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Western Press Review: Has Uncle Sam's Long Arm Reached Too Far?

  • Don Hill

Prague, 24 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The English word "hegemony" comes down from Greek. It usually is applied to international relations and is used to mean anything from benign influence to arrogant dominance. Some Western press commentary today examines the varied face of U.S. world hegemony.

WASHINGTON POST: The growing chorus of anti-hegemony and multipolarity is playing a dangerous game.

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, asks in a commentary in today's Washington Post, if not the United States, who? Kagan writes: "Five years ago Harvard academic Samuel Huntington warned that a world without U.S. primacy would be a world' with more violence and disorder and less democracy and economic growth than a world where the United States continues to have more influence than any other country shaping global affairs.' He was right, of course."

Kagan says other nations avoid the costs of world leadership: "No nation has shown a willingness to take on equal responsibilities for managing global crises. No nation has been willing to make the same kinds of short-term sacrifices that the United States has been willing to make in the long-term interest of preserving global order. No nation, except China, has been willing to spend the money to acquire the military power necessary for playing a greater role relative to the United States -- and China's military buildup has not exactly been viewed by its neighbors as creating a more harmonious environment."

"Consequently," the writer says, "those contributing to the growing chorus of anti-hegemony and multipolarity are playing a dangerous game. The problem is not merely that some of these nations are giving themselves a free ride on the back of American power, benefiting from the international order that American hegemony undergirds, while at the same time puncturing little holes in it for short-term advantage. The more serious danger is that this behavior is already eroding the sum total of power that can be applied to protecting the international order altogether."

Kagan concludes: "It might be easier to dismiss all this foreign grumbling about American hegemony were it not for the stirring of neo-isolationism in the United States today -- a mood that nicely complements the view that America is meddling too much in everyone else's business. Perhaps the most profound threat is that Americans will heed this criticism and forget just how important continued U.S. dominance is to the preservation of a reasonable level of international security and prosperity."

GUARDIAN: The two presidents have now defined a new and more ample purpose

U.S. President Bill Clinton leaves today for China. The Guardian, London, notes editorially that the trip comes "only two years after the United States and China came close to conflict during the Taiwan Straits crisis," and adds, "Now he is close to embracing President Jiang Zemin."

The Guardian says: "Many Chinese leaders continued (at that time) to be wary of U.S. hegemony; many Americans still regarded Japan as a more dependable force in the Far East."

It says: "The two presidents have now defined a new and more ample purpose: to build a 'constructive and strategic partnership,' between the two countries for the 21st century. Both perceive a community of interest between the world's most powerful country and the world's most populous one." The Guardian contends: "The vision of a U.S.-Chinese partnership, especially in an economic sense, goes back over the past century. Other Western countries sought spheres of influence' the United States pressed for an 'open door.' Mr. Clinton speaks fervently of China's growth and he is going there to open the door even wider."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: Of long-term importance for the Sino-American relationship is the clarity with which Clinton voices criticisms

Commentator Harald Maass in Beijing writes today in the Frankfurter Rundschau that Clinton should dare to speak bluntly to the Chinese leadership. Says Maass: "The state visit to China that Bill Clinton begins tomorrow could be the most difficult of his presidency, and not only because of the full itinerary which will see him visiting five cities across the country in nine days."

The commentator writes: "Clinton arrives in China knowing he has room for negotiation with his hosts, and has insisted that while in Beijing he will pull no punches in making U.S. displeasure on a number of issues clear to Chinese leaders. He has promised to speak up for political dissidents and the people of Tibet, while outlining disapproval of the mainland's sometimes threatening approach toward Taiwan. Of much more long-term importance for the Sino-American relationship than (a) brief appearance on Tiananmen Square will be the clarity with which Clinton voices these criticisms to his hosts."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Clinton should press NATO to impose immediately a no-fly zone over Kosovo

Commentator Susan Blaustein writes today in the Los Angeles Times that President Clinton must assert U.S. power in Kosovo. Blaustein contends: "Once again, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has bought time with promises he is unlikely to keep." She says: "The international community, like its adversary, (also) is buying time." She writes: "The Clinton administration has made noises about acting alone if necessary, but nobody believes it will -- certainly not Milosevic, who knows an idle threat when he hears one."

Blaustein says: "Pentagon strategists, still committed to the Colin L. Powell doctrine of 'clear mission, overwhelming force,' have ordained that any NATO action in Yugoslavia must be preceded by the complete destruction of Milosevic's 60 surface-to-air missile sites and 241 combat aircraft. But the history of the Bosnian conflict suggests that massive force may be unnecessary. In late summer 1995, after months of equivocating and a few, apologetic 'pinprick' strikes, it took relatively limited NATO firepower to force Milosevic to back down."

She writes: "The president must state clearly that, this time, Milosevic has gone too far. (Clinton) should press NATO to impose immediately a no-fly zone over Kosovo and to shoot down anything that flies. It is too late for preventive deployment along Kosovo's Albanian and Macedonian borders to try to contain the conflict; instead, NATO should answer any continued violence by wiping out, as the Pentagon has advised, some of Milosevic's air-defense capability and launching a series of sustained air strikes against key Yugoslav military and secret police installations -- first inside Kosovo, then progressively northward into Serbia proper -- until Milosevic orders his troops out of Kosovo."

TRIBUNE DE GENEVE: China deserves to be treated seriously

In the Swiss daily, Tribune de Geneve, commentator Andre Naef writes today that Clinton attitude toward China is governed by cold, practical politics. Naef writes: "'The moment had arrived when we had judged that China deserved to be treated seriously and that it should not stay only in the exclusive domain of human rights defenders and supporters of the Dalai Lama.' It was a close aide of Bill Clinton who delivered this analysis marked by cold realism. (It came) six years after (Clinton) decried the pusillanimity of Bush (towards China and) two years after he risked a confrontation with the Chinese navy over Taiwan." Naef continues, "Here then is the time of realpolitik. (This kind of) politics has already born its first fruits: note the discreet but positive role held by China during the crisis of Indo-Pakistani nuclear testing."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: It is high time that the appearance of right-wing thugs is viewed as politically dangerous

On another tack today, German commentator Annette Ramelsberger in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung warns the world not to dismiss lightly Nazi-style soccer hooligans. She writes: "Those who give the salute know how their opponents will react: some will be shocked, while others' blood will boil. It is a gesture which goes directly to the point where anger and the reflex to hit out reside. The Hitler salute and the swastika are ritually used to stir up aggression. Often divorced from their political significance, they are a favored means of provoking a quick, cheap, and certain reaction." Ramelsberger says: "Security experts suggest that many young people do not even realize what they are expressing with the salute. This explanation is at first comforting. The hooligans causing mayhem in France with their raised right arms are just stupid; thank God they are not political as well! But is such an explanation valid when the 450 Germans who marched through a small French town giving their salutes were - as the French police prefect has confirmed -- perfectly organized and equipped with cellular telephones? When they have planned the escalation with the determination and cool calculation of generals?"

She comments: "It is high time that the appearance of right-wing thugs, right-wing fans and right-wing strategists is not merely viewed as a gathering of German soccer stupidity which is not politically dangerous. Otherwise the stupid, fascist youths will end up marching right through Europe -- and everyone will say they never saw it coming."