American Diplomacy

Highlight map


Support American Diplomacy RSS Mailing-list Subscription Email American Diplomacy Facebook

American DiplomacyAbstracts
October-December 1997
Volume II, Number 3


(Please click on title below to read full text of article.)

Experts of all callings find themselves in a scramble to present new concepts and new theories in an effort to understand the mysteries of the post-Cold War era. Forecasting of this variety shows up importantly in the September-October issue of Foreign Affairs, wherein fourteen historians and foreign affairs specialists respond to an invitation to take a look at "The World Ahead." Among the prognostications, that of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., makes the point that nothing much has changed to prevent a repetition of the bloody horrors of the twentieth century, this despite the belief by many that the end of the Cold War changed everything. Illustrating the latter point, many of the older texts in the field stand up well upon reexamination, an example being William Kaufmann's Military Policy and National Security, published more than forty years ago. In that work, he argues that "Military power. . . has been absolutely essential to the working of the political process on the world stage."

Accepting as valid the argument that military force remains an "essential lubricant" in international affairs, a number of propositions for U.S. policy makers present themselves. These can be put into focus as major limitations on the use of that "essential" force, limitations that range from the expense of technologically advanced weaponry to the reluctance of Americans to engage in combat and the resultant development of a labor market-driven "All Volunteer Force." Current difficulties in filling the armed forces have led to a greater tendency to seek partners and to encourage the UN to assume added burdens, both courses of action that limit the effectiveness of such heterogeneous forces. As a final limitation, U.S. policy makers have discovered that military power can accomplish little if the nation continues a policy of hit-and-run interventions. The President's decisions on where, and where not, to intervene in the post-Cold War era will be one his most difficult continuing dilemmas.

In 1992, following two years of United Nations involvement in the negotiations, the government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) signed a peace agreement ending more than a decade of civil strife. The details of the Peace Accords pertain uniquely to El Salvador, but their scope and implementation have provided guidelines for the reconstruction of other war-torn societies. The agreement calls for far-reaching reforms in the military and police, the judiciary and the electoral system, and the agricultural sector. The FMLN receives guarantees of political participation.

With assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development and UN agencies, responsibility for carrying out the Peace Accords and instituting a national recovery program fell to the Salvadoran government. The numerous issues that arose ranged from planning questions to demobilizing the former combatants to special medical needs. Important factors in the success of the Salvadoran peace process thus far include the strong mediating role played by the local UN office and the substantial U.S. and UN technical and financial support.

As an effort to assure its security in the Pacific and East Asia, in the mid-1940s the United States undertook to establish firm control over Pacific island groups formerly belonging to Japan. While not a primary early Cold War concern, the Pacific Basin was viewed as important by U.S. strategists, who undertook to blanket the region with bases and mobile forces. In order to avoid the appearance of imperialism, the United States developed the approach of UN "strategic trusteeships."

Many officials also viewed "Americanizing" the Pacific islands -- that is, indoctrinating the islanders with American ideas about politics, economic, and values -- as an effective means to ensure control. At the same time, the approach would demonstrate American benevolence to the rest of the world. These officials, who included importantly Interior Secretary Julius Krug, saw the winning of the Pacific islanders' hearts and minds as much a strategic security measure as military measures and economic reconstruction.

Return to American Diplomacy home page

white starAmerican Diplomacy white star
Copyright © 2012 American Diplomacy Publishers Chapel Hill NC