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America and the World: Looking Into the Third Century

ISSUE:  Winter 1978

TO see into our nation’s third century with any degree of certainty so obviously exceeds a man’s reach that the first reaction is to reexamine such a possibility. A former secretary of state when asked how he handled congressional hearings replied that when asked a question he could not answer, he answered another one. It may be possible to see a few years ahead, but who can claim even a quarter-century of forward vision? That remarkable group of men who made up the first Policy Planning Staff in the Department of State under Secretary of State George C. Marshall discovered that looking ahead beyond the span of three to five years was a practical impossibility. They also learned that if the planner was to influence foreign policy he needed to become an operator, and this restricted attention to more immediate problems and narrowed the span of relevant planning to a year or two, if that.

Yet scholars and informed observers continue to hear a call for responsible forecasting, and the more brash among us appear unable to resist answering it. At one level it is possible to defend attempts to foresee what lies ahead. Ambassador Kingman Brewster, former President of Yale University, distinguishes among four types of knowledge and higher learning. The first type consists of information-gathering, the storage and retrieval of knowledge, and the use of an applied science technology, which for more than a decade has been on the threshold of an audio-visual revolution. We have been hearing of the little black box attached to a television set, of the Socratic computer for trial and error in home learning, or of packaging Kenneth Clark’s or Alistair Cooke’s programs on civilization on film or cassette for the user’s convenience. The second type consists of the acquisition of skills in which the scholar benefits from new techniques of audio-visual self-education including such things as language labs for the parlor, training through films in the use of computers, and hundreds of simple mathematical and mechanical operations. The third involves the testing (often without sufficient information) of the capacity for critical human judgment, which Brewster calls plausible assessment or moral evaluation. It is what the historian Frederick Burkhardt called the knack of sizing up. The fourth, discovery, overlaps with judgment and involves the development of new insights worthy enough to deserve critical assessment. The last two efforts set to sea beyond the fixed shores of hard, indisputable information. Describing them, President Brewster asserts that they

. . . cannot be packaged or programmed . . . [nor] learned in a closet. . .[nor] learned passively. Even the most sophisticated “Socratic computer” will not be able to provoke that free-ranging argument which holds unorthodox, genuinely original insights up to the light of scrutiny by discussion and debate.’Thinking out loud” is indispensable to this process. The spur of rigorous discourse is itself the provocation to more adequate critical thought.

Proceeding on the assumption that any ideas set down as “plausible assessment” of the future are an invitation to discourse and not a set of answers and that we do not have hard information for any of them, I would suggest four important areas for judgment and exploration: American leadership in the world, techniques of diplomacy, democracy and the Third World, and global human survival. No sane person would claim to have a vision of the likely historical developments in any of these spheres nor a firm grasp of the meaning of the patterns of the past quarter-century. The most anyone can do is to offer a set of tentative thoughts and impressions.


For no other aspect of American life is there more extravagant generalization, especially before, during, and just after election time, than of the positions taken on America’s leadership in the world. It is not that there are no valid questions and issues to be raised concerning the nature and quality of our leadership. It is, rather, due to the fact that each of us wants that leadership to reflect our personally most cherished value (normally proclaimed in the singular), And leadership, we seem to say, must be widely praised and applauded to be valid, as if there were no such thing as a leader acting out of righteous motives. By contrast with this all too prevalent view, history teaches that the most that strong and generous nations can hope to attain is a modicum of trust and respect, leaving expressions of love and gratitude to the more intimate communities of mankind. But this lesson certain nations have apparently not learned, as is evidenced when they threaten to withdraw from the world political arena because others fail to thank and praise them.

Leadership is measured within another rather singular and myopic frame of reference. Because international society is largely anarchic and ungoverned today, a nation is judged by its ability enforce its will. With power remaining the final arbiter, an effective foreign policy demands the capacity to mobilize and apply military might. Throughout most of American history, a struggle has gone on between those who deny a legitimate place in foreign policy to force and power and those who simplify and absolutize it. America has suffered from a near-fatal illness which can be attributed to the influence on policy makers of these two viewpoints, one of which leads us in the name of American virtue and purity to hold our hand until the eleventh hour, the other imputing absolute righteousness and justice to any use of American power.

What need concern us here is not the subject to which American historians have given much attention—the relationship of past eras of isolationism on one hand to the other of American crusades for unconditional surrender or of a war to end wars by making the world safe for democracy. We need rather to consider a tendency less ennobling in one sense but reflecting a certain primitivism in national life of judging American leadership almost exclusively by the willingness to use force. Since the Vietnam War, one segment of the nation’s political and scholarly elite tells us that the nation will never again use force to intervene in international conflicts while spokesmen for another school of thought declare with equal certainty that only through demonstrated capacity to use force can America arrest its precipitous decline in world leadership. If the two viewpoints were advanced with some humility and reserve, we would have less cause for alarm. The non-interventionists, however, speak with all the fervor of religious and political converts while the champions of bold military initiatives make their case as though the opposition were composed of traitors and faithless turncoats, Both groups view their critics through glazed and blindered eyes and listen with ears that cannot or will not hear. Not only are they ready to condemn a whole people for differing with them but they expound and reiterate their creeds and arguments on the slightest provocation. Each has its own perception of the reality of America’s influence in the world and mistakenly supposes they understand the entire issue. It is as false to maintain that the world will think well of us solely because of our non-interventionism as it is to believe we have come to the end of an era because we did not use force to put down local conflicts in Africa.

Americans need most of all to relearn that for nations as for individuals power is more than force. The lasting contribution of Reinhold Niebuhr and a handful of writers sympathetic to his views is the emphasis they caused to be placed on the intangible as well as the tangible aspects of power. Prestige, Niebuhr wrote, is a measure of a nation’s influence in the world and comprises its reputation for justice no less than the might of its arms. The quest for justice, however, is one of the principal sources of America’s moral predicament; for as the leaders of a triumphant Grand Alliance in World War II, we have found ourselves playing the role of the principal status quo power in the postwar era. The depth of our predicament has been obscured by the uncritical admiration for the underlying values of a liberal and humane society espousing national self-determination and proclaiming in the councils of states the end of the colonial era. Yet the decline of our influence with the new majority in the United Nations is testimony to the persistence of the predicament. To speak as though a few misguided policies or leaders were responsible, as liberals and radicals have been prone to do, or to say that because we are strong and privileged we need not continue to struggle for justice around the globe, as conservatives and reactionaries have done, is a disservice to ourselves and our heritage.

American leadership, therefore, is a product of national purpose as well as of national power. It rests not on one but on multiple factors of tradition and policy. Political scientists who are children of the age of specialization and of the tribute society pays them have themselves reenforced the tendency to single out and become spokesmen for defense policy, or for ideology, or for Third World relationships. Paradoxically, early postwar writings on power held to a broader view than most present-day studies that equate military strategy and power. Policy makers who have fought to rally support within the government for their own vision of American leadership have difficulty in transcending the narrow view and in sustaining the broader perspective. The exclusivist views, however understandable, should be resisted along with the conclusions that flow from a too-narrow definition of the elements of America’s influence in the world.


As we look toward the third century of our history, the form and character of American diplomacy provide another focal point for study and reflection. Much of the discussion has taken shape around concepts of the old and new diplomacies. Traditional diplomacy conducted through resident ambassadors and special envoys was an early target in America for popular criticism and debate. Secret diplomacy was condemned as a principal cause of war and the United Nations heralded as the means of putting an end to the nefarious practices of European diplomacy and to the theory of the balance of power. Yet the proud boast of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and particularly of Secretary of State Cordell Hull, returning in 1943 from the Moscow Conference, that the new international institution spelled the end of alliances and spheres of influence has scarcely withstood the test of time, Multilateral diplomacy proved no escape from the harsh and morally ambiguous necessities of Great Power relationships, and by the 1950’s the problems of conducting diplomacy in a goldfish bowl were being discussed by dedicated internationalists such as Canada’s Lester Pearson and the American scholar Hans J. Morgenthau. At this time, too, leaders of the so-called uncommitted states in the Cold War such as Nehru, Tito, and Nasser, and representatives of some of the smaller states were calling on the Great Powers to negotiate their differences whether within or outside the United Nations. Partly in response, President Eisenhower, spurred on by senior leaders in the Senate, let it be known he was prepared to meet Soviet leader Khrushchev for negotiations “at the Summit.” The concept of “Summit Diplomacy” had its roots in Winston Churchill’s repeated calls for a meeting between leaders of East and West at the highest level and his urging that a supreme effort be made to bridge the gulf between the nuclear powers which stood on the brink of mutual destruction. And later, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was the architect of what observers have called a “diplomacy of movement,” making use of the techniques of shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East and Africa.

A list of diplomatic techniques that include the use of traditional diplomacy, multilateral diplomacy, summit diplomacy, and shuttle diplomacy suggests some of the alternatives from which present and future administrations must choose. The temptation is to assume that the latest technique is the best or that principles and problems which apply to one are not relevant to the others. While this may satisfy certain ingrained needs for reassurance that the nation and its leaders are following a course designed to produce the best of all possible worlds, each form of diplomacy has its peculiar strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, the pursuit of any one brings the diplomatist face to face with troublesome questions that have confounded his predecessors throughout our history. Among them are the issues of:

Secrecy, Within a democracy, few appeals to public opinion are better calculated to provoke response. In the words of the youth movement of the late 1960’s, each of us wants a piece of the action, and nothing offends us more than a sense that actions with far-reaching consequences are being taken behind our backs.(A feeling of unease sweeps over even a local community when too many issues of a city council or school board are settled in executive sessions.) The most recent presidential election may demonstrate that an updated version of “open covenants openly arrived at” continues to stir the people. The first expressions of President Carter’s diplomatic approach suggest a new emphasis on declaratory diplomacy; and while it may be premature to judge this new tack, it obviously will create its own set of dilemmas.

Students of diplomacy, if not the people, have turned away from the all-or-nothing character of Woodrow Wilson’s formula. While holding to the goal of “open covenants,” the revisionists of Wilsonianism question the prospect of their being publicly arrived at. We have returned instead to the principle well-stated by a reformed Wilsonian, Walter Lippmann, that individuals can negotiate but not the people or a public assembly. At the international level, it remained for that consummate negotiator, Dag Hammarskjold, to draw the United Nations away from klieg light diplomacy, in which nations took irreconcilable public positions for the record, to the practice of quiet diplomacy. Like family and community disputes, premature open debate is more likely to exacerbate than to heal deep-seated differences. In public affairs as well, the patient pursuit of wise and well-thought-out diplomacy may serve as a poultice to draw out some of the rancor and bitterness of disputes and allow the parties to save face by tradeoffs and reformulated objectives that leave vital interests intact.

Deception. It is a commonplace to speak of the diplomat as a man sent abroad to lie and deceive in the interests of his country.”If we had done for ourselves what we did for the state what scoundrels we would have been,” wrote the Italian nationalist leader, Cavour. The symbol of British diplomacy was Perfidious Albion, and the success stories in the history of diplomacy are not generally associated with the work of self-consciously righteous and morally scrupulous leaders.

To all this a great British student of diplomacy, the late Harold Nicolson, replied by saying that lies, half-truths, and deception were often a necessary part of the diplomat’s strategies and tactics. Yet the diplomat, in Nicolson’s words, must return to negotiate another day. A nexus of mutual trust and confidence is therefore vital to the continued processes of diplomacy, It is all too tempting to chronicle the rise and fall of particular diplomats in terms of deception. From Bismarck to Kissinger, the evidence is clear that negotiations sometimes demand the saying of different things to different leaders. In the words of an historian of the Cold War, Louis J. Halle, “If . . . it is a valid moral principle that one should always speak truthfully, anyone who adhered to that principle literally and invariably, without regard for the practical consequences, would thereby cause all sorts of confusion, entailing bad feeling and perhaps disaster.” But to all this there are limits, and deception practiced for deception’s sake can undermine a diplomat’s capacity to negotiate with others and turn both the public and other diplomats against him.

Personalism. One of the recurrent concerns of Western diplomats during the Krushchev era in Soviet foreign policy was the worry that the future of the world depended too much on one man. What if on the eve of a Summit conference Mr. Khrushchev suffered a stroke? Or what if he were in a negative mood on the day of meeting because he had eaten a poor breakfast? Successful diplomacy has always required above all that the personal and subjective factor should be filtered out and that negotiations should register in hard print the objective interests of states. In recent decades, there has been a drift away from the objective to the subjective, an increasing stress on the personal and complicating problems resulting from the rise and fall of the personal popularity of an individual. In our third century, whatever the forms of diplomacy employed, a major issue will concern the manner in which the questions of secrecy, deception, and personalism are dealt with and incorporated into diplomatic approaches. These issues are central and arise in varying degree and changing form for those who speak for any past or present pattern of diplomatic relations among states.


If the second century in our history was marked by the era in which the Western World responded to the challenge of totalitarianism, the third century may be the time of testing in relations with the Third World. The United States finds itself in the unenviable position of being both defender and scape-goat in the rise of new nations. The billion or more formerly subject peoples now independent from colonial regimes owe their freedom at least in part to strong postwar American policies of anti-colonialism. There are points of moral and political convergence between the United States and the nations of the Third World which stem in part from our being present at their creation. As a result, we and they continue to enjoy common bonds of friendship and mutual interests in education, science, agriculture, and human rights. Their leaders are graduates of our universities; our values, beliefs, and institutions are a part of their heritage. The leaders of their national revolutions have invoked Western traditions and ideas such as national self-determination and equality in order to justify themselves to the world. Third World leaders go further and judge their institutions and practices by Western standards, as is exemplified when the educators of Tanzania find fault with their country’s higher education system because of its limited opportunities for women, or when African politicians speak out against elitism in African higher education. Inherited educational structures and patterns of governance are necessarily undergoing far-reaching adaptations to bring them into line with African needs; but not infrequently the struggle is taking place through democratic processes within an established institutional framework, especially in education. It would be squandering a rich heritage of common interests to denounce all Third World countries as having fallen permanently into the anti-democratic, authoritarian camp.

At the same time, the less developed countries are caught in the throes of a choice between order and national survival on one hand and socially worthy goals such as equality and liberty on the other. Not alone for Third World countries but for nations and peoples everywhere, the clash between order and freedom and justice is perennial, If one value and one value only could be the lodestone of conduct how simple life would be. But values must ever compete with one another: freedom and order, liberty and justice, the rights of individuals and national security. It serves no one’s interest to ignore the terrible predicament men face in having to choose between them and the tragic dimension of political choice.

In the first quarter of the 20th century, optimism ran strong that democracy was on the march. Woodrow Wilson addressing the Senate on Jan. 22, 1917 could say of American democratic principles: “They are the principles of mankind and must prevail.” Now, however, in the third quarter of the century, most Third World leaders are proclaiming that Western parliamentary democracy is unsuited to their needs. Not democrats but tyrants seemingly prevail, some benevolent despots, some social reformers, most better educated than their countrymen, Some take their inspiration from the West, others are the children of traditional oligarchies, and still others are weaving together strands of Western and anti-Western thought.

For the third century of American foreign policy, three approaches to living in harmony with the Third World are open to the United States. The first is the one which prevailed in the last half of 1975 when American spokesmen denounced non-democratic states from the pulpit of the United Nations. While a policy of denunciation may warm the hearts of American nationalists, constitute good electoral politics, and answer Third World leaders when they seek to make the United States the scapegoat for all their ills, it does little to bolster the fragile common bonds and interests uniting us with Africa and Latin America. And it runs a grave risk of substituting a new Cold War for the one that East and West have so recently brought under some measure of control. A second approach is to say with Reinhold Niebuhr that in every state, including those of the developed world, order precedes liberty and justice. Realizing this, American policy-makers may be better able to deal with non-democratic states. As a corollary, it may be helpful to consider a distinction made by Guglielmo Ferrerro in his Principles of Power not between democratic and non-democratic, but legitimate and illegitimate governments. Legitimate regimes have an authority deriving either from explicit or implicit consent of the governed while illegitimate ones according to Ferrerro rule only by “force and fraud.” Both democratic and traditional governments may be categorized as legitimate if we make use of this distinction, for traditional governments rest on implicit consent. The United States may have to find ways of living with legitimate governments whose political processes are radically different from our own.

A third approach to living with Third World governments is to recognize that it lies beyond our power to reshape these governments and the most we can hope is that time and patience will lead to healthful changes. This approach is responsive to Halle’s warning:

The widespread opinion in the United States that it knows what is best for the rest of the World, that it knows best how to solve the problems of other countries, has caused it to become dangerously overextended since the war, both morally and intellectually, with consequences that have manifested themselves most dramatically in Vietnam.

The acceptance of a pluralistic international order requires more than the intellectual acceptance of otherness; it requires an act of faith in trusting those who are members of different cultures and political systems, Within other systems, there are bound to be those who share certain common values. The present policy in the United States represents an almost desperate thrust to get other political systems to appropriate a common political and moral code. A more hopeful approach would be to help people who respect freedom (and dissidents are no more than the tip of the iceberg) in different systems to sustain and expand their more humane endeavors. The goal of human rights deserves a more broad-gauged interpretation, viewed not in isolation from other worthy ends in societies whose cultural context is not the same as our own.

As the United States directs its attention in its third century to its world leadership, its diplomatic techniques, and to the Third World, a still greater challenge remains. What are American leaders to say and do about problems of global human survival and the structure of peace? The Indonesian diplomat and historian Soedjatmoko has written:

We may be only at the beginning of a fundamental redistribution of power across the globe, within nations, and across national boundaries. . . . We are doing so in a world in which no single nation alone is capable of directing and shaping the flow or events . . .and in which most governments . . .seem to be incapable of coming to grips with the problems of their own societies and the anxieties of their citizens. . . . The question we all seem to be facing is whether through impotence or ignorance we allow this fragmented world to be blown up or to drift into destructive chaos and violence, or whether we will be able to move together towards a humane global society.

The problem of global human survival arises in part from man’s ignorance of and impotence in formulating worldwide issues and in his inability to do much about them. Mankind apparently has the means with which to feed the world, but hunger and poverty remain the permanent condition of hundreds of millions of people in large areas on the globe. We have the most advanced techniques of increasing and transmitting knowledge, but the number of illiterates is growing both in relative and absolute terms. We know more about human nature and unsatisfied physical needs, but anxiety and despair, violence, and the means of destruction appear to be increasing. We have more data on the requirements for economic growth, but development has not arrested the despoiling of the environment or improved the quality of life. Again, quoting Soedjatmoko:

For those poorer countries which. . . will have to live for a long period at very low income levels, there is the problem of how to organize their societies and their lives in ways which still make it possible to have a meaningful and relatively satisfactory life. In other words, what does quality of life mean to a human being at the level of 100 to 200 dollars per capita per year?

It is vital to global human survival to give more thought to the connection between the expansion of knowledge and the social purposes knowledge can be made to serve. It is important to understand the links between a society’s fund of knowledge, its culture, and its dynamics as a whole. If the United States is to have any future leadership role, we will have to enlarge our capacity for empathy with different conditions of life and different modes of living.

All this, however, is not an end in itself but a means to global human survival. Detente or some form of the reduction of tension between the major powers is one aspect of this quest. In addition, in Ambassador Soedjatmoko’s words:

It will be necessary to defuse the North/South conflict, the growing tensions between the industrial world and the poor pre-industrial countries. Unless that happens, interdependence [which is a two-edged sword] may lead to heightened conflict and wars. There is clear need for the kind of understanding and statesmanship that can move the problems we will have to face away from confrontational rhetoric, away from the frustrations and the anxieties that lie behind the neonationalism and the irritation and aggressiveness that characterize so much of the present international dialogue.

“Interdependence” has become part of the official rhetoric in the United States, but it has scarcely penetrated the deeper layers of national consciousness. At any given moment, support for interdependence can be set back by lobbies and pressure groups who see the world through nationalist spectacles. Contacts by the great powers with the weaker and smaller nations have been mainly on the formers’ terms, despite the barrage of complaints from American labor, industry, and disadvantaged social groups that their needs are overlooked. Most nations learned early in their history the limits of their security and power, but the United States with abundant human and material resources has come late to this discovery. Today a nation, however powerful, cannot solve its problems or define its security in isolation from other nations great or small.

The route to global human survival runs not only through novel international institutions but through new functional relationships; persuasion, negotiation, and bargaining are needed to forge new patterns of international cooperation. If these are some of the means to the attainment of a global society, so are new visions of the convergence of long-term national interests and a new international order. We must find the means of breaking out of our present thought patterns about international understanding. We need to delve much more deeply into the cultural substratum of other societies in which their values, aspirations, fears, ideological perspectives, and motivations to political and social action may be found. It remains to ask what role universities and education can play in all this. Again quoting from Soedjatmoko, here is one far-reaching if not revolutionary proposal:

In the coming decade we may have to consider seriously building a university capability for global development, either through the restructuring of our universities or through grafting onto existing structures—but fully integrated—academic centers for global development linked together across the globe through formal and informal networks. These centers should not be discipline oriented but should be organized around the major problem areas. . . . Each problem area should be handled by a university division, comprising several disciplines, but at the same time cutting through the more traditional lines of compartmentalization of the university. Food production and distribution, including nutrition; population and global development, including fertility behavior and population movement. . .resource management and environmental care . . .but also areas dealing with the need in both industrial and developing countries for energy-conserving modes of social organization and personal life styles . . .might be some of these problem areas. The study of these problems should encompass their technological, political, as well as their human dimensions . . .and they should be dealt with on the national level of each nation as well as on the international one.

If all this suggests an educational Utopia and an impossible educational dream, it nevertheless points one pathway to global human survival. There may be other and better routes, and surely these ought to attract our best thinking as we move into the third century. The one route guaranteed for failure is that of impatience, moral arrogance, and withdrawal from the world in pique.


Two decades ago American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote:

The more we indulge in an uncritical reverence for the supposed wisdom of our American way of life, the more odious we make it in the eyes of the world, and the more we destroy our moral authority, without which our economic and military power will become impotent. Thus we are undermining the reality of our power by our uncritical pride in it.

Today an American president who has acknowledged his debt to Niebuhr confronts the self-same moral hazards about which the theologian wrote. These hazards are more acute precisely because the era of American hegemony and absolute power has been brief by comparison with that of other hegemonic eras. American power is still great and will doubtless remain so into the 21st century, but our capacity to dominate and shape events will depend on our adjustment to new realities. American discussions of morality and human rights in particular tend to be narrow and ethnocentric. If there is one thing that characterizes the present world scene, it is the absence of a single moral and political framework. To our friends in the Third World, most present-day American debates notably lack a concern with a philosophy of history or with the direction in which mankind is going. Every previous historical era has had its dominant world view, but the force of present-day political and moral philosophies has been shattered. Not only have the millennial doctrines of Christianity come under question, but the hoped-for Communist utopia in the Soviet Union and China has been replaced by authoritarianism and oppression. Man’s loss of faith and his growing incapacity for holding to a deeply rooted belief may have an integral connection with his passion to crowd as much as possible into the present. We live within rapidly changing time frames; when one can no longer accept the hope of life after death, the time frame of social justice and human rights undergoes far-reaching changes.

It is a fact that the present world order is seen by a large part of the world as unjust. The present order is governed by multiple moral and political values, and no single nation can define the moral center. The search for binding rules and lasting values will go on through negotiations, blind groping, and oftentimes inarticulated adjustments. We need a new morality in which young and untested nation-states can achieve viability without overturning the overall international order. No single nation can impose its authority on the international system, and the root question becomes, “How, given the inevitability of political and social change, can societies reduce the cost in human suffering?”

As seen from abroad, the problem America faces for its third century is due not to moralism or to cynicism but to innocence, and we face the risk that an unsophisticated innocence can link up with self-righteousness, No nation can long exist without a sense of righteousness, but the great challenge for America is how to develop a proper tension between a clear approximation of righteousness and an awareness of the limits of our moral base.

President Carter has in considerable measure succeeded in restoring a nation plagued by self-doubt and uncertainty to a sense of integrity and pride in its national purposes. His aim is to institutionalize this mission and forge new administrative mechanisms, thus far largely conceived within a national framework. So noble an effort leaves open the question as to whether America can relate such efforts to the strivings of others in what remains for most of us a strange and alien context. Our weakness is our impatience; we are more inclined to speak to the world of our purposes than to listen. We forget that our own national purposes were forged in experience, not from lofty declarations divorced from our being tested as a nation. The Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation were responses to events, not abstract formulations. Viewed against the background of the striving of others for a better society, a moral foreign policy can lose much of its rigidity and compulsiveness without losing its moral context. Mutual understanding must be the core operating principle of American foreign policy for the 21st century, not national self-righteousness. We must help other peoples to resolve their ethical and political dilemmas without trading our former mantle of the world’s policeman for that of the world’s preacher.

All this must be done within the context of American domestic politics, an arena as strange to most moral philosophers as it is bewildering to most foreign societies. On one side, national political leaders “distinguish themselves from philosophers and scientists, not by their smaller degree of intelligence but by their higher degree of responsibility to their respective communities.” (Reinhold Niebuhr.) By oath of office, they pledge themselves to defend the security of present generations and those yet unborn. On the other hand, politicians seek high office through all the strategems of practical politics by which the “outs” become the “ins.” Every existing study of the human rights campaign of the Carter administration suggests it was designed as much for domestic as for international politics. Foreign policy no less than domestic policy is formed in the cauldron of internal political struggles, and with but a few conspicuous exceptions it has always been thus. Once in office, an administration must choose whether to persist in its quest for political power or to hold with John C. Calhoun: “True dignity consists in making no declaration which we are not prepared to maintain. If we make the declaration, we ought to be prepared to carry it into effect against all opposition.” The context in which American foreign policy in its third century will be shaped is political, and the limits and opportunities are greater than critics often-times suppose. The public can play a vital, positive role, therefore, in assisting the achievement of worthy ends no less than it has sometimes forced its leaders into negative and short-sighted policies. When we ask “What can I, the individual citizen, do as America moves into the 21st century?” the answer must be, “Make possible the realization of the most enlightened vision of the world by our leaders.”


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