|Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Overview | Archive | ZNet|
As the foregoing analysis suggests, it is plausible to suppose that U.S. policy will be "more of the same" after the Cold War has ended. One reason is that the crucial event hasn't really taken place. Viewed realistically, the Cold War has (at most) half-ended. Its apparent termination is an ideological construction more than a historical fact, based on an interpretation that masks some of its essential functions. For the United States, much of the basic framework of the Cold War remains intact, apart from the modalities for controlling the domestic population. That problem -- a central one facing any state or other system of power -- still remains, and will have to be addressed in new and more imaginative ways as traditional Cold War doctrine loses its efficacy.92
There is also a deeper reason why U.S. policy toward the Third World is likely to pursue much the same course as before. Within a narrow range, policies express institutional needs. U.S. policies have been consistent over a long period because the dominant institutions are stable, subject to very little internal challenge, and -- in the past -- relatively immune to external pressures because of the unique wealth and power of the United States. Politics and ideology are largely bounded by the consensus of the business community. On critical issues, there is tactical debate within the mainstream, but questions of principle rarely arise. The changes in the global system are, indeed, momentous, but have only a limited impact upon the fundamental bases for U.S. policies towards the Third World, though they do modify the conditions under which these policies must be executed. In particular, new pretexts must now be devised, as was illustrated in Panama and the Gulf. But this is unlikely to be more of a problem than it was for Woodrow Wilson and his predecessors before the Bolshevik revolution.
Whatever problems may be posed by the need to modify the propaganda framework, and other tactical adjustments, there is a compensating gain. The removal of the limited Soviet deterrent frees the United States in the exercise of violence. Recognition of these welcome effects has been explicit in public discourse from the early stages of the Soviet withdrawal from the international arena, and was endorsed by Elliott Abrams, expressing his pleasure over the invasion of Panama. Abrams observed that "Bush probably is going to be increasingly willing to use force." The use of force is more feasible than before, he explained, now that "developments in Moscow have lessened the prospect for a small operation to escalate into a superpower conflict."93 Similarly, the test of Gorbachev's "New Thinking" is regularly taken to be his willingness to withdraw support from those whom the United States aims to destroy; only if he allows us to proceed without interference in whatever we choose to do will we know that he is serious about ending the Cold War.
The Russian moves have helped to dispel some conventional mystification. The official story has always been that we contain the Russians, deterring them and thwarting their malicious designs. But the reality, as has long been evident, is that the fear of potential superpower conflict has served to contain and deter the United States and its far more ambitious global designs. The frightening "Soviet intervention" in the Third World has, commonly, consisted of moves by the Kremlin to protect and sustain targets of U.S. attack. Now that the Soviets are limiting, perhaps terminating these efforts, the U.S. is more free to pursue its designs by force and violence, and the rhetorical clouds begin to lift. Perhaps it will some day be possible to use the terminology of the containment doctrine in accord with its meaning and the historical facts.
Two new factors in U.S.-Third World relations, then, are the need for tactical and doctrinal adjustments, and the greater freedom to resort to force with impunity, with the decline of the Soviet deterrent. A third factor is that forceful intervention and military dictatorships are not as necessary as before. One reason is the success of violence in devastating popular organizations. Another is the economic catastrophe in much of the Third World (see chapter 7). In these circumstances, it becomes possible to tolerate civilian governments, sometimes even social democrats, now that hopes for a better life have been destroyed.
Yet another factor is that the U.S. is weaker than before relative to its real rivals, Europe and Japan. This long-term tendency was enhanced by the economic mismanagement of the Reaganites, who threw a party for the rich at the expense of the poor and future generations and severely damaged the economy in the process. In this respect, the capacity for intervention will decline. A related development is the increasing penetration of Latin America by our rivals, who do not recognize the area as "our little region over here." Japan, in particular, is expanding investment and aid in the region, primarily in the richer countries, Mexico and Brazil. An editorial in the Japan Economic Journal observes that "If the U.S. is being downgraded from a leader of the Western alliance to an `ordinary power,' Japan needs to recognize that fact and act accordingly." Japanese investment in Latin America and the Caribbean has risen to over half that of the United States, close to 20% of Japan's total worldwide. Japanese banks also hold about 10-15% of Latin American debt, compared with 1/3 by U.S. banks (debt holdings are now one means to finance new investment, by trading debt for productive assets).94
The U.S. views such developments with some ambivalence. On the one hand, it does not want U.S. interests to be challenged; on the other, it would like others to pay the costs of U.S. depredations in the region and to help maintain the viability of the sectors useful for the "satisfied nations," also underwriting at least enough development to serve as the carrot alongside the stick that blocks unwelcome popular moves towards independence, democracy, and social justice.
Still another factor is the project of Latin Americanizing Eastern Europe. "Most American companies view the Soviet Union and the newly opening nations in Eastern Europe as potential markets for their products or as sources of low-cost manufacturing labor," a front-page New York Times story observes, adding that they are even looking forward to a version of the standard "brain drain," by which the cost of educating professionals is borne by the Third World while the benefits accrue to the industrial societies. In the present case, there is "plentiful and underused brainpower" in the "East Bloc," which offers "intellectual reserves" that are not only extremely cheap but also of high quality because "their education system is fine," a senior scientist at a major corporation observes.95
The goals are clear enough when we turn to practice and policy, and even its ideological cover. Consider, for example, the "Z document," which aroused much excitement in early 1990, having displaced ruminations on "the end of history" and the Hegelian Spirit, which were the previous year's fad. This document, which appears in the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences under the pseudonym "Z," with excerpts pre-published in the New York Times, advises the West on the proper response to "communism's terminal crisis."96
|Go to the next segment.|
92 See chapter 4 for further discussion.
93 Stephen Kurkjian and Adam Pertman, Boston Globe, Jan. 5, 1990; latter quote is the reporters' paraphrase. See chapter 3 for earlier expression of the same perception, and chapter 5 for the Panama context.
94 Doug Henwood, Left Business Observer, May 15, 1989.
95 John Holusha, "Business Taps the East Bloc's Intellectual Reserves," NYT, Feb. 20, 1990.
96 Daedalus, Winter 1990; NYT, Jan. 4, 1990.