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American Values and Beliefs and the New World Order

by James M. McCormick

The dramatic events of the last three years have transformed the face of international political life and produced a revolution in global affairs. Cold war value differences between East and West would now be a thing of the past; superpower cooperation would replace it; and the United States would assume a new role in world affairs. "A new world order," in the oft-repeated words of President George Bush, was surely upon us. What that new order would be, however, "just ain't exactly clear," in the words of the Buffalo Springfield song of almost three decades ago. To many, the only certainty is that it would not be like the past -- it would not be the Cold War all over. What would it be? Consider these possibilities:

  1. Would it be the U.S. acting as a world police force, imposing a new world?
  2. Would it be global multilateral cooperation through the concerted efforts of individual states or the unified actions of the UN?
  3. Would this order result in a new round of economic nationalism among the United States and its competitors or between the developed and developing states?
  4. Would this new world be the blossoming of democracy led by the U.S.?
  5. Would it be the emergence of resurgent nationalism, ethnic division, and nuclear proliferation?

At least one analyst has hinted that the future may be so uninviting that we would "soon miss the Cold War."(1)

Amid all the speculation -- and both the praise and condemnation of the new world order -- an important element has been missing. What do Americans think about all these global changes and about a new role for the U.S.? What do the American people think that we should be doing in the world? Has the Bush administration's vision of a new world order -- or any of the several proposed alternatives -- gained much support from the American public? Are the values and beliefs implicit in these designs likely to gain wide acceptance and be the source of a new foreign policy consensus? I would like to address this missing component of the "new world order" discussion. Before that discussion, however, I want to say a few words about the magnitude of global change in recent years and how that change has precipitated the call for a new approach. I also want to discuss the meaning of the "new world order," several of the alternatives to which I have already alluded, and the values and beliefs implicit in each one. Then, I want to turn to evaluate how these alternative proposals mesh with current American values and beliefs about foreign affairs. Finally, I want to describe the reaction of other nations to a new American role in global politics.

The Magnitude of Global Change

Several recent political, economic, and military events in global affairs have shaped the context for a new global order. These events illustrate just how dramatically the old order has been transformed from a bipolar world to the more multipolar world today. For simplicity, I will focus upon three sets of events that have produced this new global context: (1) the breakup of the post-World War II political and military order; (2) the transformation of the global economy; and (3) the actions surrounding the Persian Gulf War of 1991.

The first major change has been the breakup of the old bipolar political and military order. The German question -- the central issue of the Cold War -- has essentially been resolved. From November, 1989 through December, 1990, a period of 13 months, the Berlin Wall was opened and eventually torn down; democratic elections were held in East Germany; the two Germanies were united into the Federal Republic of Germany; and all-German elections were held.(2) Equally -- and in some instances in more rapid fashion -- the nations of Eastern Europe were transformed during virtually the same time. Political reform and democratic elections were held in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. In all cases, the forces for democracy turned out to be successful. In other countries of Eastern Europe -- Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and Yugoslavia -- the transformations to democratic orders were much less complete, but nonetheless evident. These changes have hardly been as peaceful as the earlier changes. Note, in particular, the bloodshed in Romania and the former Yugoslavia.

The Soviet Union, of course, has not escaped from these pressures for democratization and political reform. With the initiation of perestroika and glasnost, President Mikhail Gorbachev set into motion forces for dramatic changes in that country as well. Indeed, concern about whether the Soviet Union will continue as a union remains.(3)

The view from Eastern Europe is equally stunning -- and unsettling. The Warsaw Pact has gone out of business with both its political and military components disbanded initially in March, 1991, and more fully in early July of 1991. The Soviet Union remains fraught with problems, both political and economic. Adequate security arrangements there have yet to be developed. The main point is a simple one with regard to the change in the old political and military order. The rapid changes, particularly in Central European affairs, have not been accompanied by institutional changes to manage these upheavals, nor have these changes been accompanied by consistent national policies to address them. In this sense, the call for a new approach is surely appropriate.

As striking as these political and military changes have been, a second major change has been the worldwide economic upheaval over the last three decades. Many of these changes have been less publicized than the political and military ones, but they are no less dramatic. Three trends are evident: (1) the emergence of multipolar centers of economic power; (2) the regionalization of the global economy; and (3) the liberalization of worldwide trade.

The biggest change has been the movement away from an American-led global economy to one in which Europe and Japan are at least co-equal partners in the economic order, and there is an enlarged role for other nations as well. It is now commonplace to note the decline in the sheer economic dominance of the U.S. Without question, America's global economic dominance has been challenged, and America's ability to work its will in global economic affairs is no longer guaranteed. Our global debt, nearing $500 billion, and our budget deficit at home, now at perhaps $200-$300 billion yearly, are quick reminders of this economic difficulty. While a debate rages about how much the U.S. has declined, little debate exists over the growth in economic power of Europe or Japan.

Indeed, the growth of the European Community (now the Economic Union) over the last three decades has been nothing short of remarkable. The EC has changed from a community of six nations to 12 nations, and from a "free trade area" to a "common market" in a relatively short period of time, and now there is the proposed "single market" by the end of 1992. The Community has little that can match its economic capabilities worldwide. More than that, additional changes are in the works. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) -- now composed of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein -- and the EC have now agreed to topple trade barriers between them.(4) It will be the largest market in terms of goods, capital, services, and people -- 19 nations and 380 million people strong -- and the question of possible future "associate membership" for Eastern European nations enhances the prospects for greater economic clout of this organization. Turkey, Austria, Cyprus, Sweden, Malta, and Finland currently have submitted application to the EC, and others may be in the works.

Japan, of course, has gained economic preeminence, as evidenced by its role as the leading supplier of foreign assistance today and the leading buyer of U.S. Treasury bonds, by its significant trade surplus around the world -- $25 billion in a recent period -- and by the sustained robustness of its economy with an 11 percent growth rate. Whether it is in East Asia, in Latin America, or within the United States, Japan is a major economic player.

The emergence of new global trading arrangements is yet another change, and is a further indication of the regionalization of the global economy. The U.S.-Canadian pact is now in its third year. The U.S.-Mexico pact, or a larger North American pact, is in the works, and more recently, discussions have begun on expanding the U.S. cooperation with the countries in the "Southern Common Market" -- Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.(5)

Coupled with these global economic changes and movement toward greater regional integration among the more prosperous nations, the situation among the global poor is fragmenting more then ever. The growth in "economic refugees" worldwide continues, be they from Mexico or the Sudan. The economic turmoil in Africa and South Asia remains largely unattended as the rich nations focus so much upon their own woes. The difficulty of gaining support for foreign economic assistance remains low.

Despite, and perhaps because of, all these changes, the institutional fragility of the economic order remains. Further efforts at trade liberalization are under way. Neither the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), the yearly economic summits among the developed democracies, bilateral trade arrangements, nor global or regional efforts to help developing states have really been very successful. From the view of the United States, current international economic arrangements have not always served our interests. Hence, it is hardly surprising that a reexamination is perceived as necessary.

A third major change -- and what can be described as the proximate event to Bush's call for a new order -- was precipitated by the outbreak and outcome of the Persian Gulf War. That war, in fact, brought these two other changes to a head. Without recounting recent history, the war had at least three presumed effects: (1) it galvanized the global political community; (2) it brought home the point that the emerging economic power centers -- Europe and Japan -- at least should foot the bill for the actions that were protecting their economies, if not play a larger political or military role; and (3) it shattered the post-Vietnam reticence to use American military power abroad.

The immediate effect of the Iraq-Kuwait crisis was the call for a "new world order" by President Bush in a speech to a joint session of Congress in September 1990. He later expanded upon his views in his 1991 State of the Union address, just after the Persian Gulf War had begun. He described the new world order that he sought in this way:

". . . a new era -- freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace, an era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony."(6)

Such a world would be different from the one that had existed over the past 45 years. Later, Bush summarized the new world order as a condition "where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind: peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law."(7)

Such a new world order would undoubtedly have specific policy prescriptions for the United States and the nations of the world, but they have never been fully spelled out. President Bush did hint at some of them, however, in this way: "America and the world must defend common vital interests . . . America and the world must support the rule of law . . . America and the world must stand up to aggression."(8) According to President Bush, the U.S. had a special role to play in creating this new world:

"For two centuries, America has served the world as an inspiring example of freedom and democracy. For generations, America has led the struggle to preserve and extend the blessings of liberty . . . American leadership is indispensable . . . we have a unique responsibility to do the hard work of freedom."(9)

President Bush's recent UN speech put this role in a bit more perspective. While denying that the U.S. was interested in establishing a Pax Americana worldwide, he did state forthrightly that the U.S.:

". . . will remain engaged. We will not retreat and pull back into isolationism. We will offer friendship and leadership."(10)

In some ways, this description of the new world order was a reaffirmation of the traditional values that had shaped the birth of the nation and its foreign policy actions. Indeed, in conception, the new world order was largely the resurrection of the values that the nation's founders embraced -- namely freedom and democracy -- and ones which had made this nation so distinct from the European ones from which the earliest Americans had revolted. Put differently, President Bush seemed to be fostering Lockean liberalism on a global scale.

In both tone and emphasis, the new world order of the Bush administration also had the ring of the Wilsonian idealism with its initial turn toward the League of Nations and toward collective security at the end of World War I. With the destruction of the old order, the balance of power system that had produced World War I, Woodrow Wilson had proposed the substitution of a new and changed international order, one founded on the rule of law and united against aggressive change through the collective actions of the League of Nations. On the face of it, the Bush administration adopted a similar design. With the demise of the old order, the Cold War system from 1947 to 1990, George Bush also envisioned a new world order; one grounded in the cooperation of all states and one based upon greater involvement of the collective security actions of the United Nations. President Bush, however, did not appear to portray the same fervor in calling for this new system as did President Wilson, and he continued to embrace the principles of political realism. Nonetheless, President Bush did see his approach as an important departure from America's recent past.

New World Orders: Some Alternatives

The changed global conditions and the subsequent call for a new order provide considerable impetus for thinking about the future strategy of the United States in global affairs. Indeed, several different kinds of proposals have been advanced about what that role should be. One set of proposals has called for a more inward-looking policy, a "neo-isolationism," if you will, which, I might add, is hardly divorced from America's past. Another set has called for a more nationalist and unilateralist approach by the U.S., whether it be through seeking to change the global political order in a more democratic direction or through seeking to change basic global economic arrangements. Still a third set of proposals has called for a more sustained internationalism -- the creation of a truly global and multilateral system in which the U.S. plays perhaps a less dominant part than in the past, but still continues to provide leadership. Let me discuss each of these sets of alternatives.

One alternative might be labeled "a return to unilateralism," or even "isolationism," as the guiding theme for American foreign policy. In the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War several calls arose for neo-isolationism as the most promising path for American foreign policy. Indeed, public opinion surveys at the time conveyed just such sentiments, too, with both the foreign policy leadership and the public at large concerned about America's over-extension in world affairs. Now at the end of the Cold War, similar calls have been heard. One variant was offered by a former government official, Earl C. Ravenel, who is now affiliated with the CATO Institute, a libertarian think-tank in Washington, D.C.

Ravenel called for a reduced role for the United States in world affairs, not so much as a result of a conscious policy decision on the part of the U.S., but more as the result of changed international circumstances over which we have little control. In particular, he noted, "both of the superpowers will increasingly have to take the international system as they find it."(11) In that case, mutual disengagement will necessarily result. Because the emerging international system will be more fragmented and regionalized in the future, the United States should move toward greater "strategic independence" according to Ravenel, by seeking "to quarantine regional violence and compartmentalize regional instability." The best approach to achieve this outcome, he says, will not be "by active intervention," but by encouraging "regional balances of power, whether bipolar or multipolar."(12)

In this new international system, the national security strategy of the United States would involve protecting only limited key values -- "the lives and domestic property of citizens, the integrity of national territory, and the autonomy of political processes."(13) Promoting and protecting values beyond these will lose their relevance for the nation, according to Ravenel, and efforts to reshape the international order, or to expand human rights globally, would no longer be core U.S. values. As a consequence, defense plans could be scaled back, American commitments to extend deterrence would be substantially weakened, and U.S. actions would assume a more limited role in shaping global politics. On balance, the U.S. will be able to do nothing less, in Ravenal's view, because the nation must "adjust to a world beyond order and control."(14)

A second variant of this neo-isolationism has recently been offered by Alan Tonelson. Interestingly, it parallels Ravenal's view, although it seemingly comes from a different political perspective. Tonelson calls for an abandonment of the internationalist policy of the last half century by the United States and the adoption of a new "interest-based" foreign policy. The internationalism of the past, he says, "has led directly to the primacy of foreign policy in American life and to the consequent neglect of domestic problems . . ."(15) By necessity, this "interest-based" approach would subordinate foreign policy to domestic interest, and the key goals for this new foreign policy approach would be national survival and independence. Most importantly, this design would surely downplay the priorities of the past. On balance, it would lead to a foreign policy more consonant with the interests of the American public, not its foreign policy elites over the past half century. It would also call for greater attention to creating a better quality of life at home.

Yet a third analyst also calls for greater unilateralism. In his view, however, unilateralism would lead to more, not less, American intervention in the emerging international order. As analyst Charles Krauthammer has written:

The most striking feature of the post-Cold War is its unipolarity . . . There is today no lack of second-rank powers . . . but all are in rapid decline . . . Which leaves us with the true geopolitical structure of the post-Cold War world . . . a single pole of world power that consists of the United States at the apex of the industrial West.(16)

While Germany and Japan surely are economic powers, they are not military powers and are hence in the second rank of nations in this view. By contrast, the United States, even with its economic problems, is the only nation with the military capacity to act. In his view, the compelling issues are still military, not economic. Indeed, if the U.S. does not act, multipolarity will result, and multipolarity will bring international chaos. Krauthammer's policy prescription is that the United States has:

". . . no alternative to confronting, deterring and, if necessary, disarming states that brandish and use weapons of mass destruction. And there is no one to do that but the United States, backed by as many allies as will join the endeavor."(17)

A second kind of alternative was first suggested more than a decade ago by George Quester and involves a return to America's traditional emphasis upon its domestic values in dealing with the world. That is, the United States should place greater reliance upon the principles of political democracy as the basis of our policy toward other nations.

According to Quester's formulation, the consensus that really was lost by the Vietnam War was a sense of confidence in our own values and our sense of worth to the rest of the world. As a result, Americans applied a double standard in approaching the international system. While we were willing to apply the standards of political democracy in conducting foreign relations with Western Europe and Canada, for instance, we were unwilling to apply those same standards in dealing with states of the developing world. Regimes which engage in political repression, and which are not committed to democratic principles, have become increasingly tolerable to the United States.

This movement away from the "democratic ideal" has had serious consequences for the United States in the recent past, according to Quester. To many Americans, the United States no longer serves as a model to the world. Instead, other states, without democratic values, have assumed that position. Further, as these nations have moved away from traditional American beliefs, the "altruistic impulse" within the U.S. -- its social and economic concern for other nations -- has declined. In fact, an isolationist sentiment has gained some credibility as we have just discussed. To arrest such trends, a return to democratic values as a basis of policy is attractive.(18)

This democratic impulse has gained renewed currency with the demise of communism in Central Europe, and, hence, the demise of anti-communism as the raison d'etre of American foreign policy. Indeed, a recent book, Exporting Democracy, makes a compelling case for this approach as the basis for American foreign policy. Three important assumptions form the basis for placing democracy at the center: (1) democracy is peculiarly tied to the American experience owing to the way the nation was formed; (2) democracy is an exportable commodity because it has taken root in several countries around the world; and (3) democracy is attractive to peoples around the world.(19) One prominent member of the House, moreover, characterized such a policy in the following way:

"You might actually organize American foreign policy behind a rigorous and internally consistent policy of supporting democracy -- a vision of supporting the good guys in the world, a Wilsonian foreign policy."(20)

Yet another variant of this approach to building a new consensus also suggests a reduced, albeit more focused, role for the United States in world affairs, but it focuses more upon the economic conditions in the world. The central goal in this approach would be for the U.S. to pursue more singularly its global economic interests. In particular, economic nationalism would be adopted to replace the anti-communism as the unifying force in American foreign policy and would be used as the means to restore America's competitiveness and global standing. In effect, the U.S. would adopt more protectionist trade policy and take more selective and vigorous economic actions worldwide in the promotion of its own interests. The political and military emphasis in U.S. foreign policy would take a backseat to its economic needs.

Another, and stronger variant, of this economic imperative -- and the reason why it is not entirely divorced from the neo-isolationism mentioned earlier -- is that the U.S. would jettison any vision of transforming global order and focus upon its economic troubles at home. In this view, if the U.S. does not focus more attention at home, it will have few foreign policy options, and its influence worldwide will continue to decline. The real foreign policy issue for the future, ironically, is a domestic, economic one. Richard Barnet recently summarized the policy implication of failing to arrest our economic problems:

"The growing vulnerability of the U.S. economy, its dependence on foreign capital, its failure to invest in roads, bridges, schools, and civilian technology are now taking such a dramatic toll on civil society that unless the investment priorities are radically changed, the American influence will inevitably decline."(21)

Several of the recent and prospective presidential candidates have begun to espouse this approach as well. Certainly, it formed part of the campaign of Representative Richard Gephardt (D-Missouri) in 1988. Senator Paul Tsongas (D-Massachusetts), and Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) have expressed similar sentiments recently.

A last set of proposals for building a new consensus would focus upon building a truly global order -- a sharp and dramatic break from the essentially bipolar arrangement of the past to a multipolar world in the future. This order would presumably involve sustained global involvement by the U.S. Under this approach, the U.S. would work for more concerted cooperation among the major political and economic powers as the principal mechanisms for ensuring world stability and peace. This approach comes closest to the rhetoric, if not the policy, of the Bush administration regarding a "new world order."

Stanley Hoffmann outlined something akin to this idea over a decade ago, and his insights are worth considering in contemplating the details of this new world order.(22) In his view, this kind of foreign policy would emphasize world order values as the dominant theme for American foreign policy and it would be based upon three strategic guidelines. First, a greater emphasis would be placed upon building the world order that presently exists -- whether through international institutions, through formal ties, or through informal beliefs and standards. More generally, this premise would call for some erosion of ideology as the basis of foreign policy and the strengthening of global rules and norms. Second, the United States would have to adopt a much more pluralistic approach to the world by showing greater willingness to adapt to changed global conditions and by demonstrating a strong commitment to negotiating differences between states. Third, national security policy would also need to be turned "into an aspect of world order policy." In other words, the emphasis would not be on maximizing the national interest, but on seeking global accommodation.

A more recent proponent of this approach has been political scientist, Joseph Nye. He has argued that the United States needs to remain actively involved, but that it will need to seek global assistance of other states because of the "unprecedented problems of interdependence." The problems of the ecology, drugs, AIDS, and international terrorism demand global solutions. Such problems transcend national boundaries and, according to Nye:

". . . no great power, not even the United States, can deal with these issues alone. As the largest country, America will have to take a lead in organizing international cooperation."(23)

In light of the recent changes in global politics, this approach may be more easily attainable than we may have thought in the past. Given the nature of global problems -- especially such pressing economic and ecological problems -- the push for sustained cooperation may well be possible. Greater prospect for building global community exists, then, than we may have previously thought.

Current Attitudes and the New World Order

Do any of these alternative approaches ring true with the American people? Is there anything close to a foreign policy consensus forming around any of them? Several recent national surveys of public opinion in the post-Persian Gulf and post-Cold War periods provide some sense of what the American people continue to value in foreign affairs. These surveys, moreover, provide some evidence of what is possible, and provide some answer to whether a new consensus may be built.

First of all, the public recognizes the changed international system and senses a need for a new approach. The public remains supportive of an active role for the United States in global affairs, although domestic and international economic issues dominate. Two-thirds of the public, for example, remains committed to an active role for the U.S. in global affairs -- a figure which has not changed much over the last four decades, but the public is more concerned about domestic economic and social problems than foreign policy ones. Drug abuse and the budget deficit are the two leading issues on the public's mind, not foreign affairs.(24)

To the extent that foreign policy concerns are identified as providing important goals for the U.S., those associated with foreign economic activities receive the highest priority from the public. Indeed, the public sees foreign economic competition as a critical goal. This current public mood is best summarized by public opinion analyst, John Rielly, in this way:

"The mood of the American public and its leaders has shifted. The Cold War and the U.S.-Soviet competition are passing from center stage, and a new age of global economic competition has emerged. Americans enter this new era with increased confidence about their military preeminence, but with a growing sense of economic vulnerability."

As the quotation implies, the public's view of Russia has changed markedly. The public now sees that nation "as one of the three leading countries where America has a vital interest." It also sees the Russians as more friendly and more favorable than in the past. Indeed, the Russians are now tied for fourth (with Italy) out of 22 countries evaluated in the "feeling thermometer" ranking and was surpassed only by Canada, Great Britain, and Germany. Mikhail Gorbachev also is favorably received by the public, ranking only behind Pope John Paul II and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in late 1990. Even as the public expresses such views, a substantial majority still have some doubts about whether the Cold War is fully over. Nonetheless, the overall summary of these results stand in contrast to a 1986 survey by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in which U.S.-Soviet relations ranked at the top as a foreign policy problem and the Soviet Union was ranked near the bottom in the favorability index. (26)

Some traditional defense attitudes have changed as well. The public is less concerned about arms control issues and nuclear war. It prefers a smaller American troop commitment to NATO, although a majority of the public still support that organization. The preferred position of the public is to cut American troops in Europe by one-third. More generally, almost a third of the public now favor cuts in the defense budget. The public remains cautious in its support for the use of U.S. military force abroad. In a survey after the Persian Gulf War, only 46 percent of the public favored unilateral use of force by the United States. The percentage rose to 57 percent if the use of force involved "a broad group of allies" and went higher still if the military actions were taken multilaterally (80 percent). Specifically, too, 85 percent thought that the UN "should take the lead in combating future aggression."(27)


Three key foreign economic goals have become more prominent in the public's view of the foreign policy agenda. The public is now committed to: (1) "protecting the jobs of American workers;" (2) "protecting the interest of American business abroad;" and (3) "securing adequate supplies of energy."(28) The public recognizes that the U.S. failure to solve its economic problems has contributed to its decline as a global power, but it also identifies Japan and Europe as sources of some of these economic problems. Indeed, 71 percent of the public believe that Japan is unfair in its trade practices, and 40 percent think that Europe is unfair. While this emphasis upon economic issues, and foreign economic issues, is not wholly a break from the earlier surveys for the 1970s and 1980s, the intensity may well be. Interestingly, the promotion of democracy around the world ranks relatively low as a foreign policy concern among the American people. Only about one-quarter of the public say that "helping to bring a democratic form of government to other nations" is a "very important" goal for the United States.

The overall portrait of the public mood speaks to several of the alternative "new world order" approaches. First, grand schemes of a "new world order" focused upon sustained international cooperation, sustained military involvement around the world, and even continued American leadership on a host of foreign policy issues are not supported among the public. Instead, the public supports a continued, but limited, international role for the U.S. in foreign affairs. The public's mood seems closer to the approaches espoused by those seeking a more "interest-based" foreign policy and more selective involvement. In addition, there clearly seems to be more support for an "economically-based" approach to the world. Perhaps disappointing to some, the public is not willing to support efforts at spreading democracy across the world.

The Mood Among American and Foreign Elites

The public mood clashes with the mood of America's foreign policy elite according to evidence from the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations "leadership sample." Leaders in the Bush Administration, in Congress, business, the media, labor, educational, and religious organizations are more fully committed to an activist international role for the U.S. They also are more committed to the notion that the Cold War is fully over, they are more willing to provide economic assistance to the Soviet Union, and they are more willing to use force by the United States than is the public at large.(29) In fact, the differences on foreign policy outlook between the public and the leadership are wider than a decade earlier during the Reagan administration. While the differences could be closed in a variety of ways, they have persisted for some time, and I would be surprised if the gap narrowed in the near term. The building of a new consensus in which American foreign policy elites, the American public, and the administration are not divided seems very unlikely.

The attitudes of some foreign elites also impinge on the possibility of a "new world order" based on a new American foreign policy consensus, even if such a consensus were to emerge. Although discerning these attitudes systematically is more difficult than for the American samples, foreign elites are not at all keen about the United States shaping a "new world order," at least as espoused by the Bush Administration. While some nations are not entirely unhappy about the U.S. once again assuming a leading role in global politics as reflected in the Gulf War, the nations of the Third World are more skeptical about such a role.(30) If a new order means more economic cooperation and more ecological concern on the part of the developed nations as they relate to the developing countries, then a new order receives a warm and welcomed reception. If this new order means the restoration or continuation of greater dominance of the Third World, then a new order is neither desired nor needed. Many think the new world order would look more like the latter than the former. In this sense, foreign elites, albeit limited in what they can ultimately do, will work more toward delaying the new world order than promoting it. The initiatives of Germany with regard to Central Europe, and of the European Community toward Yugoslavia, are reflective of these efforts.

Concluding Comments

The dramatic events of 1945-1947 succeeded in shaking the foundation of American foreign policy from its isolationist roots to assume a globalist and largely consensual foreign policy posture over the next 40 years. The dramatic changes in Central Europe and the American military success in the Persian Gulf War appear to be another set of gigantic events that have the potential to do the same for the 1990s.

In my view, however, a new foreign policy value consensus has not yet appeared on the horizon. The call for a "new world order," or any of its alternatives, has failed to rally the American people into a new posture toward the world. Certainly, there seems to be limited support for the internationalist version proposed by the Bush administration over the past year or so. Instead, what is really afoot among the American public is a great debate among three principal options: (1) the sustained internationalism of the past; (2) a more selective internationalism without a clear historical analogue for the U.S.; or (3) a more isolationist future in American foreign policy.

The next few years will prove crucial. While my own hunch is that a more selective internationalism will emerge, and will be marked by greater economic nationalism and more cautious interventionism than we have seen in the past, whatever emerges will be dependent upon you. I challenge all Americans to join in this debate -- to reflect more fully on what we should be doing in the world as we reexamine our values and beliefs toward the world as we approach the 21st century. It is great fun, and its importance cannot be minimized.


1) John J. Mearsheimer, "Why We Will Soon Miss The Cold War," The Atlantic Monthly, (August, 1990): 35ff.

2) This discussion draws on James M. McCormick, American Foreign Policy and Process, Second Edition. (Itasca, IL: F.E. Peacock Publishers, Inc., 1992), Chapter 6. Other parts of this essay draw from Chapters 12 and 13 of this volume.

3) Of course, now -- in 1998 -- the effect on the Soviet Union is clearer. At the time of this writing, however, Professor McCormick did not have the advantage of hindsight.

4) Alan Riding, "Europeans in Accord to Create Vastly Expanded Trading Bloc," New York Times, (October 23, 1991): A1, C18. Also, Patrick Oster, "Treaty Maps Out a Unified Europe," The Washington Post, (June 16, 1991): H1, H5.

5) Ann Devroy, "U.S. Offers Brazil Trade Cooperation," The Washington Post, (June 19, 1991): A13.

6) George Bush, "Toward a New World Order," an address before a joint session of the Congress, September 11, 1990, p. 2.

7) "Text of President Bush's State of the Union Message to Nation," New York Times, (January 30, 1991): A8.

8) George Bush, "Toward a New World Order," p. 2.

9) "Text of President Bush's State of the Union Message to Nation," p. A8.

10) "Excerpts From Bush's Address to General Assembly: For a 'Pax Universalis,'" New York Times, (September 24, 1991): A6.

11) Earl C. Ravenel, "The Case for Adjustment," Foreign Policy, 81 (Winter 1990-1991): 3-4.

12) Ibid., pp. 4, 6, 8.

13) Ibid., p. 15.

14) Ibid., p. 19.

15) Alan Tonelson, "What is the National Interest?" The Atlantic Monthly, (July, 1991): 37.

16) Charles Krauthammer, "The Unipolar Moment," Foreign Affairs, America and the World 1990/1991, 70, 1: 23-24.

17) Ibid., p. 32.

18) See George Quester, "Consensus Lost," Foreign Policy, 40 (Fall, 1980): 18-32; George Quester, American Foreign Policy: The Lost Consensus. (New York: Praeger, 1982).

19) Joshua Muravchik, Exporting Democracy: Fulfilling America's Destiny. (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 1991).

20) Congressman Les Aspin (D-Wisconsin), as quoted in Norman J. Ornstein and Mark Schmitt, "Dateline Campaign 92: Post-Cold War Politics," Foreign Policy, 79 (Summer, 1990): 184.

21) Richard Barnet, "Defining the New World Order," Harper's Magazine, (May, 1991): 64.

22) Stanley Hoffmann, Primacy or World Order. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978), pp. 241-266.

23) Joseph S. Nye, Jr., "American Strategy After Bipolarity," International Affairs, 66 (July, 1990): 520-521.

24) John E. Rielly, "Public Opinion: The Pulse of the 90s," Foreign Policy, 82 (Spring 1991): 83.

25) Ibid., p. 79.

26) John E. Rielly, American Public Opinion and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1991. (Chicago: The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 1991), pp. 6, 15-37.

27) Tom Wicker, "What Kind of Order?" New York Times, (June 8, 1991): 15.

28) John E. Rielly, American Public Opinion and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1991, op. cit., p. 15.

29) Ibid., pp. 37-38.

30) See T.R. Reid, "Japan-Basking: A New Pacific Era," Washington Post, (June 16, 1991): B1, B4; and also, Tom Wicker, "A Not-So-New Order," New York Times, (June 5, 1991): A15.