Making The World Safe for Interdependence
"The great question of this new century," former
president Bill Clinton writes, "is whether the age of interdependence
is going to be good or bad for humanity." Indeed, America's chief
challenge in the times ahead is to employ its unprecedented preponderance
to forge the kind of globalization that brings prosperity and opportunity,
not resentment, despair and violence. Its strategic aim, in short, ought
to be making the world safe for interdependence.
To do so America must first of all guarantee its own security by neutralizing
hostile threats from terrorists who would deploy weapons of mass destruction
against it. Second, by seeking to protect and promote what Harvard professor
Joe Nye calls "global public goods" that benefit all of humanity,
America can help stabilize a fragile international order while at the
same time legitimizing its vision of an open global society.
NEUTRALIZING THREATS | More incisive intelligence, homeland security
and military campaigns to unravel terrorist networks will be necessary,
but not enough. Fanatics-Al Qaeda, Aum Shinrikyo, Unabomber or otherwise-will
always be with us. But to prevent the deadly acts of disruption of which
they are currently capable from becoming Hiroshima-scale horrors, America
must go to the source by taking on hostile states. States alone have the
capacity to manufacture chemical, biological and nuclear weapons that
might fall into the hands of terrorists.
Though bracketing North Korea, Iraq and Iran into a common "axis
of evil" was clearly an unhelpful rhetorical excess on the part of
President Bush, the fact remains that all three states are seeking such
weapons and have declared their open hostility to the United States. It
would thus be nothing less than irresponsible for any American leader
not to preempt this clear danger so it does not become present. On this
score, there can be no quarrel with Vice-President Dick Cheney's chilling
clarity of mind. "We face an enemy," he warns, "that is
determined to kill Americans by any means, on any scale and on our soil."
This justifiable fervor, however, should not blind us to the potentially
greater threat of loose nukes and leakage from Russia, a now friendly,
but incompetent state. As UCLA Chancellor and former arms negotiator Al
Carnesale notes, aside from its 10,000 deployed nuclear weapons, Russia
has enough enriched uranium and plutonium, much of it stored insecurely,
to make another 70,000 weapons. And it has 6,000 scientists, largely unemployed
or underemployed, capable of making nuclear bombs. This capacity dwarfs
anything even contemplated by the "axis of evil" states.
The higher priority by far, this reality suggests, ought to be a plug
for Russia, not a missile shield over America. The likely delivery vehicle
of a weapon made from leaked Russian material, Carnesale points out not
even half-jokingly, is not an intercontinental missile, but a bail of
marijuana smuggled by drug lords across the Mexican border.
The Bush Administration must also be careful that its new nuclear modernization
strategy announced in the recent Nuclear Posture Review does not end up
fostering a beggar-thy-neighbor proliferation instead of deterring an
attack, thus raising the possibility that terrorists will get a hold of
weapons. If strategic stability breaks down in the nuclear field, it is
in the cracks of that stability that terrorists will find their weapons.
GLOBAL PUBLIC GOODS | The fact that America may have to act uniltaterally
to protect itself from terrorism makes it all the more critical that it
not go it alone in other realms of global concern, from AIDS eradication
to climate change to poverty.
With a military larger than the next eight combined, 45 percent of world
Internet connections, 75 percent of all Nobel laureates in the sciences
and the top 15 world-class universities-not to speak of its globe-spanning
mass cultural influence and financial might-America has enormous means
to shape the future of the world as a whole.
Joe Nye even argues that the duration of Pax Americana can surpass that
of the centuries-long Pax Romana if the US takes a page out of Great Britian's
imperial stewardship in the 19th century. By maintaining a balance of
power among competing states, promoting an open international economic
system and an open commons through freedom of the seas and suppression
of piracy, Britain created an order that benefited others, not just itself,
that is, it provided "global public goods."
Today, cyberspace, outer space and the global climate would become part
of the commons along with the seas. Terrorists would replace pirates.
And to Britain's provision of "global goods," Nye proposes the
US should today add maintaining international institutions, treaties and
the rule of law, development of the poorest nations and mediation of disputes
such as in the Middle East.
By not shrinking from military confrontation when civilized life is threatened,
but by also using its hyper-hegemony to make sure interdependence works
for all, the US could create an open and secure international order that
would be as historically unprecedented as its superpower preponderance.
Nathan Gardels, editor, NPQ