Thursday, November 04, 2004

Multilateralism by any other name...
Henry Kissinger, writing for Newsweek on the contours of the emerging post-Westphalia security environment, argues for multilateralism both in Iraq and North Korea, albeit in not so many words, which is understandable since multilateralism (or internationalization in Kissinger's more euphemistic terms) has been associated with both girlie men and cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Here's what he has to say:

Meaningful internationalization requires a focus other than security and the participation of countries other than—or in addition to—NATO. After the January elections, an international contact group, under U.N. auspices, to advise on Iraq's political evolution is therefore desirable. Logical members would be countries that have experience with militant Islam and much to lose by the radicalization of Iraq—countries such as India, Turkey, Russia, Algeria, in addition to the United States and Britain. This is not an abdication to consensus. The United States, by virtue of its military presence and financial role, would retain the leading position. The issue of military contribution by other nations, including NATO, can be raised again at a later stage in a more favorable political environment as a means to protect the governmental process.

Also in the same essay, Kissinger says that the rise of China as a potential superpower eclipsing the United States is an event of greater historical significance than the unification of Germany a century ago since it shifts the center of gravity of world affairs from the Atlantic to the Pacific:

To be sure, China is unlikely to rely on military power as its principal instrument to achieve international status. For one thing, China's leaders are (or at least have been) more careful, more deliberate, more prone to accumulate advantages by nuance than the impetuous German leaders after Bismarck's retirement. More importantly, with modern technology war between major powers is an absolutely last resort, not a political option. America should maintain its traditional opposition to hegemonial aspirations over Asia. But the long-term relationship with China should not be driven by expectations of a strategic showdown. China will not conduct as imprudent a policy as the Soviet Union, which threatened all its neighbors simultaneously and challenged the United States to a contest of survival. The special case of Taiwan aside, it will seek influence commensurate with its growth by diplomatic and political means.

How can we be sure that China will be, in diplomatese, a status quo power, as Kissinger believes it willl be? How will the Chinese play the diplomacy game in the future? Kissinger says the Chinese are neiji players, not chess players like the West:

Chess has only two outcomes: draw and checkmate. The objective of the game is absolute advantage—that is to say, its outcome is total victory or defeat—and the battle is conducted head-on, in the center of the board. The aim of go is relative advantage; the game is played all over the board, and the objective is to increase one's options and reduce those of the adversary. The goal is less victory than persistent strategic progress.

I myself wouldn't bet on this board analogy. The crouching tiger may want to play go today, but the leaping tiger may aspire to play chess tomorrow. You never know.

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