"...if when the chips are down the world's most powerful nation, the United States, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and institutions throughout the world."
--President Richard M. Nixon announcing the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, April 30, 1970
"The West's worst moral and political disaster since the Nazis is coming to a climax. And just as many politicians and institutions paid for the failure to stop Hitler, so many will pay dearly for allowing the Serbian tyrant, Slobodan Milosevic, to destroy Bosnia."
--Anthony Lewis, "The End of the Affair," The New York Times, August 13, 1993
Anthony Lewis' recent Richard Nixon impersonations are not only amusing, they are genuinely important. They are among the many signs that American thinking about foreign policy is finally entering the post-Cold War era--and perhaps dragging the rest of American politics along with it.
In foreign affairs, the old dividing lines are blurring or being ignored, and with good reason. As is clear from any recent op-ed page, familiar classifications such as interventionist and isolationist, hawk and dove, realist and idealist, and multilateralist and unilateralist (at least as they have been used since the end of World War II) no longer make much sense, in the absence of the Cold War's defining conditions. Abroad, those conditions included rigid military and ideological bipolarity and overwhelming American economic predominance within the free world camp; at home, widespread acceptance of a state of national emergency, and of the national priorities and resource allocations that followed therefrom. Because--as it is now fashionable to observe--foreign and domestic policies can no longer be neatly separated, ideological confusion has spilled over into domestic politics. Even ideas as basic to modern politics as Left and Right are undergoing redefinition.