[OUTLOOK]Readying for new world orderThe U.S. presidential election will be held next week. Unlike in the previous elections, foreign policy has emerged as the hottest issue in this year’s election. The issues that used to sway voters in the past, such as the unemployment rate, taxes, Social Security, educational reform and the budget deficit, have been laid aside. The presidential election seems to have turned into a national referendum on the Iraq war and the war against terrorism.
When former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen and former U.S. Ambassador to the Untied Nations Richard Holbrooke met in New York a few days ago, they agreed that the election would mark a turning point in America’s foreign policy.
They all had public careers under different Republican and Democratic administrations, but they shared a view that the election could fundamentally change the direction and frame of international politics. Now that the UN-oriented diplomacy that former U.S. President Harry Truman had pursued with the end of World War II and the frame of the alliance diplomacy created in the early Cold War era have lost their efficacy, the three men agreed that the election is a pivotal moment in world history that could alter the international order.
Dr. Kissinger, the master of European diplomacy, analyzed today’s unstable international conditions by comparing them to Europe in 1871. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Bismarck, Germany was unified and had emerged as a regional power. However, Europe’s failure to reorganize its system to properly accommodate Germany led to friction, instability and a breakdown.
Today’s world under the hegemony of the United States has the potential to repeat that failure. The globalization of markets, information, technology and culture is progressing fast, but the operating system to maintain the stability of the international community and restore order is still uncertain. Therefore, conflicts over inequality, confusion and friction prevail all over the world. In the meantime, the task of rearranging international order, by acknowledging the emerging economic giants of China and India and figuring out how to integrate them with the existing powers, has been left to the United States.
That a consensus has been reached on the necessity to reshuffle the international order in time with the U.S. presidential election means that it is inevitable to seek a new power balance. The United States became the unchallenged sole superpower after winning the Cold War. But it has been revealed that America’s influence might be limited because of the diversification of the power dynamics in the international community.
Therefore, Americans have come to a bipartisan acknowledgment that there can be no clear solution for any of its problems, from the Iraq war to the war against terrorism to the proliferation of the nuclear weapons, without establishing a new international order and alliance based on the changing power balance. Whether President Bush is re-elected or John Kerry becomes president, the design and strategy of the U.S. foreign policy will attempt a considerable revision and conversion.
The change in direction of U.S. foreign policy would put the brakes on the American unilateralism that has increased in the last few years, especially after the 9/11 attacks, focusing instead on seeking increased cooperation and new alliances.
If Mr. Kerry wins the election, the shift would be relatively easy. But even if President Bush is re-elected, he would also make an effort to bring about a certain level of change. Therefore, European and Asian nations have already made moves to develop new theories and plans to build a more advantageous relationship with the United States, and they want to begin a discussion with Washington right after the election.
For example, China hurriedly concluded prolonged talks over the border with Russia and tightened relations with France and other European nations. It can be seen as the result of China’s strategic choice to re-establish relationships with the United States on a new power balance.
Korea is also poised to prepare an effective diplomatic strategy to cope with the changing international power balance and the reshaping of the Korea-U.S. alliance. Stuck among three regional giants (China, Japan and Russia) and confronting the North in the tension of the national division, we are facing yet another moment of fateful choice.
Rather than keep up the infantile debate over whether Korea is pro-America or anti-America, we have to choose a clear strategy on how to secure our survival and liberty based on what kind of power balance we want and how to attain it. We have no time to waste on nonessential matters.
* The writer, a former prime minister, is an adviser of the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Hong-koo