‘Cold War’ Continuities: US Economic and Security Strategy Towards Europe

By Benjamin Schwarz

Vol 17, No 4 (December 1994) JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES


With the end of the Cold War, the American foreign policy community has been avid to try something new. Having spent decades evaluating the drab minutiae of arms control and in other ways attempting to manage the seemingly eternal US-Soviet rivalry, members of that community have eagerly answered the call to refashion America’s national security strategy. The flood of recent reports, articles and books, however, is disappointing. After promising bold new thinking on America’s grand strategy, these writings boldly call for the status quo. Some take a nip here: the United States can reduce its troop strength in Europe to 100,000 (‘although not below that’). Others take a tuck there: ‘not all Third World states are equally important to the United States’ (although it would be ‘a mistake to ignore the spillover effects’ of Third World instability ‘on international order and on American interests’). In short, when these alterations are finished, the essentials of America’s ‘Cold War’ strategy remain inviolate.

The Clinton administration’s ‘Bottom-Up Review’ of US defense policy, released in September 1993, illustrates this stasis. Having promised a fundamental reassessment of America’s national security requirements, Pentagon planners concluded after six months of analysis that US security demands military spending of more than $1.3 trillion over the next five years and the permanent commitment of 200,000 US troops in Europe and East Asia -in other words, a strategy remarkably similar to that of the Cold War. More¬over, rather than relinquish America’s costly and risky responsibilities by dissolving Cold War alliances, the administration now plans to expand NATO’s responsibilities eastward. Those who call for a more modest US defense policy argue that American defense plans are extravagance born of paranoia or of a defense establishment’s anxiety to protect its budget. In fact, however, given the way the United States has defined its interests since World War II, the plans are quite prudent. And that is the problem.

The demand for new strategies for a new world springs from the assumption that the Soviet ‘threat’ fundamentally determined US diplomacy from 1945 until the end of the Cold War. Now that the USSR has disappeared, it would seem reasonable that American security policy would change profoundly. But this view presupposes that Washington’s Cold War grand strategy was – and that foreign policy in general is – a response to the pressures of other states. If, however, US security policy has been primarily determined not by external threats but by the apparent demands of America’s economy, it would follow that, despite the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Washington’s global strategy must remain largely unaltered. Persuasively, albeit unwittingly, this is the argument that the foreign policy community advances today in its post-Cold War strategic reassessments. To appreciate the dilemma that arises when the United States seeks its domestic well-being in sources beyond its borders, we must examine those internal imperatives that dictate foreign policy. In other words, we must explore that policy from the inside out.

The US Role in Cold War Europe

Diplomatic historians fall into two general categories. The tradition of innenpolitik argues that internal pressures mainly determine foreign, policy. In contrast, the scholarship of aussenpolitik views relations among states as a realm apart from domestic politics and holds that a state’s foreign policy is determined mostly by the pressures of the international system. In assessing the forces that shape a country’s foreign policy, therefore, the aussenpolitik approach stresses strategic considerations and perceptions of external threats. This approach dominates the interpretation of American strategy since World War II. The history of US national security policy after 1945 is thus under¬stood as the story of America’s response – sometimes paranoid, sometimes clumsy, occasionally prudent – to the threat of a superpower rival.

That such a view is misleading becomes apparent through the critique of US Cold War strategy produced by the school of foreign policy known as ‘political realism.’ Realism, which holds that gaining power and security are the primary foreign policy objectives of states (in contrast, say, to furthering an ideology or pursuing profits) is, of course, an expression of aussenpolitik. Believing that external pressures determined strategy, many realists -including such penetrating American foreign policy thinkers as George Kennan and Walter Lippmann – were convinced that much of America’s Cold War security policy was irrational. Neither Kennan nor Lippmann, for example, could understand the US commitment in Vietnam, an area of no intrinsic strategic value. Nor, more important, could they understand why America’s foreign policy elite met their suggestions for a mutual superpower disengagement from Europe with such hostility.

Kennan. and Lippmann’s goals in Europe were limited and specific. Defining America’s interest there as preventing the continent’s military domination by a single power, they perceived American policy in strategic, rather than ideological or ‘world order’ terms. ‘It is to the Red Army in Europe and not to ideologies, elections, forms of government, to socialism, to commu­nism, to free enterprise, that a correctly conceived and soundly planned policy should be directed,’ Lippmann argued in 1947.’ Similarly, Kennan saw America’s European interests in narrow, geopolitical terms.2 While most of his government colleagues were inspired by the idea of a Pax Americana, Kennan had a far more modest view of America’s future European – and global – role. He looked to the restoration of a plural world in which other powers – the major European states in particular – would dilute the nascent US-Soviet confrontation.3

Disengaging the United States and the Soviet Union from Europe (a pro­posal that most historians now believe would have stood a good chance of success)4 and thereby restoring a multipolar balance of power would be, Kennan and Lippmann reasoned, in America’s long term interest, for it would free the United States from its crushing responsibilities for others’ security and would reduce tensions between the superpowers. As it happens, the foreign policy community had very clear reasons for wishing to maintain those responsibilities, but Kennan, Lippmann, and other realists blamed America’s seeming refusal to act realistically on what they saw as its penchant for viewing foreign policy as a moral crusade.

That realist assumption was wrong. Throughout the post-World War II era, American interests and security commitments (at least the major ones) have been pursued deliberately and for consistent – if recondite – reasons, reasons not obvious to the public nor fully appreciated by the realist viewpoint. If well informed Americans had been asked 10 years ago why US troops were deployed in Europe (and East Asia), they would have answered: to keep the Soviets out. They may have wondered, however, why the United States persisted in its strategy even after Western Europe (and Japan and South Korea) had become capable of defending themselves. Today, they are thoroughly bewildered. Now that the USSR itself has disappeared, why does Washington continue to insist that an American-led NATO and the US defense commitments to East Asia are still indispensable to America’s security?

If, on the other hand, National Security Council staffers, think tank analysts, or State Department policy planners were asked about America’s globe-girdling security commitments, 40 years ago, 10 years ago, or now, their answers would be consistent – and noticeably different from those of educated laymen. They would justify American deployments overseas by invoking such terms as ‘shaping a favorable international environment’, ‘reassurance of allies’, and the on-going need for ‘leadership’, ‘stability’ and ‘continuing engagement’. Even during the Cold War, the ‘Soviet threat’ might not have been mentioned. The question this begs, however, is why has the awesome task of building a stable world been deemed so crucial to America; why have ‘stability’ and ‘reassurance’ been for nearly 50 years the mantra of the foreign policy cognoscenti?

America’s Economically-Driven Cold War Policy

To understand the forces that have motivated US foreign policy since 1945, we must look not to the Soviet Union, but to ourselves; not primarily to the superpower’s geopolitical rivalry, but to the ascendancy of a vision that saw new requirements for America’s prosperity. From the end of World War I through the 1930s, the American political economy was changing dramati­cally. The most rapidly growing and profitable sector comprised large, capital-intensive, advanced-technology corporations, investment banks, and internationally-oriented commercial banks, all of which took the world market for their target. The international economy was America’s future – or so it seemed to the architects of America’s post-World War II foreign policy elite, who were themselves drawn almost exclusively from the world of east coast international business and finance.5

These men had great hope for the future, for they believed that the United States could, using such implements as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the international monetary arrangements negotiated at Bretton Woods, build and manage a new, liberal, global political economy in which trade and capital flowed across national boundaries in response to the laws of supply and demand. Of course, in such a world, the United States, which dominated the international economy, would benefit enormously, but the rest of the world would benefit as well. America’s power at the close of World War II made US policymakers believe that they could translate their vision into a reality.

Such hopes were coupled with an uncomfortable recollection of the Great Depression. Fear of a return to depression fueled the drive toward a postwar international order that might guarantee America’s economic health. To Secretary of State Dean Acheson and the other designers of America’s Cold War foreign policy, there was only one solution. Summarily dismissing schemes to achieve national self-sufficiency through state planning, Acheson declared: ‘We cannot have full employment and prosperity in the United States without foreign markets.’6 American foreign policy generally, and America’s interests in Europe specifically, since World War II cannot be understood except within the context of the project to maintain an open global economy. National policymakers knew that such a goal dictated that the United States fundamentally alter international politics.

The greatest danger to American democracy and prosperity, as US policy­makers saw it, came not primarily from the Soviet Union but from Germany and Japan, since their strength was both necessary and potentially disastrous for the multinational capitalist community the United States was intent on constructing. An industrialized Germany, for instance, would be Europe’s most cost competitive producer and its most effective consumer. Without full German participation in the European economy, there could be no revitaliza-tion of an international economy and that, as Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Will Clayton warned in 1949, would spell the beginning of the end for ‘our democratic free enterprise system’.7 But, as future Secretary of State John Foster Dulles explained in a closed Senate hearing in 1949, while Germany’s integration with Western Europe was imperative, Western Europeans were ‘afraid to bring that strong, powerful, highly concentrated group of people into unity with them’.” Similarly, a strong Japan was at once essential to Asia’s economy and intolerable to its neighbors.’* The problem lay in the inherent contradiction between capitalist economies and international politics.

Capitalist economies prosper most when labor, technology and capital are fluid, so they are driven toward international integration and interdependence. But while all states benefit absolutely in an open international economy, some states benefit more than others. In the normal course of world politics, in which states are driven to compete for their security, this relative distri­bution of power is a country’s principal concern, and it discourages inter­dependence. In efforts to ensure that power is distributed in its favor at the expense of its actual or potential rivals, a state will ‘nationalize,’ that is, pursue autarkic policies – practicing capitalism only within its borders or among countries in a trading bloc. That action restricts both production factors and markets, thereby fragmenting an international economy.

In the normal course of world politics, therefore, international economic interdependence is impossible to achieve. As political economist Robert Gilpin remarks, ‘what today we call international economic interdependence runs so counter to the great bulk of human experience that only extraordinary changes and novel circumstances could have led to its innovation and triumph over other means of economic exchange*.,0 In fact, as historians Immanuel Wallerstein and Thomas McCormick point out, international capitalism has enjoyed only two golden ages: the periods following the Napoleonic Wars and the two World Wars.” The key to both of these episodes of peace and prosperity has been the same: the ability and will of a single state to play the role of hegemonic power. The only way to over­come the dangers inherent to international capitalism is for a preponderant power to take care of other states’ security problems for them, so that they need not pursue autarkic policies or form trading blocs in attempts to improve their relative positions. This suspension of international politics through hegemony has been the fundamental aim of US foreign policy since 1945; the real story of that policy is not the thwarting of the Soviet ‘threat,’ but rather the effort to impose a specific economic vision on a recalcitrant world.

After World War II Washington policymakers recognized that only the United States could achieve the prerequisite for an open world economy -ensuring that Germany and Japan were revitalized as engines of world economic growth, while simultaneously assuaging Western Europe’s and Asia’s fears about German and Japanese economic, military and political dominance. Thus, Washington committed itself to building and maintaining an international political order based upon an American ‘preponderance of power’. By providing for Germany’s and Japan’s security and by enmeshing their military and foreign policies into alliances that it dominated, the United States contained its erstwhile enemies, preventing its ‘partners’ from embark­ing upon independent policies. This stabilized relations among the states of Western Europe and East Asia, for by controlling Germany and Japan, the United States ‘reassured’ their neighbors that these most powerful allies would remain pacific. NATO and the US-Japan Alliance, by banishing power politics and nationalist rivalries, protected the states of Western Europe and East Asia from themselves.12

Freed from the fears and competitions that had for centuries kept them nervously looking over their shoulders, the West Europeans (and East Asians) were able to cooperate politically and economically. As Secretary of State Dean Rusk argued in 1967: ‘The presence of our forces in Europe under NATO has also contributed to the development of intra-European coopera­tion … But without the visible assurance of a sizeable American contingent, old frictions may revive, and Europe could become unstable once more.’13 From that perspective, restoring Europe to its prewar status risked destroying America’s grand design. What Kennan saw as the return to the normal power balance on the Continent seemed to most other American statesmen to be a return to the international political and economic fragmentation of the 1930s. It was, after all, an independent Western Europe that had toppled the Pax Britannica and its beneficent global economic order. Recognizing that Europe and East Asia could not be left to their own devices in the post-Cold War world, Washington pursued not Kennan’s vision of balance and diversity, but hegemony. This preponderance ensured the tranquil world environment in which an open economic system could operate.

Thus, America’s foreign policy has been ‘imperialist’ in the non-pejorative sense of the extension of great power influence for economic purposes. In this sense, Lenin was right. Imperialism is (or allows for) ‘the highest stage of capitalism’ – an’open economy among the industrialized nations.

The fundamental purpose behind America’s ‘Cold War’ policy had little to do with containing the Soviet Union, even though the Soviet threat was used to justify that policy to a nationalist public and Congress (a strategy described by Senator Arthur Vandenberg as ‘scaring hell out of the American people’ to secure an internationalist agenda).14 The Kremlin’s irrelevance to America’s postwar planning was acknowledged in NSC-68, the National Security Council’s 1950 blueprint for America’s Cold War strategy, which defined the security policy it advocated ‘as one designed to foster a world environment in which the American system can survive and flourish.’ This ‘policy of attempting to develop a healthy international community’, NSC-68’s authors went on to assert, was ‘a policy which we would probably pursue even if there was no Soviet threat’.15 In fact, America’s ‘Cold War’ alliances, organized ostensibly to contain the USSR, were formed at a time when US statesmen ‘did not expect and were not worried about Soviet aggression’, as historian Melvyn Leffler, author of the most comprehensive study of the origins of the Cold War, concludes.16

Moreover, US officials recognized that their Cold War strategy actually exacerbated Washington-Moscow tensions. Arguing against Kennan’s pro­posal for the neutralization of Germany and the consequent disengagement of the superpowers from the Continent, the Central Intelligence Agency insisted, ‘The real issue is not the settlement of Germany [i.e., relaxing tensions with the Soviets] but the long term control of German power.”7 By 1957 Kennan, grappling with why his ideas for withdrawing US and Soviet troops from Europe ‘appealed] so dangerous and heretical’ to official Washington, was forced to conclude that American statesmen ‘would not have considered the withdrawal of a single American battalion from Western Germany even if the Russians had been willing to evacuate all of Eastern Germany and Poland by way of compensation’.18 While Kennan had long believed that America’s European policy was motivated by an ill-considered ideological reaction to the Soviets, he now came to realize that US preponderance in Europe served aspirations that were unrelated to the Soviet Union.

American Hegemony and the World Economy

The conviction that America’s prosperity depends upon international economic interdependence and that the precondition for economic inter­dependence is the geopolitical stability and reassurance that flow from America’s security commitments continues to animate America’s national security strategy. Secretary of State James Byrnes’s 1945 explanation of the motive behind American foreign policy – ‘Our international policies and our domestic policies are inseparable; our foreign relations inevitably affect employment in the United States'” – remains the formula Washington follows today.20 In fact, according to this reasoning, the weaker the US economy grows, the more energetically America must pursue world stability.

As Senator Richard Lugar (Republican-Indiana), explained in August 1993 when he called for American leadership to revive NATO:

Trading within our own borders is insufficient to lead us out of economic difficulty; sustained economic growth requires an ability to export vigorously abroad. Full participation in the international market place requires a degree of stability and security in the international environment that only American power and leadership can provide.21

The apparent connections among the requirements of an international capitalist economy, America’s economic well-being, and its defense commit­ments have been repeated so often that Anthony Lake, President Clinton’s National Security Advisor, conflated the supposed dictates of prosperity with those of national security in announcing the administration’s new foreign policy doctrine in September 1993. Explaining that ‘the expansion of market-based economies abroad helps expand our exports and create American jobs’, Lake declared that America’s new ‘security mission’ is the ‘enlargement of the world’s community of market democracies’.22

The now infamous draft of the Pentagon’s classified ‘post-Cold War’ Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), which gave the public an unprecedented glimpse into the thinking that informs America’s defense strategy when it was leaked in March 1992, merely restates in somewhat undiplomatic language the logic behind America’s ‘Cold War’ reassurance strategy. Arguing that American preponderance as a security blanket is essential for stability in Europe and East Asia, the DPG stated that the United States must therefore ‘discourage the advanced industrialized nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger global or regional role’. To accomplish this, America must do nothing less than ‘retain the pre-eminent responsibility for addressing . . . those wrongs which threaten not only our interests, but those of our allies or friends, or which could seriously unsettle international relations’.23 The United States, in other words, must provide what one of the DPG’s authors termed ‘adult supervision’.24 It must protect the interests of virtually all potential great powers for them so that they need not acquire the capabilities to protect themselves, that is, so that they need not. act like great powers. The very existence of truly independent actors would be intolerable to the United States, for it would disrupt American hegemony, the key to a stable world.

The draft DPG’s ‘post-Cold War’ strategy of preponderance, then, reflects what Leffler defines as an imperative of America’s Cold War national security policy: that ‘neither an integrated Europe, nor a united Germany nor an independent Japan must be permitted to emerge as a third force’.25 America’s ‘allies’ were understandably troubled by the impolitic language of the draft DPG, so the Pentagon issued a sanitized, unclassified version in January 1993. While the revised DPG may give less offense, its underlying message is the same and its economically-based arguments are even stronger. America’s Cold War alliances, it asserts, ensure ‘a prosperous, largely demo­cratic, market-oriented zone of peace and prosperity that encompasses more than two-thirds of the world’s economy.’ This makes maintaining these alliances America’s ‘most vital’ foreign policy priority.26

In 1993 President Clinton stated (echoing Byrnes’s argument 48 years earlier) that ‘a global economy has changed the linkages between our domestic and foreign policies and, I would argue, has made them indivisible.’27 If this reasoning is accepted, America’s security strategy seems to inexorably follow. Economic interdependence, apparently, dictates security commitments.28 As long as world politics remain what they have always been, Europe and – East Asia – will be potentially unstable. And as long as US prosperity is understood to depend upon the stability of those regions, the United States must pacify them, employing the most prominent -and costly – feature of its present security strategy: the military power that ensures America’s preeminent place in its Cold War alliances. This leads to a dismal conclusion. America’s worldwide security commitments are a truly permanent burden. They amount to taking the wolf by the ears: how could America ever let go? Arguing in 1992 for the maintenance of the US reassurance strategy in Asia and Europe, a high ranking Pentagon official asked ‘if we pull out, who knows what nervousness will result?’29 The problem, of course, is that the United States can never know and, therefore, according to the assumptions underpinning its security policy, it must always stay.

Post-Cold War NATO and US Economic Renewal

Today’s realists, who assume that others view national security policy through a narrow strategic lens rather than through a wider economic and political one, and who therefore argue that conflict in the former Yugoslavia is no danger to the United States, must look again to understand why foreign policy establishment figures as different as Jeane Kirkpatrick and Cyrus Vance agree that vital American interests are ultimately imperiled by Balkan turmoil. Ludicrous as it may seem at first glance, the fighting in the former Yugoslavia worries policymakers not so much for the humanitarian reasons that have received so much attention, but largely because they fear that instability in the Balkans will ultimately damage the global economy.

The interventionists’ argument that America must lead efforts to pacify the former Yugoslavia merely extends the argument that America must lead in European security affairs, generally. In a memorandum written before his appointment, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Ochmanek urged US military action in Bosnia, explaining that since American ‘prosperity is intimately tied to that of the Europeans’, the United States must ‘maintain its capacity to influence decisionmaking in Europe.’ Because NATO is ‘an essential source of US influence’, Washington must continue to lead European security efforts – including undertakings to stanch instability in the Balkans. ‘If we want a seat at the table when the Europeans make decisions about trade and financial policy’, Ochmanek reasoned, ‘we can’t pretend that messy security problems in Europe are not our concern as well.’ If the US-dominated NATO demonstrates that it cannot or will not address Europe’s post-Cold War security problems, then the Alliance will be impotent. Atlanticists maintain that without an effective NATO – that is, without the Americans providing ‘adult supervision’ – post-Cold War Europe will lapse into those same old bad habits that the Alliance was supposed to suppress -power politics.30

What would be the result of this scenario? The United States will be greatly harmed economically. As General William Odom, former director of the National Security Agency, argues:

Only a strong NATO with the US centrally involved can prevent Western Europe from drifting into national parochialism and eventual regression from its present level of economic and political cooperation. Failure to act effectively in Yugoslavia will accelerate this drift. That trend toward disorder will not only affect US security interests but also US economic interests. Our economic interdependency with Western Europe creates large numbers of American jobs.3

This appreciation of the disastrous consequences regional instability might have for America’s hegemonic position and consequently for international political cooperation and, ultimately, for international economic integration is the missing link that connects instability in the Balkans to American national interests. Unfortunately, there are many other situations in which the same connections can very plausibly be made.

According to the logic of Washington’s global strategy, while the end of the superpower rivalry has reduced US security risks and commitments in some respects, it has in other ways expanded the frontiers of America’s insecurity. During the Cold War, stability in Europe could be assured by Washington and Moscow smothering their respective clients. In fact, this superpower condominium, while crushing to the Europeans, was probably the best means of insuring America’s overriding economic and political interest in the stability of the continent, as American statesmen have often privately acknowledged.32 With the Soviet Union gone, however, its former charges have become free to make trouble for each other and for Western Europe. As former, deputy assistant secretary of defense Zalmay Khalilzad, one of the main architects of the Bush administration’s ‘new world order’ policy, asserts, ‘Western and East Central European stability are becoming increasingly intertwined’ and thus Western Europe’s prosperity, upon which America’s own economic health depends, is increasingly tied to economic relations with Eastern Europe. Moreover, Khalilzad argues, direct US economic interests in the region have also grown considerably, since ‘East Central Europe offers new and potentially expansive markets for US goods, investments and services.’33

Even more important, American strategists fear that if the newly indepen­dent states of Eastern and Central Europe are not enmeshed in multilateral security arrangements under US ‘leadership’, the region could once again become a political-military tinderbox as it was in the 1920s and 1930s, with the Baltic countries, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, the Czech and Slovak republics, Hungary and Romania worrying about each other and with all of them worrying about Germany. And, the argument goes, as in the past, Germany’s involvement in Eastern Europe’s rivalries could alarm its Western neighbors as well, threatening the stability of the entire Continent.34

So America’s responsibilities multiply. The Clinton administration and a growing number of the foreign policy elite have joined Khalilzad in asserting that these conditions dictate that the US-led NATO must be ‘transformed’.35 As Lugar argues, since European stability ‘is a precondition for American domestic renewal’ and since that stability is now threatened by ‘those areas in the east and south where the seeds of future conflict in Europe lie’,36 the US-led NATO must now stabilize both halves of the Continent by extending security guarantees to all of Europe, including, possibly, to Ukraine. In other words, the United States must be prepared to go to war to defend the territorial integrity of states in regions riven by ethnic, religious and nationalist animosities, regions in which nearly all borders are in dispute. Khalilzad and other proponents of this policy acknowledge that spreading America’s security blanket over so inhospitable an area demands that the United States retain a substantial number of troops in Europe.37 Indeed, this view of threats to America leads inevitably to Cold War-era military budgets. Therefore, it is not surprising that NATO’s defense ministers declared in May 1993 that despite the dissolution of the very enemy that NATO was ostensibly formed to contain, cuts in military spending had to be immediately halted, for otherwise the alliance would be unable to fulfill what NATO’s Secretary-General termed its ‘expanded range of missions’.38

Since the late 1940s, the United States has, in essence, defined its vital interests in Europe as forestalling normal patterns of economic and security competition among the states of the region. This has required an unprece­dented extension of America’s overseas responsibilities and commitments. So, while current proposals to extend NATO eastward are characterized by their proponents and detractors alike as radical and bold initiatives, those initiatives are in fact merely an additional payment, made necessary by changing geopolitical circumstances, on what is called America’s original ‘transatlantic bargain’.1

Realists, the foreign policy community maintains, can argue all they want that the plethora of potential hot spots in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have no immediate strategic importance to the United States, but instability in these regions is intrinsically insidious to America’s interests. So America must take the lead in attempts to impose stability. The liberal foreign policy commentator Walter Russell Mead, who in the past has favored reducing America’s commitments abroad, says that he favors the United States having a cooperative, rather than a dominant, relationship with its allies. But Mead, reflecting the dilemma of American security policy, is unable to reconcile America’s need to lighten its international burdens with his recognition of the dangerous economic consequences of America’s abdi­cating its leadership role. The United States, Mead asserts, cannot even allow its ‘partners’ to assume primary responsibility for quelling the instability that, after all, most affects them. Maintaining that an ‘[economically] closed Europe is a gun pointed at America’s head’, Mead argues:

In a well-intentioned effort to stabilize Eastern Europe, Western Europe, led by Germany, could establish something like Napoleon’s projected Continental System. Eastern Europe and North Africa would supply the raw materials, certain agricultural products, and low-wage industrial labor. Western Europe would provide capital and host the high-value-added and high-tech industries…A Europe of this kind would inevitably put most of its capital into its own backyard, and it would close its markets to competitors from the rest of the world. It would produce its VCRs in Poland, not China; it would buy its wheat from Ukraine, rather than the Dakotas.40

Given that the actions Washington’s allies would take to forestall instability without American leadership would apparently lead to US economic disaster, it seems that the United States must forever remain – in former President Bush’s words – the world’s ‘sole superpower’.41

That line of reasoning – that if a hegemon must ensure the stability of a region on which it apparently depends, it must also secure those areas on which that region depends – nicely illustrates what historian Paul Kennedy calls ‘imperial overstretch’. If America must guarantee the stability of a potentially unstable Europe, then logic seemingly dictates that it must guard against instability that could infect Europe.42

This thinking, so reminiscent of the Cold War domino theory, suggests that the logic of economic interdependence leads to a proliferation of American ‘security’ commitments in an unstable new world order. An imperial strategy is necessarily expansive. With awkward syntax, the authors of NSC-68 asserted in 1950 that America’s freedom and welfare can only be secured through ‘the virtual abandonment by the United States of trying to distinguish national from global security’ and that, therefore, ‘it is not an adequate objec­tive merely to seek to check the Kremlin design, for the absence of order among nations is becoming less and less tolerable. This fact imposes on us, in our own interests, the responsibility of World leadership.’43 In 1993 the same logic compelled Lugar to argue that the United States must make itself responsible for the stability of all of Eurasia, since ‘there can be no lasting security at the center without security at the periphery.’ While such assess­ments sound excessive, they in fact reflect the imperial thinking upon which America’s security strategy – during and after the Cold War – rests.44

Sustaining the Unsustainable? The High Cost of Pax Americana

While this strategy fulfills one set of America’s perceived economic needs, it is not viable. For one thing, the United States is in a deep fiscal crisis that has been gathering for a long time and will damage the country profoundly, if not resolved. Nearly 50 years of world leadership have taken their toll. The links among heavy military spending, the weakening of the economy, and fiscal imbalance are too clear to ignore. America is overconsuming and under-investing. Too much consumption is still devoted to defense, depriving the productive sectors of the economy of urgently needed resources. To be sure, the military budget is now a smaller portion of federal spending than in the 1950s and 1960s. But in constant dollars defense spending is still at Cold War levels: 18 per cent of the federal budget – $263.8 billion in fiscal year 1995 – is a substantial share to spend on defense, and America continues to spend a far higher portion of its GDP on national security needs than do other major industrial countries. Compounding this fiscal crisis, America faces social and structural economic problems (high rates of infant mortality, illiteracy, malnutrition, and poverty) of a magnitude unknown to other economically advanced states.45

To maintain that America can continue at anything like its current level of defense spending without damaging its economy is incorrect and irresponsible. Yet to suggest that the United States can afford to reduce that spending significantly is, given the assumptions underlying the past half century of US strategy, simply wrong. Most foreign policy reformers assert that America’s enormous defense costs are the product of globalist over­extension. America’s strategic dilemma, they argue, can be resolved by simply balancing its commitments and resources. But criticizing US policy for overextension fails to take America’s security considerations seriously.

To argue that America’s defense spending is the result of its being over-committed begs the question: what commitments involving significant amounts of military spending can be jettisoned?

The driving force behind the US defense posture is the perceived need to ensure order by, in effect, exercising hegemony in regions composed of wealthy and technologically sophisticated states and to take care of such nuisances as Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and Kim Jong II so that potential great powers need not acquire the means to take care of those problems themselves. While retrenchment from these positions may seem economically attractive, it would, following the logic of US security strategy, carry enormous risks. ‘The United States, as a great power, has essentially taken on the task of sustaining the world order’, former defense secretary James Schlesinger concisely explained. ‘And any abandonment of major commitments is difficult to^reconcile with that task.’46

‘Shaping the strategic environment’, to use post-Cold War Pentagon jargon, requires today, as it has for the past 45 years, the maintenance and deployment of large and technologically advanced armed forces. American defense planners appreciate that to guard against the apparent disaster of political and economic ‘re-nationalization’, US defense commitments must be operationally meaningful. America must convince others not only that it is committed to the security of their regions, but that it is capable of acting on that commitment. Imposing a protectorate over the world economy means that the United States must spend more on national security than the rest of the world’s countries combined. Reassuring Western Europe, even without a military threat to the continent, is costing the United States $100 billion this year. Stabilizing East Asia is taking another $47 billion. In defense you get what you pay for, and America’s ‘adult supervision’ strategy means that the United States – if it is lucky and nothing disastrous happens – must pay for­ever.

The United States is caught in a dilemma that eventually ensnares all hegemons. Stabilizing the international system is a wasting proposition. While other states benefit from the stability the predominant power provides, they have little incentive to pay their ‘fair share’ of the costs of protection since the hegemon will defend the status quo in its own interests, regardless of what these lesser states contribute. Just as Britain, as the guarantor of world stability in the nineteenth century, spent more than twice as much on defense as France or Germany, even though the latter countries’ neigh­borhood was more perilous, so the United States today spends vastly more on defense than either Japan or Germany, though both countries are less secure than America.

Forced to place such importance on ‘security’, the hegemon directs capital, creativity and attention from the civilian sector, even as its economic rivals, freed from onerous spending for security, add resources to economically pro­ductive investments. This leads over time to the erosion of the preponderant power’s relative economic strength.47 As economic, and hence military, capa­bilities deteriorate, so does the very comparative advantage over other powers upon which hegemony is founded. And as its relative power declines, the international stability that the hegemon assured is, perforce, unsettled.

Thus, even without the burden of high defense spending the United States is simply less and less able to order and pacify the world. The Pax Americana depended upon America’s preponderant strength in the decades following World War II; probably never in history did one state so dominate the inter­national system. Yet history affords no more remarkable reversal of fortune in a relatively short time than the erosion of US hegemony in the late twentieth century. The worldwide economic system that America has fostered has, itself, largely determined the country’s relative decline, even as it has contributed to America’s prosperity. For those concerned with main­taining American predominance, the problem with economic interdependence is that it has worked all too well. Through trade, foreign investment and the spread of technology and managerial expertise, economic power has diffused from the United States to new centers of economic growth, thus rapidly closing the industrial and technological gap between the United States and its global partners.

These developments are not ‘bad’ for America economically. Almost everyone – including US consumers – benefits absolutely from the most efficient production of industrial goods in an open world economy. But with a shift in the international distribution of economic strength, American hegemony, of necessity, has been undermined. Thus, a global economy bites the hegemon that feeds it. America, then, is in a bind. The international open economic system that it believes is necessary for its prosperity weakens the very condition – American preeminence – that makes that system viable. And attempts to maintain its hegemony through security leadership only further weakens its position in the long run.

The United States has defined a very difficult role for itself. Its foreign policy, in fact, is dedicated to sustaining the unsustainable. To be sure, some optimists hold that America can escape this quandary by reaping the reward of hegemony – a global economy – without paying for it. According to that argument, America can ‘lead’ but in ‘partnership’ with other like-minded states.48 That is an illusion. Multilateral enterprises, from juries to UN police actions, require a leader. The indispensable foundation of cooperation and integration in the Western security and economic systems was – and remains – American hegemony. The rather strident assertions of every American president since Truman of the need for American preeminence in European security affairs stems less from an overbearing chauvinism than from a

realization that, as Acheson wrote in 1952, arguing for the necessity of the NATO alliance, ‘unity in Europe requires the continuing association and support of the United States; without it, [Western] Europe would split apart.’49 To hold that America can safely relinquish its hegemony because the political, economic and military cooperation among the great powers now ensures stability and peace is to put the cart before the horse. Stability in Western Europe and East Asia, guaranteed by American preponderance, was the precondition for cooperation, not vice versa. There is no reason to believe that, without this guarantor, stability will take on a life of its own.

The nature of international politics will not change to solve America’s security quandary. In fact, given the inevitable rise of other great powers and trends toward greater regional instability, the wolf the United States is now holding by the ears is likely to grow increasingly feisty, making America’s strategy of preponderance more problematic and expensive.50

Superpower Hegemony and the Capitalist System

Discussion of US ‘post-Cold War’ foreign policy has revolved around stale generalizations about morality and foreign policy, self-satisfied assertions of the need for America to ‘remain engaged abroad’ and the familiar tactical arguments about when, where, and how to intervene militarily in foreign quarrels. Such a dialogue fails to illuminate the important questions. It is time for Americans to stop debating what is and is not America’s ‘mission’ in the world and instead to assess the viability, costs, and benefits of attempting to maintain the international requirements of the US economy. Americans must acknowledge, as did Kennan 40 years ago, the dilemma inherent in defining their prosperity in terms of economic security abroad. Despairing over the implications of the new doctrine of ‘national security,’ Kennan noted: ‘To what end – security? For the continuation of our economic expansion? But our economic expansion cannot proceed much further without . . . creating new problems of national security much more rapidly than we can ever hope to solve them.’51

But while America’s national security policy may be dangerous and damaging, any significant change in that policy necessarily demands radical change in the US economy, since that strategy, as its makers acknowledge, grows out of the structural requirements of American capitalism. Such changes may – and in anything but the long run will – present as many diffi­culties as they eliminate.

The late historian Christopher Lasch made what is at first glance the aston­ishing assertion that any fundamental critique of American foreign policy must ‘simultaneously take the form of an indictment of capitalism itself’.52Surely a basic change in security policy can be affected without jettisoning  the basis of the US economy.

In fact, economist John Maynard Keynes and historian Charles Beard proposed programs in the 1930s that tried to reconcile capitalism with non-interventionist foreign policies by proposing autarkic capitalism – what Keynes called ‘national self-sufficiency’. They embraced that ‘solution’ even more for what they believed would be the welcome changes it would permit in foreign policy than for what they saw as its enormous domestic social benefits. As Keynes stated, ‘the progress of economic imperialism’ – that is, ‘a great concentration of national effort on the capture of foreign trade and the . . . protection of foreign [economic] interests’ was ‘a scarcely avoidable part’ of economic internationalism. Both Keynes and Beard hoped, therefore, that the domestic economic restructuring each proposed would allow for a more circumscribed and less expensive national security policy.53

But plans to alter fundamentally the domestic political economy in the name of national self-sufficiency are even more unthinkable now than they were 50 years ago, when Acheson dismissed them out of hand. Moreover, Keynes’s and Beard’s schemes originated when the advanced economies were far less interdependent than they are now. National self-sufficiency is not an option at this late date – at least not one that would be freely chosen. America cast its economic lot with liberal internationalism long ago, and it has succeeded in making the internationalists’ dream – a world economy – a reality. A global economy is addictive: In embracing a system permeated by international market pressures, a state’s economy is perforce restructured pro­foundly and it becomes bound to the world market by complicated patterns of trade, production, and capital flows. Having lost its economic autonomy, the United States would find a break from the global economy extraordinarily disruptive, requiring years of economic readjustment and, given the strength of international market forces, severe political measures to sustain.

Still, while the. price of reversing course, of forsaking economic inter­nationalism, is prohibitively high, the social costs of continuing to depend on the international economy may well be enormous. As Keynes and Beard understood, the more open a state is to the world market, the more vulnerable its population is to international market forces. And, in an increasingly open global economy, a state will be less and less able to modulate, let alone manage or control, the domestic effects of those forces. A state committed to economic internationalism will grow economically, but significant sectors of its population will suffer labor dislocation and a decline in income and will be plagued by economic insecurity, as the domestic economy constantly responds to the global economy’s changing demands and accelerating shifts in comparative advantage.

Adhering to America’s present political economy and its concomitant national security policy may nevertheless seem the best of bad alternatives. But not only is America’s current policy risky and expensive, it is also unsustainable. Therefore, while it may be inconceivable that the United States would choose a non-capitalist ‘solution’ to its foreign policy conun­drum, such a ‘solution’ may nevertheless be imposed upon it, as the demands of international capitalism collide with the realities of international politics. As capitalism becomes more complex and ‘advanced,’ it becomes more fragile. For instance, today the emergent high technology industries are the most powerful engines of world economic growth, but they require a level of specialization and a breadth of markets that is possible only in an integrated world economy.

Such a global economy is easily threatened in that disruptions – wars, for example, or reversion to competitive mercantilist policies – within or among any significant national participants send damaging shock waves throughout the entire system. As American hegemony – the political condition that holds such disruptions in check, weakens, ‘renationalized’ foreign and economic policies among, say, the states of Northeast Asia or Western Europe, would destroy the global economy. Capitalism, certainly as it has developed over the last 50 years, cannot survive without an open world economy. It is diffi­cult to see, therefore, how it can survive the decline of the Pax Americana, as the fragmented and discordant nature of international politics reasserts itself over an illusory unity forged by an ephemeral preponderance.

Seventy-seven years ago, Lenin argued that international capitalism would be economically successful but, by growing in a world of competitive states, it would plant the seeds of its own destruction.54 Although the empire he built is in ruins and his revolution discredited, Lenin may have the last laugh.

The US foreign policy community’s definition of America’s legitimate interests in Europe cannot be adequately understood if seen through the narrow prism of threats to America’s physical security. America’s thinking about its interests in Europe rests on a set of interrelated assumptions con­cerning international politics, international capitalism and national prosperity and democracy that have driven Washington policymakers since at least the turn of the century. These assumptions dictate that America pursue an imperial policy, albeit perhaps a benign one. The same assumptions have also informed every grand strategic assessment the United States government has undertaken since the end of World War II. It is no accident, then, that these assessments have concluded that, in essence, American national security policy is what it should be. To arrive at a fundamentally different conception of American interests in Europe – and hence a meaningful change in US security policy toward the Continent – either America’s assumptions concerning the requirements of international stability in Europe, or the assumptions concerning the requirements of American prosperity, must change radically.


1. Walter Lippmann, The Cold War: A Study in US Foreign Policy (NY: Harper, 1947), p.19.

2. In what he admitted was an oversimplication, Kennan argued in 1948 that there were ‘only five centers of industrial and military power in the world which are important to us from the standpoint of national security.’ These were the US, Britain, Germany and Central Europe, the Soviet Union, and Japan. Quoted in John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment (NY: OUP, 1982), p.30. See also George Kennan, Memoirs: 1925-1950 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967), p.359. Only one of these power centers was, at the time, in the hands of the Soviet Union; to Kennan, the primary security interest of the US, therefore, was to see to it that no other area fell under Soviet sway. Kennan did not believe, however, that containing the Soviet Union required America’s security leadership in Europe. Memorandum from Kennan to the Undersecretary of State, ‘Policy with Respect to American Aid to Western Europe’, in US Dept. of State, Foreign Relations of the United States 1947, Vol.3, (Washington, DC: US GPO, 1974), pp.224-225; memo, from Kennan, ‘North Atlantic Security Pact,’ ibid., p.285; memo, from Kennan to the Secretary of State, ‘Policy Questions Concerning a Possible German Settlement,’ US Dept. of State, Foreign Relations of the United States 1948, vol. 2, (Washington, DC: US GPO, 1974), pp.1287-97. See also, Kennan, Memoirs, pp.406-7. Kennan strongly believed that NATO would, in fact, be inimical to American interests. A formal military alliance, he argued, would militarize Europe around a superpower confrontation, thus preventing the political and diplomatic flexibility needed for later European settlement. Once European territory came to be seen in a confrontational military perspective, Kennan reasoned, the Soviets could never withdraw from positions they might otherwise view as undesirably overextended. Kennan, ‘Policy Questions Concerning a Possible German Settlement’ and ‘North Atlantic Security Pact’

3. Kennan, ‘North Atlantic Security Pact’. See also Anders Stephanson, Kennan and the Art of Foreign Policy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1989), pp. 145-7.

4.Ibid., p. 155.

  1. On this transformation of the American political economy and its influence on US foreign policy, see Thomas Ferguson, ‘From Normalcy to New Deal: Industrial Structure, Party Competition and American Public Policy in the Great Depression’, International Organization 38 (Winter 1984), pp.41-94; Lynn Eden, ‘The Diplomacy of Force: Interests, the State, and the Making of American Military Policy in 1948’, PhD diss., Univ. of Michigan, 1985; James R. Kurth, ‘Travels Between Europe and America: The Rise and Decline of the New York Foreign Policy Elite’, in The Capital of the American Century, (ed.) Martin Schefter (NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 1993); Franz Schurmann, The Logic of World Power: An Inquiry into the Origins, Currents and Contradictions of World Politics, (NY: Pantheon Books, 1974); and Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War. Volume 11: The Roaring of the Cataract, 1947-1950 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1990), Chs.1-5, 22.
  2. Quoted in Fred Block, ‘Economic Instability and Military Strength: Paradoxes of the 1950 Rearmament Decision’, Politics and Society 10 (1980), pp.35-58.
  3. Quoted in Thomas McCormick, America’s Half Century (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1986), p.81. See the similar comments by Secretary of State George Marshall in Nov. 1947, Lloyd C. Gardner, Architects of Illusion: Men and Ideas in American Foreign Policy, 1941-1949 (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1971), p.231.
  4. US Congress, North Atlantic Treaty: Hearings Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Executive L, 81st Cong., 1st sess., April-May 1949, pp.355-6.
  5. On the central importance of Japan in the US vision of a postwar international capitalist order, see William S. Borden, The Pacific Alliance: United States Foreign Economic Policy and Japanese Trade Recovery, 1947-1955 (Madison, WI: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1984); Ronald L. McGlothlen, Controlling the Waves: Dean Acheson and US ‘Foreign Policy in Asia (NY: Norton, 1993); Bruce Cumings, ‘The Origins and Development of the Northeast Asian Political Economy: Industrial Sectors, Product Cycles, and Political Consequences’, International Organization 38 (Winter 1984), pp.1—40; Bruce Cumings, ‘Power and Plenty in Northeast Asia: The Evolution of US Policy’, World Policy Journal 5 (Winter 1987-88), pp.79-106; and Cumings, Origins of the Korean War (note 5).
  6.  Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge UP, 1981), p. 130.Immanue! Wallerstein, The Modern World System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World Economy in the Sixteenth Century (NY: Academic Press, 1974);
  7. Immanuel Wallerstein, Historical Capitalism (London: Verso, 1983); and McCormick (note 7). 
  8. On America’s role as Western Europe’s and East Asia’s ‘adult supervisor,” see the com­ments of current and former officials cited below and Lawrence Kaplan, The United States and NATO: The Formative Years (Lexington, KY: Univ. of Kentucky Press, 1984); Josef Joffe, ‘Europe’s American Pacifier,’ Foreign Policy 14 (Spring 1984), pp. 64-82; John Mearsheimer, ‘Back to the Future: Instability in Europe after the Cold War,’ International Security 15 (Summer 1990), pp.5-56; Bruce Cumings, ‘Trilateralism and the New World Order,’ World Policy Journal 8 (Spring 1991), pp. 195-222.
  9. Lyndon B. Johnson Library, National Security File, Box 51, ‘The Trilateral Negotiations and NATO 1966-1967,’ Tabs 43-63, Memo 153b.
  10. That same year, Vandenberg’s colleague, the fervently anti-communist Robert Taft, strongly suspected that the supposed dangers to the nation from the USSR failed to explain America’s new foreign policy when he complained that he was ‘more than a bit tired of having the Soviet menace invoked as a reason for doing any- and every-thing that might or might not be desirable or necessary on its own merits.’ Quoted in William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, (NY: Dell Publishing Company, 1972) p.240. For the argument that the Soviet Union served as a ‘convenient adversary”: as an instrument to justify at home and abroad America’s world order strategy – see Christopher Layne and Benjamin C. Schwarz, ‘American Hegemony – Without an Enemy,’ Foreign Policy 92 (Fall 1993), pp.20-1.
  11. See Layne and Schwarz (note 14); and Block (note 6).
  12. Melvyn Leffler. A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration and the Cold War, (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1992). Although Leffler’s book has emerged as the central work of Cold War ‘post-revisionists,’ the preponderance of his evidence and conclusions reinforces the ‘revisionist’ critique of US Cold War policy. On this point, see the review article by Bruce Cumings, “Revising Post Revisionism’, or the Poverty of Theory in Diplomatic History,’ Diplomatic History 17 (Fall 1993), pp.539-69.
  13. Quoted in Leffler, p.284. On this point, generally, see ibid, pp.277-85,453-63, and 500-1.
  14. Kennan, Memoirs (note 2), p.260.
  15. Quoted in Walter LaFeber, America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1966 (NY: John Wiley, 1967), p.6Anthony Lake, ‘From Containment to Enlargement’, Speech to the Johns Hopkins Univ. School of Adv. Int. Studies, 21 Sept. 1993.
  16. For examples of such reasoning, see the comments of former secretary of defense Dick Cheney and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft. Dick Cheney, “The Military We Need in the Future: American Leadership and Security Requirements’, 4 Sept.1992, in Vital Speeches of the Day, Sept.-Oct. 1992, pp. 13-14; and Brent Scowcroft, ‘Who Can Harness History? Only the US,’ New York Times, 2 July 1993, p.A15.
  17. Richard Lugar, ‘NATO: Out of Area or Out of Business. A Call for US Leadership to Revise and Redefine the Alliance’, Remarks Delivered to the Open Forum of the US State Department, 2. Aug. 1993. Lugar’s foreign policy philosophy is nicely encapsulated in his assertion that America’s ‘domestic well-being’ is ‘heavily dependent on stability, economic reform and the growth of market economic and democratic institutions abroad’, p.6.
  18. Anthony Lake, “From Containment to Enlargement,” 21 September 1993
  19. New York Times, 8 March 1992, p.Al.
  20. Interview, former Defense Dept. official, Sept. 1993.
  21. Leffler (note 16), p. 17
  22. In a similar vein, see the comments in 1990 by Dep. Asst. Secretary of State for European Affairs James Dobbins, who applied the DPG’s reasoning to America’s post-Cold War role in Europe specifically. US Congress, CSCE, Implementation of the Helsinki Accords: Hearings, 101st Cong., 2d sess., 3 April 1990, pp.8, 18; and US Congress, The Future of NATO: Hearings Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 101st Cong. 2d sess., 9 Feb. 1990, p. 19. Dep. Asst. Secretary of Defense Alberto Coll’s elaboration of that argument in terms of US policy toward East Asia revealed the degree to which Washington sees its national security strategy as serving domestic economic imperatives. See Alberto Coll, ‘Power, Principles and a Cooperative World Order’, Washington Quarterly 16/1 (Winter 1993), p.8. Even America’s nuclear preponderance serves this country’s economic needs, according to a classified Pentagon report on the strategic importance of America’s nuclear superiority in the post-Cold War era, leaked in 1991. Rejecting the notion that the only purpose of nuclear arms is to deter nuclear attack, the report explained that America’s nuclear prepon­derance helps ‘sustain the nation’s prestige and deter Germany and Japan from developing nuclear arsenals of their own’. If Washington’s former enemies were to acquire nuclear weapons, the report argued, the concomitant -political and military ‘re-nationalization’ in Europe and East Asia would close the world economy, upon which America’s prosperity depends. Thus, the report concluded with the seemingly bizarre assertion that America ‘must keep nuclear weapons to protect … a healthy and growing US economy’. Quoted in R. Jeffrey Smith, ‘US Urged to Cut 50 per cent of A-Arms’, Washington Post, 6 Jan. 1992, p.Al.
  23. White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Prepared Remarks of President Clinton to The American Society of Newspaper Editors, ‘A Strategic Alliance with Russian Reform,’ 1 April 1993.
  24. Since American prosperity presumably hinges ‘on achieving and maintaining open markets for international trade and investment,’ as former assist, secretary of the treasury and senior adviser to the NSC C. Fred Bergsten argues, then ‘the containment of the risk of conflict among the economic superpowers’ must be ‘a primary purpose of US foreign policy.’ C. Fred Bergsten, ‘The Primacy of Economics,’ Foreign Policy 87 (Summer 1992), pp.8—11.
  25. Quoted in Morton Kondracke, ‘The Aspin Papers’, New Republic, 27 April 1992, p. 12. The ‘wolf by the ears’, of course, was Thomas Jefferson’s apt phrase describing the dilemma of slavery in America. See Benjamin Schwarz, ‘From a Founding Father, an Imperfect Vision of America’, Los Angeles Times, 4 July 1994, p.B7.
  26. ‘Yugoslavia and the Need to Live Up to Our Responsibilities’, Memo, by David Ochmanek, RAND Corp., 9 June 1992. Copy in author’s files.
  27. William E. Odom, ‘Yugoslavia: Quagmire or Strategic Challenge?’ Hudson Inst. Briefing Paper, Nov. 1992. In the same vein, Lugar explains that fundamental American interests are greatly endangered in Bosnia because the ‘devastating’ economic effects in Europe of the spread of Balkan instability would mean a ‘loss of jobs and loss of income in this country as we try to base a recovery upon our export potential.’ MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour, 6 May 1993. Electronic version; no pagination. Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) also argues that ‘crucial American interests are on the line in Bosnia.’ The US through NATO, he asserted, must bomb Serbian targets to pacify the former Yugoslavia because ‘Europe represents America’s largest trading partner. An unstable Europe would damage our own economy.’ Dennis DeConcini, ‘Bomb the Serbs. Now,’ New YorkTimes, 18 May 1993, p.A21.
  28. The American public, for instance, was puzzled by State Dept. Counselor Helmut Sonnenfeldt’s assertion that a Soviet-US condominium in Europe was actually in America’s interest. Sonnenfeldt’s thinking reflected that of the US foreign policy community, although it was clearly at variance with America’s official position. See US Congress, United States National Security Policy vis a vis Eastern Europe (The ‘Sonnenfeldt Doctrine’): Hearings Before the Subcommittee on International Security and Scientific Affairs of the House Committee on International Relations, 94th Cong., 2d sess., 12 April 1976.
  29. See Zalmay Khalilzad, ‘Extending the Western Alliance to East Central Europe: A New Strategy for NATO’, RAND Issue Paper, May 1993.
  30. Ibid.
  31. The Clinton administration’s Partnership for Peace initiative, designed to increase signifi­cantly the military ties between NATO and the states of Eastern Europe, stopped short of providing those states with ironclad security guarantees. Its purpose, however, is to ‘reas­sure’ those countries by enmeshing them in the NATO military system to such a degree that they become Alliance members in fact, if not in word. Moreover, formal NATO membership for Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, President Clinton declared in July 1994, ‘is not a question of if, but of when and how’. White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Remarks of the President to the Sejm, 7 July 1994, p.4.
  32. Lugar (note 21), p.6. Emphasis in original.
  33. Khalilzad (note 33), p.6.
  34. ‘Arms Cuts Worry NATO,’ New York Times, 27 May 1993, p.A6.
  35. See Benjamin C. Schwarz, ‘NATO at the Crossroads: Re-Examining America’s Role in Europe,’ RAND Issue Paper, Jan. 1994.
  36. Walter Russell Mead, ‘An American Grand Strategy: The Quest for Order in a Disordered World,’ World Policy Journal 10 (Spring 1993), p.21. Mead’s argument echoes Asst. Secretary of State Breckinridge Long’s May 1940 picture of the economic implications to the US of the subordination of Europe to German control. See The War Diary of Breckinridge Long, (ed.) Fred L. Israel (Lincoln, NB: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1966), p.98.
  37. The foreign policy establishment’s anxiety concerning the effects of regional instability on the European political situation and ultimately on international economic interdependence extends to unstable regions far from Europe. Concern about the potential psychological and political effects of turmoil in the Persian Gulf on Western Europe and Japan was a major factor underlying James Baker’s assertion that the US had to counter Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait to save American jobs. His comment reflects, if oversimplifies, official opinion on the importance of Persian Gulf security to the United States. Believing that tranquility and democracy in Germany and Japan are fragile, US officials fear that a sudden economic downturn in these states could cause a repeat of the 1930s: recession and unemployment would bring extreme nationalist forces to the fore, which in turn would intensify regional political tensions and lead to the ‘renationalization’ of foreign and economic policies. According to that reasoning, the open economic system would slam shut and the world crash into depression. Consequently, Germany and Japan must have unhampered access to Persian Gulf oil – and not be tempted to develop forces capable of power projection to secure those supplies. Author’s conversations and interviews with current and former State and Defense Dept. and NSC officials, 1991-93.
  38. Hence, the foreign policy establishment’s recent spate of reports on what is termed America’s ‘post-Cold War security agenda’ argues that NATO must not only extend security guarantees to Central and Eastern Europe and the European states of the former Soviet Union, but that it also must ensure stability in the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union (since instability there could spread to Turkey, which could, in turn, spur massive immigration to Western Europe, destabilizing that region) and in North Africa (again because of the supposed harm to US interests that would result from the potential political effects of a wave of immigration in Western Europe). See, e.g.. Rethinking American Security: Beyond Cold War to the New World Order, (eds.) Graham Allison and Gregory Treverton (NY: Norton, 1992); and Carnegie Endowment for Int. Peace. Changing Our Ways (Washington, DC: 1992).
  39. Quoted in William Appleman Williams, Empire as a Way of Life (NY: OUP, 1980) p.186; and Lloyd Gardner, ‘Response to John Lewis Gaddis,’ Diplomatic History 7 (Summer 1983), p. 192.
  40. Anyone familiar with the historiography of American foreign relations will find it difficult to read the arguments used by members of the foreign policy establishment to define America’s post-Cold War security strategy without being struck by their ironic consonance with the views of the ‘open door school’ – a quasi- Marxist interpretation of American diplomacy. Led by the late socialist historian William Appleman Williams in the 1950s and early 1960s.The open door school was the most important attempt to apply the innenpolitik approach to the study of American foreign policy. The open door school characterized the imperatives dictating America’s global strategy in terms remarkably similar to those used by the states­men who currently implement that strategy. To both, America’s global pacification policy is pursued not simply because it ‘pays’, but because US policymakers believe that the econo­my demands it. Most important, both the leftist scholars and current officials believe that America’s worldwide defense commitments are not the product of an indiscriminate and ide­ologically motivated globalism, but of careful thought.
  41. Jonathan Peterson, ‘Life in US Graded on the Curve’, Los Angeles Times, 11 April 1993, p.Al.
  42. Cited in Layne and Schwarz (note 14), p. 19
  43. These arguments are made in Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict From 1500 to 2000 (NY: Random House, 1987); David Calleo, The Imperious Economy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1982); and Gilpin (note 10).
  44. Richard Gardner, ‘The Return of Internationalism,” Washington Quarterly 13 (Summer 1990), pp.23-39; Allison and Treverton; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Robert Art, ‘A US Military Strategy for the 1990s: Reassurance Without Dominance,’ Survival 34 (Winter 1992-93), pp.3-23.
  45. Quoted in Gardner (note 48), p.227.
  46. For the argument that the ascendancy of new great powers is inevitable, see Christopher Layne’s seminal article, ‘The Unipolar Illusion: Why New Great Powers Will Arise’, International Security 1.7 (Spring 1993), pp.5—51.
  47. Quoted in Anders Stephanson, ‘Ideology and Neorealist Mirrors’, Diplomatic History 17 (Spring 1993), p.289, note 10.
  48. Christopher Lasch, ‘William Appleman Williams on American History’, Marxist Perspectives 7 (Fall 1978), p. 126.
  49. See John Maynard Keynes, ‘National Self-Sufficiency’, Yale Review, 26 (Spring 1933), pp.755-69; Charles Beard, The Open Door at Home: A Trial Philosophy of the National Interest (NY: MacMillan, 1935); and Beard, America in Midpassage (NY: Macmillan, 1939),p.453.
  50. V. I. Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (NY: Int. Publishers), 1939 [orig. pub. 1917].

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