The current issue of the New York Review of Books, along with the day’s news, includes a great deal more evidence of the political order that has ruled the world for the last sixty years, or, in some cases, more. The process is still only beginning, and things in nearly every continent are likely to get worse, but anyone who dares to look it in the face can, perhaps, begin to grope towards a new approach to American foreign policy, in particular, that might help get through the next twenty years with relatively little dislocation, rather than to descend, once again, into global chaos.
One might begin with
In the midst of growing instability the government of the
The attempt to create paradise on earth by spreading democracy and capitalism around the globe, it seems to me, is failing spectacularly, just as it did in the 1920s. It surely is not too late for the
First, it seems to me, should come a reaffirmation that the international system should allow nations with different values to live together in peace—including both socialists (who are far from extinct) and Islamic fundamentalists. The fiction that we can solve the world’s problems by spreading democracy at the point of precision-guided munitions is too expensive to maintain any longer. The Muslim world needs to move towards modernity, but our attempts to force it to do so are having the opposite effect. Such a course would also allow us to reinvigorate the United Nations, whose supervision our current government has already evaded and would like permanently to escape on the grounds that so many of its members do not share our values. We should realize that differences in values are what require us to have a United Nations in the first place. Within that framework, terrorism, which ultimately threatens every constituted authority, can more successfully be fought.
Second, rather than trying to solve the non-proliferation problem by wiping out hostile regimes (and thereby accelerating nuclear programs by every government the United States opposes), we should attempt to reverse proliferation on the only possible basis: a commitment in principle to do away with nuclear weapons altogether, combined with specific proposals for deep cuts in existing arsenals. Hardly anyone one realizes this, but we have actually been committed to this course for almost 40 years under the Non-proliferation treaty which we are now accusing the Iranians of violating. The possible abolition of nuclear weapons presents great technical problems, but they would be easier to solve, surely, than the problems created by actual nuclear wars. While we may never reach that goal, it is the only basis on which international cooperation to control these weapons, in my opinion, can possibly be achieved.
Thirdly, we should once again affirm that the most desperate need of all the peoples of the world is peace to enable them to work, eat, and pursue worthwhile lives. That would mean, among other things, an end to the practice of punishing the citizens of countries whose governments we oppose by economic embargoes. The no-war, no-peace policies that the
Fourthly—and here the news from California offers some real hope—we should reverse our position on global warming, and make a real effort to develop new renewable energy sources as an alternative to a new neo-imperialistic struggle among the major industrial powers to control the world’s petroleum reserves.
And lastly, the United States might invite other leading democratic nations to convene a panel of experts to design a cheap, reliable and totally secure system of voting, one that uses modern technology when appropriate but not in any way that will undermine confidence in the voting process. Democracy will not ultimately survive too many elections like the United States's in 2000 and 2004 and Mexico's this year.
Such proposals will not stop conflict in many areas of the world during the next twenty years. They could, however, moderate it, especially by establishing the