Responses: Martin Peretz

Responses: Martin Peretz

Stanley Hoffmann seems to believe that the United States cannot and really should not behave as the singular great power that it is. He offers as an alternative full American membership in “a kind of world steering committee” of various regional and global powers that would regulate their own behavior and make rules as to the permissible behavior of others. There is a sleight-of-hand in this proposal in that it equates the palpable capabilities of the United States with the capabilities of lesser states. But there are no other global powers, even though France sent its epaulets and berets into Rwanda and the Russians still serve as the putative co-conveners of the Middle East peace talks.

Hoffmann is especially concerned to strengthen the hands of the Russian government whose authority is already unclear within its own (unclear) borders. In this he agrees with Strobe Talbott: Moscow is to be propitiated at almost all costs. Let’s be concrete: this means we will let Yeltsin have his way in NagornoKarabakh, Georgia, Moldova, and perhaps in the Baltics, as well, because otherwise, we fear, he will fall to his enemies. Both Talbott and Hoffmann hanker for the structural clarity of the cold war, which put its obvious constraints on Washington, and they would prop Russia up to simulate the old equilibrium. But a simulation it will remain. Many of the old constraints—and possibly all—no longer obtain. If, for example, the United States wanted to lift the arms embargo against Bosnia, it could. Yeltsin will not, in retribution, send his troops to Serbia even if he would wish to; and if he were to do that, the non-violent price extracted by our government would be devastating. If the generals ultimately take control, or the old communists, they take control of stubborn chaos. This utter imbalance is a new experience. Getting used to it will take time. But it is a fact.

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Wurgraft | University of California Press Lima