The World Clinton Faces

January 04, 1993

President-elect Clinton faces a world that in 1993 is:

Shrinking. By the Concorde, deep-dish television reception, by satellite telephone circuits, fax. No place is remote. The United .. States is in Somalia in part because the images of the starving were in American living rooms every day.

Consolidating. Only recently, large blocs of nations were the coming thing. Even the United States seemed not large enough to face a single Europe, now taking effect. Hence the move to turn North America into a trading bloc, wedding Mexican labor to U.S. capital. Several countries of different language but Islamic religion are cooperating in nuclear research, in quest of the elusive "Islamic bomb." Yet now the Europeans are less sure of their unity, slowing their pace.

Disintegrating. As Yugoslavia breaks up into warring ethnicities, so on a vast scale might the former Soviet Union. Czechoslovakia's breakup, at least, is amicable. If Russia can hold together, it will remain an enormous presence in Europe, the Middle East and Asia -- a superpower. With African countries plagued by colonial borders, the ethnic strife of Sudan and South Africa are not hard to understand. Yet homogenous Somalia is the worst off, reverting to what it was before colonialism.

Changing. In the Cold War, Japan was the client of the United States for protection. With the security relationship no longer relevant, their commercial rivalry rises in their concerns. Sometimes a new rationale can be found for an old relationship: Turkey no longer contains Soviet aggression for us, but counter-balances Islamic fundamentalism.

Overrunning. Human population is out of control, disturbing the balance of nature, with species disappearing, the ozone hole growing, clean air and water receding. Population is receding only in places of universal middle class comfort or of rampant AIDS, a war between humans and virus for control of the planet.

Reverting. Anti-modernism takes many forms, all based on nostalgia for a supposedly glorious past. Serbian nationalism is hell-bent to reverse the 1389 Battle of Kosovo. Intolerant versions of Islam abound, one threatening to seize Algeria from its military-Franco-socialist elite, others ruling in Iran and looming elsewhere.

Arming. The end of the Cold War left many nations with few assets save weapons stockpiles and production. With the U.S. and Russia on the brink of arms reduction, the danger of nuclear weapons in the hands of seventh, eighth and ninth powers and terrorists is greater than ever.

* * * Somalia and Bosnia and Iraq may be mere examples of what the United States will face in years to come from countries not yet discerned. What Washington does or does not do with each this year is important above all as precedent.

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