End of Cold War Tests Bush, Allies On Foreign Policy
HOUSTON — A CAMPAIGN document circulating at the Republican National Convention applauds President Bush for "making the right calls in a series of tough decisions that have helped transform the world."
There may be days when he wishes he hadn't.
As Mr. Bush struggles to adjust to the new era he helped usher in, and to respond to new issues, such as conflict in Yugoslavia, that it has helped to create, the president shows signs of becoming a victim of his own success.
Without the clear ground rules of the cold-war era, he will find the kind of dramatic foreign policy successes he has enjoyed in the past far harder to come by in a second term.
"The world is going to be a far more dangerous place, not less dangerous, but the danger will be the pocket wars, the brush fires with regional implications," says University of Pittsburgh political scientist Bert Rockman.
"We can choose to sit them out, but we'll be called on often to intervene," he says.
The end of the cold war has thrown the international system into a state of flux, with significant implications as to how foreign policy is made and how it plays at home.
The situation is epitomized by the rash of ethnic and national conflicts that have erupted amid the ruins of the Soviet empire.
"What we're seeing is the Europe between 1848 and 1914," says Dr. Rockman.
The years 1848 through 1914 saw an explosion of nationalism in Europe that led to the creation of several new states, including Germany and Italy, and fueled the arms race that led to World War I.
Bush recently acknowledged the changed diplomatic circumstances, noting that the post-cold-war era is "far more uncertain than the era we left behind." Different threats
One difference between the two eras is the threats that exist to American security. During the cold war, American presidents worried mainly about Soviet military power.
Today the US faces a proliferation of dangers, not all of them new, ranging from nuclear weapons in the hands of unstable third-world countries to worsening environmental problems.
Another difference is the nature of power. Defined largely in military terms during the cold war, it now is measured more by the kind of economic clout wielded by Japan.
A third difference is how the international system is structured. Simple and bipolar in the days of superpowers, it now is reduced, in the words of Harvard University political scientist Stanley Hoffman, to a "complex set of processes with no inherent essence."
One result of these changes, as Bush is already discovering, is that there are few familiar reference points.
With no grand blueprints like "containment" to go by, defining what is and isn't in the nation's interest has grown more difficult, and such decisions now have to be made on a case-by-case basis.
A more concrete result is that policymakers will be dealing with fewer clear-cut situations, like the Gulf crisis, in which an easily identifiable enemy commits aggression across international frontiers that can be countered with conventional military force.
More typical of the new era will be intrastate conflicts between ethnic and national groups, epitomized currently by the crisis in what was Yugoslavia.
For Bush and every other Western leader, such situations offer no easy choices, only cruel dilemmas.
"It's inevitable that any leader of a major Western power looks bad right now, because it's a horrible situation and an extremely complicated one," says Professor Rockman. "It's a hard call to make for any incumbent, because, morally, everybody wants to do something. The question is, practically: What can they do?
None of these things are the least bit clear," Rockman cautions. Domestic impact
The end of the cold war is also having domestic consequences that bode poorly for Bush.
Minus the glue of anticommunism, an old debate has resumed within GOP ranks between internationalists, led by Bush, and isolationists, now led by conservative columnist and recent presidential aspirant Patrick Buchanan.
The end of the cold war promises to have the reverse effect on the Democratic Party, healing divisions between the liberal McGovern wing of the party and the hawkish Jackson wing named after the late Washington senator, Henry Jackson.
A letter mailed recently by several prominent "neoconservatives," most of whom bolted the party in 1972, bids other neoconservatives to return to the fold.
"The national leadership of the Democratic Party has too often lacked clear understanding and firm purpose in world affairs," say the seven signers, led by former deputy national security adviser Samuel Huntington.
"But," they declare, "we believe Bill Clinton and Al Gore see the promise and the dangers now before us...."
Diplomatic analysts point to another domestic complication posed by the end of the cold war: International challenges may be just as great, they say.
But without the kind of highly visible threat represented by the Soviet Union, it will be harder to counteract the latent isolationism in public opinion - and harder still to win mandates to intervene in trouble spots like Yugoslavia.
"You can't override the normal sentiments of restraint that hold Americans inward unless you have overarching strategic considerations that you can sell to the public," says Mark Falcoff of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "You have to make a much stronger case for intervention."
"The latitude for foreign policy activism has narrowed," Mr. Falcoff adds.