Editor’s Column Fall 2002

Publication of this issue coincides with the first anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. At Orbis, we considered but set aside plans for a commemorative issue as such. The phases to come remain unsettled and the ramifications of a war, now in a summertime lull, remain obscure.

Our staff and Board of Editors have sought articles that anticipate the strategy and policy questions likely to arise. But news items being reported as I write (July 11) illustrate the hazards. A front-page story in USA Today this morning reports a new Pentagon–State Department consensus that only “significant provocation” on the part of Saddam could justify an American invasion of Iraq.[1] The report cites concerns about domestic and international opposition to a massive ground effort against Iraq without a stronger case against Saddam either linking his regime to Al Qaeda or proceeding from threats to neighbors or abuses of Iraqi minority groups. The USA Today report, if true, tends to counter expectations built up in the past several weeks by two presidential speeches: the president’s address at West Point, in which he announced his new doctrine of preemption, and his Rose Garden speech, in which he unveiled his long-promised Israeli-Palestinian peace plan in terms that set forth a rationale for invasion to rid the region of tyrannies such as Iraq.

Times have changed in one key respect. The undue complexity and policy confusion noted in these pages in the last issue is gone. Notwithstanding the ambiguity of U.S. military intentions towards Iraq, American aims in the region are much clearer. Terrorism is not be rewarded with concessions, diplomatic or otherwise. Normal U.S. relations with states in the area will depend on economic and political reforms and renunciation of force against Israel and the United States.

Billed in advance as a response to the Saudi peace plan, the Bush plan in fact ends decades of U.S. efforts to gain stability in the region by serving as an “honest broker” between Israel and its warring adversaries. While firmly supportive of Palestinian statehood “eventually,” Bush’s peace plan lays out specific, non-negotiable requirements for it.

The escalation of Bush’s rhetoric warrants a reappraisal of the so-called Bush Doctrine, which seems less and less of a doctrine these days and more like a declaration of war aims and principles. In contrast to the Truman Doctrine, which at the outset of the Cold War posed economic aid as a substitute for armed conflict, Bush’s pronouncements have taken on the character of Roosevelt’s pronouncements at the outset of World War II. In hindsight, Bush’s September Joint Session address combines elements of FDR’s “Quarantine” speech in 1937 and his “Day of Infamy” speech on December 8, 1941; the “seven demands of human dignity” set forth in his first State of the Union address can be compared to FDR’s “Four Freedoms” address in 1941; Bush’s West Point address is reminiscent of FDR’s “shoot on sight” order in 1941; and the Bush peace plan can be compared to the “unconditional surrender” doctrine announced by the allies at Casablanca in 1943. It has become evident that this time around, Israel is to be accorded the status of ally and brother-in-arms, suggesting parallels to the Anglo-American partnership of World War II. Clarity on Israel and on the firmness of U.S. objectives has had the salutary effect of preempting formation of a resolute Arab coalition, of defusing UN criticisms as well as NATO’s and Russia’s criticisms so evident last spring.

In recent days, new questions have arisen. Has President Bush suddenly become a Wilsonian?

Wilsonianism is a controversial foreign policy doctrine, for all of its persistence in American thinking over the past 85 years. As a peacetime posture, Wilsonianism tends to breed a moralism incompatible with the normal give-and-take of diplomacy and a self-righteousness that has blinded the United States to the dictates of geopolitics. But as a wartime doctrine, Wilsonianism has withstood the test of time. Wilson’s eloquence in 1917 inspired America to commit a huge force to Europe. FDR’s brand of it propelled the country to victory in World War II. Ronald Wilson Reagan’s brand of it revitalized the West and demoralized the USSR, helping to bring about the end of the Cold War. Wilsonianism has—with the possible exception of World War I—articulated the foundations of a better—albeit imperfect—postwar world.

So to say that President Bush has become a Wilsonian is merely to affirm that America is indeed at war. Bush’s brand of Wilsonianism would seem calculated to serve the imperatives of this war. In particular, the Bush version of Wilsonianism seeks to address the practical needs looking beyond the current situation, for this war is not a contest of equals. It provides a basis for coming to grips with instability and misery in a region of the world riven by chronic conflict.

The Wilsonian turn in Bush’s foreign policy will raise a host of questions in the months to come. If the Middle East is to change, is it to be changed in the exact image of the United States? Are American standards of social and political freedoms universal? The Muslim world lacks a tradition of democracy and a key element of it: the separation of church and state. Will Muslim democracies be responsible democracies?

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In this issue, we reproduce the text of the Seventh Annual Templeton Lecture, delivered in Philadelphia on May 21, 2002, by Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth.

Rabbi Sacks addresses two questions at the heart of the challenge posed by groups acting in the name of Islam: what is the place of religion in contemporary national and international affairs? Is religion inherently sectarian, or are there elements common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that permit “coexistence” among the world’s religionists?

On the first point, Rabbi Sacks shows that in the current era, one dominated by the “politics of identity,” religion has regained its sway over peoples around the world. Religion underlies the precepts of democracy and individual liberty. Thus, a war against a branch of Islam cannot and should not be waged as a war for extreme secularism or as a war against religion.

But as the stature of religion grows, can religious faiths be a force for conflict resolution as well as conflict creation? There are points in common to the major religions that should permit them to peacefully coexist.

Rabbi Sacks’ message may be analogous to the centrist views of George Kennan, who urged confidence in ultimate victory at the outset of the Cold War—an ideological contest waged in an ideological era—while decrying isolationism on one hand and the kind of universalism on the other that would commit the ills against which Rabbi Sacks warns us today. Tolerance and humility are indispensable virtues in both eras; the globalized era of “identity politics;” the cold war of ideological politics.

Religious freedom will be vital for the Muslim peoples as they gain the right to self-government. But can the West “risk” the free decisions made freely by newly free Muslim states? Will democratic Muslim states be peaceful states?

In her article in this issue, Risa Brooks weighs the question of liberalization of the Muslim states as a long-range solution to the problem of stability in the Muslim world. The alternative policy choice would be to back a policy of extreme repression against Islamic radicals carried on by the “moderate” secular regimes in the area. The problem with the latter approach, she argues, is that the “moderate” regimes in the area are in effect failed states and the source of the very radicalism that long range policy must aim to prevent.

Brooks recommends a policy of promoting gradual liberalization of Muslim states in the area, even at the risk of Islamic parties gaining control of many of the governments. She argues that the tenets of Islam contain the “seeds of moderation.” She shows that Islamist parties in power, having gained a stake in the success of the state, hence a stake in promoting prosperity and stable relations with Muslim neighbors, behave differently from Islamist parties suppressed and forcibly kept out of power.

Brooks cautions that a self-governing Muslim society is more likely than not to be anti-Western in outlook, the alternative—repression of Islamist parties by authoritarian states—having been tried and having failed. President Bush’s endorsement of Palestinian democracy as a condition of statehood implies that something like her idea has become the official policy of the government.

Alan Isenberg, recently of the CSIS in Washington, writes about the malaise of NATO, a malaise deepened, not solved, by the “war on terrorism.” Isenberg describes NATO’s underlying “identity crisis,” which may be compounded in November when NATO considers a “Big Bang” expansion to as many as seven or eight new countries. It is not just the dilution of alliance that accounts for this malaise. The key failing is the growing disparity in military power between the United States and its NATO allies and the consequent inability to meaningfully share military burdens, whether in defense of the NATO area or “out of area” in regions such as the Middle East.

NATO’ s future viability, according to Isenberg, will depend on the ability of the alliance to redefine itself in terms of its original mission as a military alliance. A greater defense effort by Europe and a more generous and trusting technology transfer policy on the United States’ part will tend to restore the sense of mutuality and common purpose characteristic of NATO’s early years. And the stakes are immense. A military alliance built on the foundations of political democracy, the NATO identity has been fundamental to the self-images and confidence of the West’s leading democracies. But as military questions have been deemphasized, NATO has evolved into an amorphous political association, a regional UN. Growing disparities in military power feed resentments as well as a growing divergence in political outlook.

Isenberg believes that the war on terrorism illustrates NATO’s troubles, as reflected in the tepid support for the U.S. war effort despite NATO’s initial response to 9-11 in its historic invocation of Article 5. But even solidarity in the current conflict cannot remedy the structural imbalances caused by the military disparities between an increasingly impatient America and a complacent, poorly armed Europe.

If the war on terror has exposed the malaise of NATO, the same cannot be said of its effect on U.S.–Russian relations. The United States and Russia have found themselves cooperating on a wide range of ventures since 9-11, despite such breaches as America’s withdrawal from the SALT Treaty in December. Stephen Blank analyzes this new turn, showing how Bush and Putin have fashioned an “historic opportunity” to mend the enmity and rivalry that has existed since 1917. Blank warns that the opportunity may prove fleeting. U.S.–Russian relations today owe much to personal chemistry between Bush and Putin and are a function of initiatives on Putin’s part that have yet to be institutionalized. In view of persistent skepticism about Putin’s pro-West/pro-U.S. policies among Russian political and military elites, an end to American-Russian enmity after 85-plus years depends, in the final analysis, on Russia’s market reforms and the success of its democratization process.

Ilya Prizel examines Russia’s new turn toward the West in the context of Russian-German relations and the changes evident in both countries that are subtly altering the dynamics of the EU and politics in Eastern Europe. Germany under Schröder has fashioned an entirely new foreign policy, he notes, one no longer shaped by the Nazi legacy or by gratitude and deference towards the United States. The interaction between Russia’s turn westward and Germany’s new assertiveness in the EU, which includes a turn eastward, is a “repartition” of Eastern Europe that will have ramifications for NATO and the EU. Prizel’s article is a timely reminder that Germany remains the paramount focus of Russian foreign policy, despite Bush’s relationship with Putin.

Shawn Howard takes a broad look at the war on terrorism in the context of earlier revolutionary epochs. The “romantic era” of globalization ended on 9-11, he writes, and the globalized world faces a revolutionary challenge that bears comparison with revolutionary epochs in the past. Howard carefully delineates the vital differences that distinguish the current contest between liberal democracy and radical Islam from its forebears. The key difference, he notes, is that Islamicism lacks the ingredients of optimism and positivism characteristic of the European revolutions between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. The extreme rejection of all things modern will handicap Islamic radicals in this contest, handing the liberal democracies a major advantage—if taken.

The second half of the issue includes a cluster of articles on the United States, Taiwan, and China. Whatever course the war takes, it appears that the United States’ relationship with China will remain the most important bilateral relationship in the world. And it may well be that the war will scantly influence this relationship, which has developed along lines that reflect China’s relative imperviousness to “transnational” influences. Taiwan is the key point of contention. It is and figures to remain the sole point of major power conflict anywhere in the world.

Cross-Strait relations were featured as the main topic of an FPRI symposium last December and were discussed again at a June 2002 reception hosted at FPRI for a visiting delegation of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA). Between the two, in March, my wife and I made a return trip to China—our first since 1975—as CPIFA’s guests. The majority of CPIFA visitors at FPRI in June had hosted us in Beijing.

And what a trip it was. In the mere interval of 27 years, Maoist China has become post-Deng China. Since our last visit, the PRC has added an estimated 300 million people, which exceeds the entire population of the United States. The transformations of Beijing and Shanghai exceed all descriptions and dramatize the irreversibility of China’s effort to modernize. So too do the stunning demographic facts about China that make it literally impossible, in the words of columnist David Ignatius, for China to stand still.[2] An economy that must provide jobs for 25 million new entrants each year, as he puts it, is “condemned” to follow the path of virtue, to enlarge its “glorious new wealth.”

But will China achieve democracy in the process? And can potential problems between China and the United States, increasingly bound together by trade and common points of interest, be averted? And how much should America assist a “rising China” in full awareness that the magnitude of a successful China figures to marginalize most of the problems and challenges facing the United States these days?

The tone of conversations with CPIFA members and other Chinese leaders in Beijing differs little from the tone of our conservations in Philadelphia. In both settings, the tone was business-like, friendly, correct, and slightly cautious. Depending on the location, the emphasis was different. In China, every conversation began and ended with Taiwan. The roundtable discussion at FPRI began with the war on terrorism and it ended with Taiwan.

Three facts impress one about the state of U.S.–China relations today. First, constructive and frank exchanges of views are possible and routine, useful exchanges being facilitated perhaps by the distinct outlooks and philosophy, which are obvious and acknowledged. Second, Taiwan looms as a serious potential source of trouble. Third, despite China’s vaunted insularity, one would have to roam the world to find a people who are better informed or possessed of shrewder understanding of the United States than the Chinese. For instance, it was in China in 1975 that my wife and I first heard a persuasive case for the inevitability of the coming Reagan era, three to four years before the possibility was taken seriously in our press. The Chinese observe the outer world with clear eyes and unblinking realism.

The cluster examines the Taiwan question in all of its aspects. Alan Wachman provides an important overview of cross-Strait relations characterized by what he calls a “cold war of words” centering on the PRC’s policy of “one country, two systems” and on Taiwan’s “creeping independence.” Wachman painstakingly describes the impasse, a state of affairs in which no negotiations or actions seem possible. Byron Weng examines cross-Strait relations from his vantage point in Taiwan. Like Macao and Hong Kong, Taiwan is being offered the status of a Special Autonomous Region, and so Weng looks to Hong Kong and Macao, accorded SAR status in the late nineties, to evaluate the prospect. Hong Kong remains a great place to do business. In practice, China has avoided meddling except in the political sphere. Weng is skeptical that SAR status would suit Taiwan’s particular situation, impressed by the unavoidable fact that SAR status does mean full Chinese sovereignty and the ultimate right to interpret all bargains that define Taiwan’s status. In assessing the obstacles, Weng does not rule out unification in the future, though he is impressed with the difficulties and the hazards of unification from the Taiwanese perspective.

If SAR status poses difficulties, what are the alternatives? Jacques deLisle describes the legal framework that has defined cross-Strait relations in the past. He surveys concepts of blended and hybrid forms of sovereignty from international law and finds them wanting in Taiwan’s case.

Cal Clark describes the growing web of informal commercial and social linkages that have sprung up since the early nineties that may be working a silent evolutionary transformation in cross-Strait relations. Business interests, he argues, are steadily creating interdependencies of a kind that invite comparisons with the EU. For decades after World War II, Europe remained divided in a system of sovereign states each of which pursued independent policies at the level of “high politics.” At the level beneath “high politics,” the EU gradually took shape, a development that may provide a precedent for cross-Strait relations.

As evident in these articles, Taiwan is a complex subject. Ensuring a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue will test the ingenuity of every party involved. As to whether cross-Strait relations are being resolved informally, no definite answer is possible. Yet the gradual and peaceful resolution of cross-Strait relations may hold the key to international stability for decades to come, long after the war on terrorism has run its course.

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As for the war, when the topic came up both in Beijing and Philadelphia, Chinese attitudes tended to suggest that international acquiescence if not formal support exists for such actions as the United States deems necessary to win the war on terrorism. In June, the CPIFA delegates precisely described the Chinese point of view. Terrorism, they said, is regarded in China as a major international problem, global in nature, and 9-11 has inevitably shifted the focus of international relations. About America’s future conduct of the war, CPIFA members carefully described the Chinese approach to the problem of terrorism: set clear objectives; keep the focus on the actual perpetrators; avoid unnecessary civilian losses and collateral damage; and tackle the problem “root and branch,” at the level of its economic social and political causes. The delegates acknowledged the seriousness of terrorist threats, including the threat of WMD, adding that if America found itself gravely threatened in the future, the source of that threat would not be China. “China,” said CPIFA president Ambassador Mei in conclusion, “opposes terrorism and hegemonism.” Hegemonism, he explained, was not a term that referred to the measure of national power but to the spirit in which national power is exercised. “What has not changed,” Mei concluded, “is the belief in China that the general trend in world affairs is in the direction of peace and development. Economies are more global today, and the world is more multipolar.”

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But the future remains to be seen. In the book review section, Ed Lynch assesses several new books on Peru, Bolivia, and Chile and the experiences of each country with “Hispanic capitalism.” Lynch offers an interesting and optimistic assessment of South America’s economic future, based mainly on Chile’s economic record.

The review section prompts reflection. As recently as a year ago, Latin America and Mexico were the prime focus of foreign policy attention for the newly elected Bush administration. How times have changed. Even Lynch is obliged to assess the economic prospects of the region in light of the need to prevent Latin America from becoming a haven for future narco-terrorists.

Such is the all-encompassing nature of the war on terrorism. Looking beyond the first anniversary of 9-11, it is to be hoped that events and successes in the war will gradually permit Americans and readers of Orbis to refocus on hemispheric questions, which are questions of vital concern to the future of the quality of American society and the neighborhood we inhabit, and questions of abiding concern for future generations.

But that time has not quite come.

[1] John Diamond, “Planners raise bar for Iraqi invasion: Provocation is needed to justify it, officials say,” USA Today, July 11, 2002.

[2] “Come See the Shanghai Bubble,” Washington Post, June 30, 2002.