Dealing with a new 'cockpit of crises'

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Partly because of the strength of our alliances, it is the third world -- more than our alliance areas -- that is likely to be the cockpit of crises in the coming decade.

We must first be clear on the nature of our challenge there.

Certainly, as we have seen in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the third world, Soviet actions pose threats we must meet.

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But we will meet them ineffectually if we react only by imitating Soviet tactics -- emphasizing the military at the expense of the political, and disregarding the indigenous yearning of third-world nations for true independence and economic justice.

We must recognize the strong sense of national pride -- and fierce independence -- of developing nations. Having fought to throw off the burden of outside domination, they will strenuously reject the efforts of other nations to impose their will. We should respect and reinforce that spirit of independence. Our interests are not served by their being like us, but by their being free to join with us in meeting the goals we share.

Support for the political independence and economic growth of the poorer nations is important primarily because these nations matter in their own right. Their conflicts could also become our wars. Our trade with them is increasing. Their instabilities can affect our interests in many ways.

Our own national interests are served when we support the security of third-world nations with our assistance. When we help them develop their economies, we not only meet pressing human needs, we invest in important trading relationships. Our interests are served by supporting peaceful change within those nations and by encouraging the peaceful resolution of their conflicts.

For example, our interests are clearly served by our efforts to help resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict and bring peace to this troubled and vitally important region.

In 1990, as in 1980, the problems of the third world will remain a central challenge to our wisdom. No realistic plan yet exists to defuse the potential dangers or resolve all the anguish of hundreds of millions of people living in degrading poverty.

But over the decade the United States can make a difference with regard to the severity of those problems -- in helping create progress and hope, in not disregarding the violence and suffering of despair.

To make that difference, we must first accept our differences with third-world nations, yet work with them where our interests coincide. Peace came to Zimbabwe because of the ability of Britain and the United States to work with the African nations of the region. Had the opponents of improved relations with Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, and others had their way, the situation today might well have been far different. The logical corollary is clear; it makes no sense not to recognize the Government of Angola, a government with which we have cooperated in the search for peace in Southern Africa despite fundamental differences on other issues.

It is imperative that we also put our resources behind our policies.

American aid programs comprise less than 1-1/2 percent of our federal budget. They -- not rhetoric, not good will -- are what make the most difference in supporting our third-world diplomacy and in addressing now the causes of later crises. Yet they are under constant assault in the Congress and elsewhere.

The result is -- I can think of no other word -- disgraceful.

Our security assistance has declined by 25 percent over the past 20 years.

The United States ranks 13th among the 17 major industrial powers in percentage of GNP devoted to development assistance. We will likely soon drop another notch.

We are far in arrears in meeting the pledges we have made to the multilateral development banks -- and likely to slip still farther.

It is not enough to strengthen our defenses. We must also increase the resources needed to support our diplomacy, a diplomacy designed to reduce the chances our military forces may be needed.

Other nations do not want the rhetoric of American leadership; they want its substance. And we must provide it. The UN Global Negotiations on relations between developed and developing countries -- opening this fall in New York -- offers a prime upportunity for us to demonstrate that leadership.

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