe to throw off their chains. The monarchies understandably responded by forming a series of coalitions determined to crush the French republic and its tributary states out of existence. Napoleon in turn declared war on the balance of power and its system of sovereign states. The monarchies again rallied together in self-defense and pledged to efface the Napoleonic empire. To be sure, a truce was attempted with the French Republic in the Treaty of Amiens of 1802, and Prince Metternich of Austria tried to mediate between Napoleon and his enemies in 1813 (not least because Napoleon had taken the Austrian Hapsburg princess to wife in a bid to establish a more legitimate dynasty). But the collapse of both those efforts within months demonstrated the futility of playing peacemaker between two antithetical ideologies. By the spring of 1814 Napoleon’s dwindling forces had been pushed back into France, whereupon the British foreign secretary Lord Castlereagh traveled to the continent to talk terms, for the first time, with his coalition partners, the Russians, Prussians, and Austrians. The result was a model of war termination. In the Treaty of Chaumont the four powers disposed of almost all the territorial issues raised by a quarter-century of war. Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland would recover their independence, the Low Countries would be unified under the Dutch monarchy, the Italian states would be restored to their legitimate monarchical rulers, and a loose German Confederation, able to defend itself but threatening to no one, would be created to take the place of the defunct Holy Roman Empire. The four powers also agreed to continue their alliance lest the French attempt any future mischief, and they imposed a “regime change” on France itself. The Bourbon heir Louis XVIII would assume the throne but grant a constitution to his people so that the revolution would not appear wholly in vain.

The Great Powers then repaired to the Congress of Vienna to complete their business and sign treaties with France. Napoleon interrupted matters by escaping from Elba and provoking another round of battles ending in Waterloo, whereupon the allies imposed harsher terms on the French. But the aim of Metternich, Castlereagh, and the others remained that of settling all the issues that caused or were created by the wars, and of taking care not to sow the seeds of future wars. We teachers often depict the Congress of Vienna as the first attempt to create a sort of new world order, albeit a conservative one. We cite the Congress System, whereby the powers agreed to consult and coordinate to avert any future disturbances, the Holy Alliance designed to crush revolutionary movements in the future, and the establishment of a clear balance of power preventing any one state from imposing its will as the French tried to do. All that is arguable, but would have meant nothing in the absence of universally accepted arrangements concerning those issues that might have led subsequently to vital conflicts of interest. Above all, the French themselves had to be reconciled, and thanks to the moderation of the allies in victory and the shrewdness of the French diplomat Talleyrand, such an outcome was achieved.

The proof that the Congress of Vienna was about war termination more than abstract, much less idealistic, peacemaking can be found not in its successes, but in its failures. First, the Congress erred in creating a unified Netherlands, because the French-speaking, Catholic Walloons and the Flemings dependent on the port of Antwerp had no love for the Protestant Dutch and the favoritism they bestowed on Amsterdam. In 1830 the Belgians, as they came to be called, launched a war of independence. Happily, the concert of powers was able to terminate that war in wise fashion by spinning off an independent Belgium and guaranteeing its neutrality. The other mistake of the Congress of Vienna was more serious: it had not invited, and its settlements did not include, the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which still ruled the entire Balkan peninsula and Middle East. Russia, Austria, Britain, and France all had vital interests in one or both of those regions, and their failure to address the future of the Ottoman lands as Turkish power receded provoked an endless series of crises over the “Eastern Question” that ended in the crack-up of the concert system, the Holy Alliance, and the balance of power in the Crimean War of 1854-56.

But at least that great generation of statesmen at Chaumont and Vienna had tried, for the most part successfully, to terminate the wars of 1792-1815 so as not to sow dragon’s teeth for the future. The peacemakers at the Congress of Paris of 1856 were far less successful. The victorious British, French, and Turks imposed humiliating terms on the defeated Russians, including the demilitarization of Russia’s own ports on the Black Sea. Not surprisingly, the tsar and his ministers cast off all sense of duty toward the repose of Europe and pursued foreign policy with one aim in mind: abrogate those Black Sea clauses, recover Russia’s full sovereignty, and resume the pursuit of what they considered Russia’s legitimate rights and influence in the Ottoman Empire and Balkans. Thus were planted the seeds of much Russian mischief and future Russo-Turkish wars.

Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian prime minister and then German chancellor from 1862 to 1890, understood the difference between war termination and peacemaking in its utopian sense. He set out to unify the thirty-odd German states under the scepter of his king, Wilhelm I, and began by leading the German Confederation into a war against Denmark in 1862. The conflict arose over the disputed succession of the border provinces of Schleswig and Holstein, and the Prussian and Austrian armies quickly occupied them in the name of the German national cause. Bismarck then made peace with the Danes, but he purposely did not practice war termination. That is, he did not liquidate the contentious issue, but left the permanent disposition of the provinces up for grabs. The result was a predictable quarrel between Berlin and Vienna over the administration of Schleswig and Holstein that broke up the German Confederation and erupted in a second war in 1866. The Prussians triumphed (though it was a nearer thing than most people realize), expelled Austrian influence from Protestant Germany, and set up a North German Confederation under Prussian leadership. But now that his business with Austria was done, Bismarck was careful to practice war termination. When his king and the Prussian army chiefs wanted to annex Austrian territory or otherwise punish Vienna, Bismarck ranted and raved and threatened to resign until he won the king over to a peace of reconciliation with Austria that left the Hapsburgs intact in their own realms and secure in their own interests. Bismarck thus laid the groundwork for the German-Austrian alliance that followed in 1879.

Secure on his eastern flank (the Russians caring about nothing save those Black Sea clauses) and on his southern flank (the Austrians having been pacified), Bismarck turned his sights on the Second French Empire of the incompetent, mercurial Napoleon III. He calculated that the remaining independent German states, the Catholic kingdoms of Baden, Wurttemberg, and Bavaria, could be persuaded to join in a unified German Empire if their nationalism was aroused by a conflict with France. So he maneuvered Napoleon III into the war of 1870. The Prussian-led German army triumphed again, and the German Empire was proclaimed at, of all places, Versailles. Declaring Germany a satiated power and himself a man of peace, Bismarck again attempted to practice war termination by offering the French terms they could live with. Alas, this time he was frustrated. The Prussian general staff demanded the annexation of the French border provinces of Alsace-Lorraine so as to improve Germany’s defensive military position in case of a future French attempt at revenge. Bismarck protested, but this time the army won out. The upshot was that the French lust for revanche grew ever more heated, and after Bismarck’s dismissal France found an ally in Russia in 1894. The German general staff reacted to the danger of a war on two fronts by crafting the blatantly offensive Schlieffen Plan that ensured that any conflict in eastern Europe was bound to drag in France and because the plan required an invasion of that neutral Belgium established in 1839 Great Britain as well. Thus were planted the seeds of World War I.

Have American statesmen ever practiced good war termination, or is it true that the United States always fights total war in the hope of imposing, or persuading others to embrace, total peace? Clearly, Theodore Roosevelt understood war termination when he mediated the Treaty of Portsmouth that ended the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5. He was under no illusions that either the imperialist Russians or Japanese could be persuaded to honor the Open Door free access to trade and investment for all nations in their spheres of influence in Manchuria and Korea. Rather, he hoped simply to broker a peace that would maintain a balance of power among the rival imperialists in order to prevent the domination of China by any one of them, and so preserve a measure of security for American interests there. It was a tough negotiation, but he succeeded in terminating the war so well that within three years Russia and Japan established a partnership of their own.

Woodrow Wilson was not interested in war termination. He asked Congress to declare war on Germany in April 1917 as part of a moral crusade to rid the world of militarism and imperialism altogether, and his elaborate blueprints for the postwar world, including the Fourteen Points and twenty-four “principles, ends, and particulars,” were either vague declarations of the way things ought to be, such as universal disarmament, or specific arrangements derived from the application of abstract principles, such as an independent Poland with access to the sea. At no point did Wilson ask: what conflicts of national interest is this war about, how can those conflicts be resolved in a way everyone (including Germany and the Hapsburg monarchy) can live with, and how can we achieve that without sowing the seeds of new conflicts? As a result, no major power and few minor powers came away satisfied from Versailles, the United States included, and all manner of seeds of discord were planted in Europe and Asia. The one positive thing that was accomplished at the end of World War I was a regime change in Germany when the kaiser abdicated and a democratic republic emerged. Indeed, it was a better regime change than the restoration of the Bourbons in 1814 because it happened spontaneously rather than being imposed by victorious foreigners. But the Paris Peace Conference (no conference was so inaptly named) managed to cripple democracy in Germany through the punitive clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. That was not Wilson’s fault, you may say. Oh yes it was, because Wilson was the one who first proposed reparations in the Fourteen Points, it was the American delegation that inserted the infamous “war guilt clause” that so outraged the Germans and called into question the whole moral basis of the treaty, and it was Wilson’s treasury that refused to extend Europe a nickel in loans, much less write off a nickel of the allied war debt, which in turn forced the French and British to squeeze Germany all the more. To be sure, Wilson rued the self-interested policies of the victorious allies, but he never questioned for a moment that Germany deserved to be punished.

The Republican administration that followed picked up some of the pieces. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes hosted the Washington conference in hopes of preventing new conflicts in the Pacific and East Asia. Britain, France, Japan, the United States, and other powers in Asia accepted limitations on their navies and agreed to respect the integrity of China and the Open Door. But that just amounted to good intentions and high principle. To achieve genuine war termination Hughes would have had to purge the root causes of Sino-Japanese conflict and satisfy Japan’s perceived need for outlets for its booming population, markets for exports, sources of raw materials, and security for its existing and internationally recognized empire that stretched from Taiwan to Korea and southern Manchuria. Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress placed high tariffs on foreign exports in 1921 and banned Japanese immigration in 1924, while the various nationalists, communists, and warlords in China strove to outdo each other in xenophobic hostility to foreign investment, especially that of Japan. None of that is sufficient to explain why crazed military leaders seized control of the Japanese government after 1931 and launched it on a suicidal career of conquest. But it does demonstrate that the seeds of future wars were either planted or nourished in spite of what appeared to be a grand “peacemaking” exercise.

Franklin D. Roosevelt did no better than Wilson. He purposely postponed negotiations with Churchill and Stalin about war aims and peace aims until the Teheran Conference of 1943, and did not begin to get down to terms until Yalta in January 1945. His motive was to avoid raising any potentially contentious issues lest the Grand Alliance dissolve before the unconditional surrender of the Axis. Perhaps he was right. But that meant that real war termination liquidation of the issues that caused or were raised by the war in a manner everyone could live with was scarcely begun by the time Roosevelt died. To be sure, had the Cold War not broken out between 1946 and 1950 all might have been settled through the United Nations led by Roosevelt’s Four Policemen (the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and Nationalist China). But the Cold War broke out in good part because no war termination had taken place. So the disposition of Germany, the governments of liberated states in Eastern Europe, the future of the Middle East and the European colonial empires, and the disposition of the vast regions conquered by Japan were all up for grabs.

But surely, one may say, great coalitions always break up when their common enemy is vanquished. Add to that the extreme ideological cleavage between Washington and Moscow, Stalin’s paranoia and brutality, the American atomic monopoly, and the looming Red Army, and it is difficult to see how a Cold War of sorts could have been avoided. I agree with all that. But it does not suffice to explain the specific stalemate over the status of Germany and prospects for West German remilitarization, a stalemate caused in great part by the disputes among the NATO allies themselves. Above all, the fact that a Cold War ensued does not suffice to explain why the United States was drawn into protracted wars in Korea and Vietnam. What made those wars possible, or made them seem necessary, was botched war termination. The Big Three powers of World War II never got around to addressing the questions of what would become of the Japanese empire after Japan’s power was broken. Roosevelt did make some bold, if overly optimistic, attempts to concede, and thereby limit, Soviet spheres of influence in Manchuria and Mongolia in return for signing a treaty with Chiang Kai-shek. But he quite blithely ruled that Taiwan should be “returned” to China. As for Korea, well where is Korea, and why should it command our attention? Southeast Asia? There FDR toyed with the notion of forbidding the French to return, but never followed up, and in any case the British opposed assaults on European colonialism. So the United States let Vietnam slide; it didn’t seem very important.

What I am trying clumsily to suggest is that the Korean and Vietnamese wars were not just examples of the “swordplay” of the superpowers, or the American obsession with containment of communism. Those regions might never have been disputed at all if American and Soviet diplomats had included them on their agendas before World War II was over, in the manner of Castlereagh at Chaumont. Instead, no arrangements having been made for them, their fates were decided by the immediate need in the late summer of 1945 to occupy them for the sole purpose of disarming their Japanese occupiers. Soviet troops moved into northern Korea and Americans into the south. Chinese troops moved into northern Vietnam and British Empire troops into the south. The occupiers had no instructions as to what to do with the inhabitants or even to cooperate with the other occupation force. And so those countries were made into seedbeds of future wars. We cannot know what would have happened “if only,” and I don’t wish to push the argument too far. But it is certainly possible that, Cold War or not, the wars in Korea and Vietnam would never have happened if the victorious powers had occupied them jointly, or agreed in advance on their political status as unified nations.

What has any of this to do with today? At the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany, many of us pundits called urgently for a new Congress of Vienna. It might even have been held in Vienna since Austria was an excellent, indeed the sole, example of an amicable Soviet-Western agreement to reunify, withdraw from, and neutralize a contested country (it happened in 1955). At this new Congress of Vienna, Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, or even Mikhail Gorbachev himself, might have sat down with the heads of government or foreign secretaries of all the other European states, plus the non-European NATO members, in order to hammer out a termination to the Cold War. It never occurred, of course, and the Cold War ended peaceably anyway thanks to a miraculous regime change that cracked up the Soviet Union and ousted the Communists in Moscow. Blessed events indeed, and since 1991 the Western world has never been more secure and prosperous. But the way the Cold War ended meant that no understandings of any kind were achieved beyond that regarding the unification of Germany. What we got instead was the usual ethereal American talk of a new world order and proclamations of strategic partnerships (viz. the “Partnership for Peace”) that are worse than useless for being so vacuous.

Harvey Sicherman called in these pages for a substantive diplomatic program designed to win the peace after the Cold War. If I get my way as editor, he will be revisiting and updating that essay around the question, “Has the peace already been lost?” I shall be anxious to read what he writes, because I cannot help but worry over the utter absence of war termination in the wake of the Soviet implosion. No understandings exist over the future status of the former Soviet republics, or the Baltic states, or the oil-rich Caucasus, or security in the Persian Gulf, or the permissible futures of the Koreas and Taiwan. No understandings exist over who may intervene where, in what manner, for what purpose, and under whose umbrella. (The Russians and Chinese regarded Kosovo as a “war of NATO aggression,” and under international law they were right.) No understandings exist concerning missile defense, and those limiting various weapons of mass destruction are in danger of unraveling. As a result, Russia and the United States, two empires that were for the most part amicable between 1776 and 1917 and whose geopolitical and economic interests do not naturally clash much at all, find themselves feuding all over the map, as Stephen Blank catalogs in his article.

Perhaps the most damning examples of botched war termination, however, are in the Persian Gulf and the Balkans. The United States entered the Iraqi, Bosnian, and Kosovar conflicts late, but that is habituala result of Americans’ happy remoteness from Eurasian hot spots and insouciance toward distant crises until “Humpty Dumpty” has already fallen off the wall. Once engaged, however, the United States failed in all three cases to devise a strategy for liquidating the wars and pursuing a settlement unlikely to spark future wars. Hence, large American military forces remain on station, at wasting expense, in the Gulf and the Balkans, and will not depart for the foreseeable future. No regime changes occurred (Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic are still in power), no boundary changes (the multiethnic so-called state of Bosnia survives, the multiethnic Kosovo is still technically part of Yugoslavia, and the Kurds, Shi’ites, and other oppressed peoples remain “citizens” of Iraq), and no healthy population transfers (such as would have occurred had the Serbs and Croats been permitted to terminate their war over Bosnia)in short, no cloture.

The failure of the post-Cold War powers to practice war termination means that none has even been asked to articulate what its vital interests are, thereby maximizing the chances of unhappy surprises. America is doubtless safe enough in the medium run, but seeds of war may have been planted, may even be sprouting, that could have been uprooted. China, in particular, seems to be regarded by much of the Right and Left alike as a defeated nation, as if it had been an ally of the Soviet Union rather than a close partner of the United States in the end game of the Cold War. China did not lose that contest, and however much we may deplore its regime, we must remember that fact. Nor did Russia lose the Cold War. In fact, the Russian republic under Boris Yeltsin did the most of all to win it. And yet, the only discernible strategy the United States seems to have toward China and the dubious government of Russia is regime change. Overthrow yourselves, then no doubt your successors will engage in real war termination . . . on our (American) terms.

The world does not work that way. In the real world, even odious regimes may advance some legitimate national interests. In such a world, the way to secure peace is not to inveigh against war in general, or pretend that globalization has made it impossible, but to weigh real conflicts of interests and passions, and horse-trade before it’s too late. Diplomatic historians know that the war prevented, that is, the war that never happened, is as real as the war that breaks out, and that, as Bismarck said, the signs of great statecraft are generosity in design, humanity in execution, and moderation in success.