The More Fluid New World Order

THE water was flat in Boston Harbor. Not much of the junk George Bush campaigned against in 1988 was visible on its surface. The city skyline against the warm evening sun was gorgeous. Aboard the Bluenose II, a gaff-rigged ocean racer owned by the government of Nova Scotia, we were talking about the new world order of things.The Nova Scotians are enthusiastic about reopening trade downcoast with New England, after generations of artificially trying to drive their economy westward across the Canadian landmass. Boston, anyway, had remained the principal coastal port for shipping seafood to inland Canadian cities like Toronto. And now with the US-Canada free trade agreement, the natural north-south East Coast trade and industrial community has been fully joined again. Portland, Me., is being promoted by the Nova Scotians as a s tepping stone to Boston, as a city in which to get to know the American market. A lot of family ties underlie the US-Canada border community, ties long repressed by the overbearing national boundaries. A similar emergence of a natural larger trade and ethnic community is arising on the southwest diagonal of the North American continent, with the proposed Mexico-US free trade pact, as Mexico abandons its own longtime brand of go-it-alone economics. And across the vast Russian landmass, the breakup of the Soviet cluster of countries is allowing the reassertion of natural trading patterns. The attempt to force trade contrary to natural patterns had proved disastrously inefficient. The new world order of things is not entirely orderly. An orderly world would be predictable. This is not the case today. One senior businessman aboard the Bluenose, long established in selling communications equipment to governments around the world, observed he had once been good at anticipating market conditions and world developments. But no more. Sales have increased somewhat the past year, despite the recession. His business he thinks will shrink somewhat but continue to be profitable. He has a succession plan in place. Perhaps a merger with a European company seeking to diversify would be the best course. But he confesses that for the first time in a long and successful career, his powers of prediction fail him. The risks of change are apparent in the tensions in Yugoslavia. And China, a country that George Bush has decided to give a wide berth, might yet succumb to post-communist forces. In this new world, the United States emerges as the one superpower with the flexibility and vision to lead. If George Bush has an international agenda, his next logical target of opportunity is the Middle East. It would make sense to create a more effectively working market community there too. It may be a mistake here, however, to think that there is some kind of universal new world elixir, with equal potency everywhere. Nonetheless, the Bush administration is right to push for peace between Israel and her neighbors. The "strategic alliance" between the US and Israel was never the strongest argument for Washington's economic and military assistance to that country. The commitment has been essentially a moral one, and that should not change. The Israelis refer to themselves as an exceptional democracy in that part of the world, an assertion eroded by the status of the Palestinians. I doubt that George Bush has an international agenda, any more than he has a national agenda. His decisionmaking appears more instinctive than programmatic. He uses his long-time friend James Baker III to maintain personal contacts, to tend relationships. Interestingly, Bush is a president who seems to be comfortable with saying "no." He refers as much to how he feels about making a decision as to why he made it. He does not feel burdened by having to explain himself. He uses power, not blueprint. What Bush decides matters. He decided to use the offices of the United Nations to forge a consensus against Saddam Hussein. He has had to use his own offices to work on an Arab-Israel pact. In any event, we have a United Nations sometimes used and sometimes not used in the evolving world politics. This is another example of a more fluid world order - itself an oxymoron.

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