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Five years after the Berlin Wall fell, the United States is still searching for its new strategic compass. A clear understanding of global security trends, U.S. interests, and U.S. strategic priorities is an essential prerequisite to sound national security policies.(1) This article offers a framework for crafting U.S. policies for the final few years of the twentieth century. It is based on a comprehensive survey of the emerging strategic landscape by the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), the interdisciplinary research arm of the National Defense University, and represents an effort to distill the findings of this broad survey into a concise statement of the new strategic priorities facing the United States.(2)
The Emerging World System
The essential features of the emerging world system include the following.
The Global Order Remains in Transition
There have been five world orders since the United States became an independent state. These have been defined by the character of contemporary relations among the great powers: the Napoleonic period; the Congress of Vienna system; Germany's drive to become a leading power (concurrent with the division of Africa and Asia among colonial powers); the League of Nations era; and the Cold War (concurrent with the end of colonization). We are now entering a sixth period, one in which European concerns may not dominate the world as they have for the past several centuries.
Transitions between periods have typically lasted several years. The transition now under way is likely to take longer than most because there was no definitive, cataclysmic end to the old order: the Soviet Union disintegrated on its own, rather than being defeated in war and occupied. The emerging order may not fully reveal itself until after the end of the decade. The fluid character of that order is a major reason why recent administrations in Washington have had such difficulties articulating a U.S. policy vision. The final shape of the new order will depend crucially upon such factors as:
* the degree of U.S. involvement in world affairs;
* the progress of European integration, both within the European Union and through the expansion of Western institutions to include all of Europe;
* developments inside Russia;
* the extent to which Japan assumes new international obligations;
* the ability of China to hold together and remain on a peaceful path to prosperity; and
* the control of nuclear proliferation.
The World Is Dividing into Market Democracies, Transitional States, and Troubled States
At the height of the Cold War, there was a generally industrialized and free First World, a Communist Second World, and an underdeveloped, largely non-aligned Third World. By the 1980s, these divisions were beginning to erode as some Communist lands began to develop freer institutions and some underdeveloped nations evolved into industrial democracies.
The emerging order also involves a division of the world into three parts. Those parts, however, differ from the three cold war worlds in important ways. Ideology is no longer the basis of the division; the non-aligned states are no longer an important category; and some countries of the Third World have become prosperous market democracies, such as South Korea and Chile.
The emerging lines of division appear to be the following:
* The market democracies comprise a growing community of free and prosperous - or at least rapidly developing-nations that is expanding from North America, Japan, and much of Europe to include large parts of Latin America, the newly industrialized nations of East Asia, and Central Europe (Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary).
* The transitional states include ex-authoritarian and ex-Communist lands that are working toward democracy and free markets, as well as countries such as India that seem to be making progress toward freedom and prosperity from a low baseline. Many states in this category run the risk of backsliding into political chaos and economic decline. It is not clear if this will be a purely transitional category, or if some of these states will establish enduring systems marked by authoritarian politics, heavily politicized economies, and relatively low levels of prosperity. It is clear that the future of the transitional states will be one of the most important determinants of the new system.
* The troubled states, primarily located in Africa, the Greater Middle East, and parts of Asia, are falling behind the rest of the globe economically, politically, and ecologically. Many of these states are plagued with rampant ethnic and religious extremism. All have inadequate quality of governance; some are "failed states" that are slipping into anarchy. A few - particularly Cuba and North Korea - are decaying die-hard Communist dictatorships. Others are, or threaten to become, rogue states.
Some very important countries combine characteristics of two or even three groups. For instance, China can be considered a transitional country; economically, it is evolving in the direction of the market democracies. On the other hand, its politics still resemble those of a troubled state, and many analysts fear that political disarray after the death of Deng Xiaoping could push much of China back into the troubled camp. Likewise, India, which appears to be in transition economically, incorporates elements of both the market democracies (parliamentary democracy) and the troubled states (explosive ethnic and religious hatreds).
Despite the indefinite character of the dividing lines, the general trend is for a growing gap between market democracies and troubled states. The gap shows up in differences in economic growth, political stability, and adherence to international human rights standards.
Less Important for Security Purposes Are Divisions Along Lines of Economic Blocs, Spheres of Influence, or Civilizations
Three other lines of division are emphasized by national security thinkers. In what we see as decreasing order of impact, they are:
Economic and Political Blocs. Regional blocs based on trade and political cooperation seem to be emerging in Europe, the American hemisphere, East Asia, and to some degree in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In the early 1990s, there was a burst of enthusiasm for economic integration and political cooperation in both Europe and the Americas, resulting in the Treaty of Maastricht and two American trade organizations (the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] and Mercosur), as well as tentative steps in the Pacific (with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation [APEC] summits). Russia is strengthening its economic and political ties with the sometimes reluctant states of the CIS.
The implications for the world order of such blocs, were they to be consolidated, depend upon the extent to which they are open to trade and political cooperation with states outside their region. Open blocs can contribute to reducing global trade barriers and improving world political cooperation - for example, facilitating international negotiations by reducing the number of players.
The danger of tensions, possibly escalating into conflict, is greatest in the case of blocs that jealously guard themselves from outside influence and that see world trade and politics as zero-sum games. With the possible exception of the CIS, we do not see such closed blocs emerging in the next few years. Congressional passage of the Uruguay Round agreement supports this conclusion. Therefore, at this time we do not judge the development of economic and political blocs to be as important for understanding national security interests as bilateral relationships and the split among market democracies, transitional states, and troubled states.
Spheres of Influence Around a Great Power. Closely related to the emergence of economic and political blocs has been the concentration of military attention by the great powers in their own neighborhoods and areas of historic and strategic interest. Peacekeeping operations provide a good illustration of this trend. For example, debates on Rwanda, Haiti, and Georgia in the United Nations (UN) Security Council in mid-1994 made it clear that the major powers are beginning to accept that each should take responsibility for its areas of historic and strategic interest, with France, the United States, and Russia taking the lead respectively. Similarly, Japan played a major role in Cambodian peacekeeping. …