American foreign policy has failed to adapt to a ``historic period of revolutionary change'' now sweeping the globe, says US Sen. Gary Hart. As the United States approaches the 21st century, it must look beyond the outdated world view that focuses only on the Soviet-US struggle for power, says the Colorado senator.
``The strictly bipolar world is gone. In its place is a world where secondary powers can defy superpowers, as we discovered in Vietnam and the Soviet Union is discovering in Afghanistan.''
Senator Hart, donning his professor's cap, this week is delivering three lectures on US foreign policy at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service in Washington (June 11, 12, and 13).
As the front-running Democrat for the 1988 presidential nomination, he has recently been expanding on his views on major issues, particularly in the defense and foreign policy areas.
Hart calls his foreign policy ``enlightened engagement.'' He complains that US officials who judge almost every foreign policy issue in East-West terms are out of date.
He says three things have fundamentally changed the relationships of nations since World War II:
1. The rise of independent powers. China, Iran, Brazil, and the Pacific rim nations are all examples of nations which operate outside the ordinary East-West context. Power, which once revolved around the USSR and the US, has become diffused. In some nations, such as those now being swept by religious fundamentalism, the forces at work are hostile to both the Soviets and the US.
2. The rise of nationalism. Over 80 nations became independent between 1945 and 1980. No longer do colonial powers hold sway over nations and continents. Warfare in those areas now involves entire peoples, not just occupying armies.
3. The rise of a global economy. World trade has soared in the past 40 years. This has created an economic system in which growing numbers of American workers are dependent on sales in other countries.
At the same time, a global revolution in communications today ``pushes far-flung tensions and conflicts onto the global stage in minutes.''
American foreign policy has been stuck with old concepts that fail to respond to these changes, Hart says.
Yet he argues that US foreign policy can exploit all of these far-flung changes to America's advantage.
Policymakers must recognize that the US can no longer impose its will as it could after World War II, the senator says. Rather than standing in the way of this historic wave of change, the US should ride the wave, he urges.
Hart suggests four cornerstones to a foreign policy adapted to the realities of the late 20th century.
First, look beyond the Soviet-US struggle. The Soviets are still dangerous, and the US must block its advances. But the Soviet threat is only military. Its economy is a ``lumbering dinosaur.'' While guarding against Soviet expansion, the US should turn major attention to areas like Latin America, Africa, and Asia not directly involved in the East-West struggle.
Second, international economics should be elevated to ``a primary instrument of foreign policy.'' The US should encourage peaceful economic development around the world. Huge debts in the third world, and growing trade frictions with the first world (Japan, Canada, and Western Europe) should have top priority.
Third, major allies should be treated as equals. The US should seek common ground with Japan and Europe to address major problems such as Mideast tensions and the arms race. Without greater efforts, alliances like NATO, which Hart calls one of the ``great achievements of human history,'' could dissolve.
Finally, the US should encourage more open societies throughout the developing world. After World War II, many new nations deteriorated into dictatorships. Yet in recent years, there has been a movement back toward centrist forces which have encouraged economic and political freedom in Africa and Latin America.
Pro-Soviet socialist models have failed time after time. This overall trend is encouraging, and should be supported vigorously.
Hart's overall themes were more professorial than political. But occasionally he touched on politically sensitive points, such as Nicaragua. He said the pro-Soviet, Sandinista government stands as a prime example of a problem that US officials treat in strictly East-West terms. The senator concedes that the ruling Sandinistas want to establish a repressive state and may ``harbor designs of regional hegemony that are contrary to our interests.'' But Hart concludes:
``Our current designs seem to allow the Nicaragua junta to choose only whether it wishes to be ousted peacefully or by force. They are unlikely to choose either course. Since [the pro-US `contras'] also appear to have little chance of [military] success [against the Sandinistas], we find ourselves at a dead end, applying just enough pressure to guarantee a close relationship between Managua and Moscow.''