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Best of Buddies; Review of Anatoly Dobrynin's In Confidence

Best of Buddies; Review of Anatoly Dobrynin's In Confidence

Review

From the issue

Best of Buddies; Review of Anatoly Dobrynin's In Confidence (Random House, 1995)

Washington has lived by leaks and rumors for a very long time, but until the collapse of communism there was one person in town with whom it was always safe to let your hair down. During his quarter-century tenure as Soviet ambassador, you could tell Anatoly Dobrynin whatever you wanted about your superiors, about American foreign policy, or about America itself, without fear that the Washington Post would get wind of your indiscretions. "One good thing I know about you", Richard Nixon told him, "there has not been a single leak."

Other Americans were equally confident that the Soviet system would keep their secrets. What else but such trust would have led Brent Scowcroft, as President Ford's National Security Adviser, to apologize to Dobrynin when his boss publicly endorsed the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate? Or Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to welcome an abusive letter from Leonid Brezhnev, in hopes that it might encourage Jimmy Carter to reconsider his approach in the strategic arms talks? Or Senator Ted Kennedy to complain to Dobrynin that Moscow's disgracefully mild handling of Ronald Reagan was weakening the anti-nuclear movement, and with it the Democratic party?

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Churchill's Realism: Reflections on the Fulton Speech

From the issue

Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech, delivered in the gymnasium
of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946, is one
of the two or three most significant speeches of the twentieth
century. It was made at a pregnant moment in history, as America's
wartime alliance with Soviet Russia was giving way to Cold War.
Churchill's carefully wrought words bespoke a half century of study
and observation of international politics, and an underlying
philosophy whose roots can be traced to major political thinkers of
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The speech is remembered today as a seminal pronouncement on behalf
of the Atlantic solidarity and clearheaded realism that ultimately
carried the West to victory in the Cold War. What is less remembered
is that at the time the address brought down on Churchill a torrent
of controversy. Much of the criticism directed toward him had its
roots in philosophic assumptions at odds with Churchill's, ones that
took it as self-evident that a thorough-going transformation of the
state system was both possible and desirable. Churchill thought
otherwise.

Interest in this controversy from the chair of hindsight fifty years
later is not merely academic, for the main issues discussed by
Churchill--the role of the United Nations in what many hoped would be
a new world order, control of new weapons of mass destruction, the
efficacy of military power and alliances in ensuring peace--animate
debate in our post-Cold War world no less than they did at the dawn
of that age.

The "Iron Curtain" Speech

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Banking on Union?

From the issue

There has recently been sharp debate about that centerpiece of European Union (EU) planning, the European Monetary Union (EMU). In the run-up to the 1996 conference to review the EU's Maastricht Treaty--and leaving aside those who dislike the entire enterprise--three major schools of thought have emerged. One holds that not only a common market but even monetary union can be had without political unity. Monetary union, it is maintained, is a technical issue, designed to do away with exchange rate fluctuations, transaction costs for business, and other uncertainties. A new and independent European central bank could run such a regime, as independent central banks in Germany and the United States have done for decades, leaving political roles, including the management of national fiscal policies, unaffected.

Another view--strongly held, for instance, by Chancellor Kohl and in France--is that EMU is desirable for overriding political reasons, irrespective of formal political union. Once achieved, it will in any case promote further integration.

The third view--insisted on by the German Bundesbank--holds that if EMU is to succeed it must be accompanied by political union.

Two clusters of issues are involved here. One concerns the nature of the central bank and its independence, another the more technical issues of monetary management.

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Chirac: Beyond Gaullism?

From the issue

The annual G-7 economic summits have been justly described as photo
opportunities in which anything except economics may be discussed.
The Halifax Summit of June 1995 was no exception, the sherpas having
gotten their masters to agree on the economic communiqué even before
they arrived at the mountain. But a singular photo-op at Halifax
captured something new: the collective leadership of the West crowded
about a tall commanding figure reading a message on the Bosnian
crisis. That figure was not President Clinton. He stood respectfully
behind the man enthusiastically holding center stage--the new French
president, Jacques Chirac.

It was a Gaullist dream come true. A timid Germany, a less-than-timid
Britain, a faltering Japan, and a seriously distressed Italy were
joined by a weak Russia. Above all, there was Bill Clinton, the
American "domestic" president, hobbled by a hostile Congress and an
erratic foreign policy. Chirac seized his opportunity, and
international leadership spoke with a French accent for the first
time since de Gaulle himself departed the scene nearly thirty years
before.

The hugely popular newly-elected president of the world's
fourth-largest economy, Jacques Chirac was also the leader of the
Gaullist party. Six months before, as mayor of Paris, he had been
considered a long shot to win France's highest office. Savoring his
unexpected triumph, he began even before the summit with a piece of
Gaullist haughtiness, defying world opinion by scheduling a round of
French nuclear tests. Now, using the Halifax meeting as a launch pad,
he promptly disconcerted the Russians, the Americans, and the British
by declaring a new policy in Bosnia: get tough or get out. He wanted
to avoid a Munich, he said. As for the leadership of the West, he
told a reporter, there was no such leadership.

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The Limits of Trust

The Limits of Trust

Review

From the issue

Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (Free Press, 1995).

One of the standard put-downs of economists maintains that "about half of what economists say is right--the trouble is they don't know which half." In the same vein, Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson, with a mixture of derision and contrition, has observed that "economists have correctly predicted seven of the last four economic recessions." In Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, Francis Fukuyama is, ostensibly at least, more generous, conceding that neoclassical economics is "80 percent correct." The "missing 20 percent of human behavior" is the concern of his provocative, insightful, and deftly-written book.

The central thesis of Trust can be summarized in the following syllogism:

Premise I: High economic performance--i.e. the "creation of prosperity" (and sustaining it)--is substantially helped by large, private economic organizations.

Premise II: The establishment and progress of large economic organizations (e.g. corporate giants such as IMB, AT&T, Toyota, General Motors, Mitsubishi, Siemens, and Daimler-Benz) is substantially helped by what Fukuyama variously refers to as "social capital," "spontaneous sociability," and "trust."

Conclusion: Therefore, high economic performance is substantially advanced by the prevalence of social capital, trust, and cultural values that sustains these qualities.

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Foreign Policy by Posse

From the issue

There is increasing consideration of (and, in some quarters, consternation about) what might be dubbed "the new unilateralism," the practice of the United States going it alone in the world. It merits attention. The 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama was a unilateral exercise, as for all intents and purposes were the interventions in Grenada and Haiti (at least in its initial phase). Sanctions against Cuba have become a mostly unilateral endeavor, as have those against Iran. The United States broke rank over nato's enforcement of the Bosnian arms embargo, and Congress has tried to effect an unilateral abrogation of the embargo itself. Meanwhile, despite membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Clinton administration chose to confront Japan unilaterally, and again to threaten sanctions, over the marketing of automobiles and their parts.

The list could go on and no doubt will. Explaining why acting alone is as popular as it is in the United States is not all that hard, given the obvious advantages. It is much easier to act without having to gain the consent of others. No compromise is necessary and there is no one to slow you down. It is easier to keep secrets secret. And unilateralism has always been attractive to a people suspicious of the old world and wanting a free hand in dealing with matters closer to home.

Two features of the post-Cold War international environment-less automatic resistance from great power adversaries and less dependable assistance from erstwhile allies-also strengthen the temptation, and at times create the necessity, to act alone. The unilateralist impulse was strengthened further by both Somalia and Bosnia, two multilateral undertakings widely perceived as failures.

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The CIA Vindicated: The Soviet Collapse Was Predicted

From the issue

"The CIA failed in its single, overriding defining mission, which was
to chart the course of Soviet affairs."
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan,
Quoted by Bill Gertz, Washington Times, May 21, 1992.

"The CIA [has] come under legitimate attack from President Clinton
for failing to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union."
--Morton
Kondracke, Washington Times, April 26, 1995.

"The CIA itself did not make much difference in the ultimate outcome
of the cold war. Its analysts misjudged almost every major
development in the post-World War II world, including the most
spectacular misjudgment of all--the flat-out failure to predict the
collapse of the Soviet Union."
--David Wise, Nightmover: How Aldrich
Ames Sold the CIA to the KGB for $4.6 Million (1995).

"Has any government department goofed up more than the Central
Intelligence Agency?... Their most egregious and expensive blunder
about the Soviet economy we are still paying for."
--Mary McGrory,
Washington Post, March 14, 1995.

"Never has so much money been allocated to study one country; never
have so many academic and government specialists scrutinized every
aspect of a country's life. . . . Yet when the end came, the experts
found themselves utterly unprepared."
--Richard Pipes, Foreign
Affairs (January/ February 1995).

"The CIA failed to alert the President and Congress about the
inexorable Soviet collapse. The present DCI, in his starched white
outfit wishing it all away, is in a curious state of institutional
denial."
--William Safire, New York Times, April 6, 1995.

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The Price of Information

From the issue

Many economists, business analysts and especially people in the communications industries are in a state of euphoria about globalization. While this is obviously a feature of the times, parts of the business press give the impression that a single world market is a foregone conclusion, indeed virtually exists already. Analysts are urging that competition for capital will steer governments to provide the conditions that international business wants, like some giant, spontaneous traffic-calming device. The certain near-term victory of this process is too readily assumed, reflecting the fact that economists and business commentators tend to fix their attention on the more mobile factors. Political commentators, on the other hand--particularly those of a "realist" disposition--are more likely to emphasize the less mobile ones. While both perceptions pick up aspects of reality, it is not hard to see that the two must be brought together, since the tensions between them are what cause conflict and, so to speak, sell newspapers.

There are three profound systemic movements now working at the global level. The common element among them is the rapid cheapening of information. This, though speeding economic, political, and social changes of disparate kinds in societies throughout the world, is paradoxically exacting a price in many unexpected ways.

The first process is a speeded-up circulation of factors of production. Great uncertainty is being created by competition to attract and retain industries, especially those using advanced technology.

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'If Men Were Angels. . . ' : Reflections on the World of Eric Hobsbawm

'If Men Were Angels. . . ' : Reflections on the World of Eric Hobsbawm

Review

From the issue

As the twentieth century draws to its end, we can expect a parade of books that will purport to tell us its meaning. The last fin de siècle was rich in artistic innovation; this one is more likely to be rich in historical reflection.

But in a certain sense the twentieth century has already ended. It did so half a decade ago. Historians for quite some time have seen the nineteenth century as really lasting from 1789 (the beginning of the French Revolution) to 1914 (the beginning of the First World War), and they have accordingly termed it "the long nineteenth century." So too, historians have recently begun to see the twentieth century as lasting from 1914 to 1989 (the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe) or to 1991 (the end of the Soviet Union), what Eric Hobsbawm in his new book calls "the short twentieth century." As it happens, the two historical centuries--the long nineteenth and the short twentieth--add up neatly to two conventional centuries.

Hobsbawm is an obvious candidate to be the premier historian of the short twentieth century. He has already written a long (three volumes, 1300 pages) history of the long nineteenth century, and he intends this volume on the short twentieth century to be the fourth and concluding volume in a series. He has also written a dozen other major books that deal with basic themes of the two centuries--industrialization, labor movements, revolutionary politics, and even jazz music. He is widely recognized as the most distinguished British historian of a Marxist persuasion.

Hobsbawm's own life began in 1917, soon after the beginning of the short century. While his book is indeed, as its subtitle states, a history of the world, it is also in a sense a biography of Eric Hobsbawm. Both the strengths and the weaknesses--the extremes as it were--of The Age of Extremes, are a result of Hobsbawm's combination, and at times confusion, of the two.

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April 18, 2014