Principalities & Powers

After the Cold War

(This column was originally delivered as the keynote speech at a Chronicles' conference, "Overcoming the Schism: European Divisions and U.S. Policy," held in Chicago on May 8.)

You would never guess that the Cold War is over. Almost all commentators on foreign policy start off their speeches or articles by performing an obligatory knee bend to the "end of the Cold War" and then continue to talk about our foreign policy as though the Cold War were still going on. They still chatter about "America's global responsibilities"; they still worry about the scale of U.S. military defenses; they still dither and dabble in world affairs, perhaps even more recklessly than in the 1950's and 60's.

We still dole out immense sums of money in foreign aid to various client states; we still maintain the Cold War alliances with Asian and Latin American states that were set up as a global defense system, and in NATO we have even expanded the alliance to undertake an undefined "new mission." Occasionally, we stop to realize that our major adversary in the Cold War no longer exists, but we have not even begun to think about, let alone act upon, the vast implications of the Soviet collapse. Most of all, we still conduct our foreign policy on the unquestioned assumption that the United States faces a serious threat to its vital interests and national security, even though no one...

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