Welcome to the New World Order

DANIEL BERGER

February 27, 1993|By DANIEL BERGER

Bosnian Muslim and Serb leaders agree that token U.S. bombing of Muslim villages with food and medicine will suck the United States into their war. President Clinton must disagree, or he would not be contemplating it.

The trouble with intervention in Bosnia as in Somalia is that the world presents too many opportunities for its replication.

In Sudan, a northern government of lighter-skinned Islamic fundamentalists is starving and killing black-skinned Christians in the south.

The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan involves willful starvation, slaughter of civilians and unspeakable savagery.

The former war in Afghanistan is being repeated north of the border in Tajikistan. An Islamic fundamentalist guerrilla force in the hills pounds away at the Communist army in the cities.

In Zaire, a rogue dictator whom the United States propped up has fled his capital and made war on his people. The U.S., Belgium and France politely asked him to step down, but he didn't hear.

In Angola and in Mozambique, old civil wars settled on paper rage on, despite the disappearance of the aid that kept the rebels going.

In Cambodia, nostalgia for the 1970s has brought back fighting between a revived Khmer Rouge and Vietnam-backed forces trying to impose national reconciliation.

In Liberia, a home-grown warlord is fighting an intervention force from neighboring states, destroying the infrastructure and the people.

Welcome to the New World Order. President Bush heralded its arrival, but President Clinton is going to have to recognize it for the anarchy, brutality and greed that it is.

Most of these agonies could be ended by the U.S. picking the stronger side and helping it prevail. That would not bring justice or decency, just an end to anarchy.

The U.S. is not good at this kind of intervention. In the Iran-Irawar, it did the opposite, tilting always toward the loser to prolong the agony.

A case can be made that the U.S. should send troops to beat the Khmer Rouge, pick a warlord to rule Somalia, invade Liberia, replace our man in Zaire, defend the Muslims against the Christians of Serbia, defend the Christians against the Muslims of Sudan.

Such actions are unthinkable for a U.S. government. Were they JTC feasible, however, they would deter anarchy and atrocity, which is more than can be said for what the U.S. will do.

In the new world order, the ability of the United States tintervene is limited, even where intervention is emotionally compelling. The administration will have to perform triage, like a physician in a catastrophe, deciding what intervention can be afforded and effective and where resources should not be wasted.

That would not be a satisfying state of affairs. But there is another possible approach. It is through the United Nations. The U.N. is nothing more than a collection of members, a sum of parts. It can muster world opinion, apportion resources to problems and infringe sovereignties where needed. But only when the veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council agree.

Historically, they could not. Now they sometimes can, becausChina and Russia are supplicants rather than obstructers. If Japan would earn a a veto, action would become even more difficult.

Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali stepped into this vacuum with policy pronouncements. He is not one of the great powers; he just says what must be said.

It will take unity of the powers to impose some kind of order or decency on countries that hardly exist. Some people call this colonialism.

The decade ahead is not susceptible to accurate forecast. But the world will differ from what it was the past half-century. U.S. foreign policy must be made in a new conceptual framework.

This calls for intellectual vigor in the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, the CIA and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Meanwhile, President Clinton does not even have his team picked. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin is not running on all cylinders. Secretary of State Warren Christopher is plunging into Middle East diplomacy. Mr. Clinton and his generals are out of sync. The president gives priority to the domestic economy and health care.

World deterioration won't wait. But it will run its course longer before the U.S. government can properly think about it, much less craft a policy to cope with it.

Daniel Berger writes editorials for The Baltimore Sun.

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