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12/17/91

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Regional instability part of post-Cold War order, George says

STANFORD -- The United States sits in the driver's seat for constructing a "new world order" but will experience serious difficulty gaining the American public's support for an ambitious, expensive foreign policy.

That is the message that Stanford University political scientist Alexander George delivered in a paper presented at the Nobel Institute's Jubilee Symposium, "Beyond the Cold War: Future Dimensions in International Relations," held in Oslo on Dec. 6-8 to mark the 90th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Fifteen scholars from around the world and 17 Nobel Peace Prize laureates were invited by the Norwegian Nobel Committee to take stock of where the world stands and where it is headed.

George, who is a distinguished fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., was one of three scholars invited to discuss the role of regional conflicts in international affairs. He joined Nobel laureates Oscar Arias Sanchez, former president of Costa Rica, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

Although the superpowers have been cooperating to liquidate their past stakes in regional conflicts, regional instability is likely as a result of the end of the Cold War, George said. The patron-client relationships that developed between the superpowers and states in most regions of the world have either been loosened or broken. The former clients are forced to "rethink their relationships with other nations in the region," George said. "Those who felt constrained by superpower pressure have new freedom that may lead them to more daring policy moves in future regional disputes."

"As for Israel, the collapse of the Soviet position in the Middle East weakens Israel's strategic importance to U.S. policy in the region. Although America's moral commitment to the security of Israel remains undiminished, it will not prevent Washington from increasing pressure now on Israel to show more flexibility on some regional issues."

The United States gained "assets and opportunities" worldwide from its role in the Gulf crisis, as well as from the collapse of its superpower rival. Washington has an unusual opportunity to shape the contours of a new international system, George said.

Some have suggested this new international system could rely on "collective security" provided through the United Nations. George said that is unlikely because the United States and other major powers still will have national interests that won't always coincide with the larger community's.

Also, "since other states have only a very limited power- projection capability, it would be difficult for the U.N. to mount effective action of any substantial size without the participation of U.S. military forces to provide the necessary logistical support," he said.

The United States may be in the strongest position to prescribe the new world order, but the U.S. president is severely constrained by pressing domestic priorities and sharp disagreements at home as to how ambitious an international role America should play.

In addition, "it would be a mistake to assume that the 'Vietnam syndrome' is no longer present to serve as a major constraint on U.S. military interventions," George said. "Success in the Gulf War has not dimmed responsible Washington policymakers' understanding of the ever-present domestic constraints on interventions abroad and other lessons of the Vietnam experience. . . .

"Given the diversity of foreign policy perspectives among influential Americans, it will not be easy for the administration to develop a broad, stable consensus on behalf of a comprehensive and well-defined role in the post-Cold War, post-Gulf War era. This does not exclude useful progress towards a better international system, but the administration's efforts are likely to take the form of ad hoc measures and building blocks that are not part of a larger, more ambitious conceptual design."

The building blocks include policies to:

  • Encourage free markets and trade.
  • Encourage human rights.
  • Support peaceful resolution of disputes.
  • Prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Curb international terrorism.
  • Promote democracy abroad, based on a general belief that totalitarian regimes pose a greater threat to peace than democratic states.

George also said that the end of the Cold War has

contributed indirectly to rising incidence of internal state ethnic and religious conflicts, part of the new regional "disorder."

However, "responses to Kurdish and Shiite difficulties raise the possibility that, in the future, members of the international community may assert a new norm demanding the right to intervene for humanitarian purposes in the internal affairs of a regime engaged in repression of minorities," he said.

Yet the European Community has not been able to take decisive action in the Yugoslav case, which "calls attention to the need to give more attention to strengthening the mediation and peacekeeping capability of regional organizations."

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