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Good riddance, twentieth century. May the future never cause us to look back to you with nostalgia. But I speak as a 53-year-old, and people the age of my students, who have known nothing but victory in the Cold War, Gulf War, and stock market, may at some point refer to the 1990s as the good old days. For even if we Westerners are ultimately right in our enlightened belief in linear progress, the Chinese and others who believe that history is cyclical are always right in the middle run. Human beings just can't stand prosperity. It makes them complacent, and makes them forget. Greed swallows up healthy fear, and empires crumble. Will the United States itself survive as we know it until the year 2100? And if not, will that be because it cracked up, or because it was subsumed in a still larger polity? Arnold Toynbee came to believe that history moves as a carriage on wheels that go round and round in cyclical fashion, yet propel the carriage forward in a straight line. But where does the line lead, in the fourt h dimension that is time? Archimedes boasted, "Give me a place to stand and I will move the world." If only we had a place to stand-outside--to observe the world. But perhaps it is better not to know where we are going. In any event, I still say good riddance, twentieth century.
In These Pages
No one knows better that empires crumble than the rulers of China. On October 1, 1999, they celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their People's Republic, but it was strangely hollow, as if the Communist leaders and people shared Arthur Waldron's suspicion that the PRC may not have many birthday bashes left. Other Western pundits, not to mention policymakers, are more concerned to know whether Communist China will die of ice, as the Soviet Union did, or spew dragon fire, for instance in a war over Taiwan. That is why we have assembled an unusually strong panel of authors to examine one or another key variable that will determine the fate of the regimes based in Beijing and Taipei. The four issues on which Taiwan's future will hinge are its status under international law (as interpreted by the ROC, PRC, and the world community), its ability to deter or defend against an attack from the mainland, the political and possibly military cover given Taiwan by the United States, and (not least) the fate of economic and political reform on the mainland.
University of Pennsylvania legal scholar Jacques deLisle addresses the first issue in a probing analysis of the "Chinese puzzle." Tom Christensen tackles the second with a risk/reward analysis of the hotly debated proposal that Taiwan be allowed to participate in the U.S.-Japanese program to develop theater missile defenses in the western Pacific. The eminent Taiwanese analyst Jaw-ling Chang confronts the third by asking what lessons can be drawn from the history of the Taiwan Relations Act, now twenty years on the books. And economist William Overholt looks inside the turbulent PRC for signs that Beijing will escape the economic squeeze it is presently in and what the political fallout may be if it fails.
Americans, meanwhile, are at pains to learn the lessons of a decade of interventionism that seems at once to demonstrate their overwhelming technological and military superiority, and their limited ability to "solve" problems of ethnic violence and regional conflicts. Hence our continuing debate in these pages on American post- Cold War strategy. Dennis Gormley and Thomas Mahnken assess the much-touted Revolution in Military Affairs and the performance of smart conventional weapons to reach a conclusion that will be surprising to some: hang on to the nukes. Stephen Blank offers strong evidence for why that is necessary in his disturbing account of how widespread are Russian sales of high-tech weapons abroad. Mark Clark reviews recent books on the use of military force to coerce compliance from rogue regimes. Richard Harknett and his co-authors critique the enthusiasm over the "Information Revolution" sweeping the Pentagon. Bruce Kuklick reviews the latest public confession of an earlier ardent technocrat, Ro bert S. McNamara, and the lessons he spies in the Vietnam War. And finally, Thomas Henriksen presents an equally provocative brief on behalf of covert action as the way to escape our present Hobson's Choice between doing nothing against brutal regimes and bombing them back to the Stone Age. Are the CIA's best days still to come?
Night Thoughts of an I.R. Professor
While everyone obsesses about China and the U.S. presidential race, the rivalry that may really define the twenty-first century is largely ignored. One who senses that our angst is misplaced is Andrew Roberts, who concluded his review of Pat Buchanan's new book by asserting that American hegemony is indeed ending, but not because of the "imperial hubris" Buchanan denounces. "It will not be on foreign battlefields that America loses its global lead, but in foreign boardrooms. No empire in history has ever stoked up its own …