The Magazine


Oct 30, 1995, Vol. 1, No. 07 • By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER
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This essay is adapted from an address delivered in Toronto Sept. 20.

Americans are easily seduced visions of New World Orders, illusions that " arise with alarmng regularity in the immediate aftermath of great wars. And, though we are hardly conscious of it, the 1990s, marked by victory in the Cold War, are as classically postwar as were the 1920s and mid-1940s. For the third time this century, we have fallen into postwar fireams about the possibilities of international life.

The first time occurred immediately after World War I, the Wilsonian heyday characterized by an extra-ordinary belief in the power of parchment and goodwill harnessed to an apparatus of cllective security. The Senate rejected the League of Nations (for reasons of sovereignty) but the American people generally embraced the spirit of Wilsonianisn. Its apotheosis was the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, slemnly signed by 64 nations (including Germany, japan, and Italy) declaring that war would henceforth be outlawed. So seriously was this singular exercisin cynicism (for some) and naivet (for us) taken that its author, Secretary of State Franklin Kellogg, received the 1929 Nobel Peace Prize.

As Henry Stimson explained, this piece of parchment would protect against aggression by "the sanction of public opinion, which can be made one of the most potent sanctions of the world. . . . Those critics who scoff at it have not accurately appraised the evolution in world opinion since the Great War." This staggering belief in opinion and reason and dialogue ended not just in tragedy but in parody when Idaho Republican Sen. William Borah, upon hearing that war had broken out in Europe in "September 1939, said, Lord, if only I could have talked with Hitler, all this might have been avoided."

Our second bout of utopianism came with victory in World War II. Roosevelt's secretary of state, Cordell Hull, upon returning from the Moscow conference of 1943, declared that soon "there will o longer be need for spheres of influence, for alliances, for balance of power, or any of the other special arrangements through which, in the unhappy past, the nations strove to safeguard their security or to promote their interests."

This time we would have a real League of Nations with the United States at its center, with real enforcement provisions, with an active Security Council. This time we would create Tennyson's parliament of man.

By 1947, the United States had been disabused of this utopianism. The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, followed by NATO and the other great alliances, announced the end of our second innocence. Throughout the Cold War, it was these institutions, exactly the ones Hull said we would not need, that safeguarded our security and promoted our interests.

And now Round Three. In the 1990s, we have been told, and indeed by such ostensible political realists as George Bush, that a New World Order is dawning, an order based on global community, international law, and collective security.

This is nonsense, dangerous nonsense, as dangerous as the nonsense that followed the first two great wars of the century. Marx said that all great events in world history reappear in one fashion or another, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. I would add: the third time as hallucination. In plain truth, international relations remains in precisely the same state it was in one and two and five centuries ago. As Henry Kissinger put it, "In the end, peace can be achieved only by hegemony or by balance of power. There is no other way."

However fervently Americans would like to believe otherwise, peace can only be achieved by hegemony or balance of power. It is achieved not by reason, nor by dialogue, and especially not through the agency of today's three preferred fantasies of how to achieve and maintain world order: peacekeeping, the United Nations, and multilateralism.

Peacekeeping as practiced today is 40 years old, invented by Lester Pearson, then Canada's minister for external affairs, to help extract British and French from the Suez fiasco Pearssn proposed the creation of what became UNEF, the United Nations Emergency Force, whose insertion into the Sinai in place of British and French (and Israeli) troops did help save face But anyone who thought that it really preserved the peace was rudely cure;:t of that notion when it was put to the test almost exactly a decade later.

In May 1967, Nasser decided to force a showdown with Israel, closing the Straits of Tfian, choking off Israel's access to the south, and ordering UNEF out the Sinai. U.N. Secretary General U Thant immediately agreed. The war that UNEF was supposed to prevent followed.