AMERICA IN THE THIRD WORLD: STRATEGIC ALTERNATIVES AND MILITARY IMPLICATIONS
by Steven Metz
May 20, 1994
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The author would like to thank James Kievit, Earl Tilford, and William Barry of the Army War College, and Grant Hammond of the Air War College for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this study.
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The U.S. Government is very much aware of the current crises afflicting the Third World. All of these severe problems need to be effectively addressed through informed policy decisions. Because of this mandate, policymakers, defense professionals, and strategic thinkers are debating questions about the Third World as they strive to develop appropriate American strategies for the future.
In this study, the author examines the problems of the Third World and the debates that exist regarding the most effective U.S. response to these problems. He has concluded that the Third World is undergoing such significant change that most of the basic assumptions undergirding past and current U.S. policy are no longer viable. He urges a fundamental and radical revision of our national strategy toward the Third World, and recommends a future strategy that would see far more selective and discrete involvement in these staggering problems.
If our national leaders accept his theories concerning failed states, they will be less inclined to attempt active intervention on a scale that approximates the current level of U.S. involvement. The United States will, in effect, disengage from large segments of the Third World, with only carefully selected humanitarian or ecological relief operations being executed. Such a strategy would, of course, have profound implications for the U.S. military and would require adjustments in force structure and operational directives concerning the application of military power in pursuit of national interests.
During times of strategic transition, "muddling through" is not enough: basic concepts must be rigorously examined and debated. The Strategic Studies Institute sees this study as a means of supporting the process of developing a coherent post-cold war strategy for dealing with the Third World as it will be, not as it was.
JOHN W. MOUNTCASTLE
Colonel, U.S. Army Director,
Strategic Studies Institute
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE AUTHOR
STEVEN METZ is Associate Research Professor of National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College. His specialties are transregional security issues and military operations other than war. Dr. Metz has taught at the Air War College, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and several universities. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in international studies from the University of South Carolina, and a Ph.D. in political science from the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Metz is the author of many monographs and articles on world politics, military strategy, and national security policy.
Since the end of the cold war, the Third World has moved from the periphery to the center of American national security strategy. As the basic assumptions of past strategy become obsolete, debate rages over future U.S. strategy in the Third World. The outcome of this will have immense implications for the military.
Debate in Three Dimensions.
The current debate over U.S. strategy in the Third World takes three dimensions:
• Debate over the extent of American involvement in the Third World (isolationism versus engagement);
• Debate over the basic philosophy of American engagement (idealism versus realism); and
• Debate over the form of American engagement (unilateralism versus multilateralism).
Future strategy will be shaped by the outcome of these debates. The Changing Face of Security.
To make sense, future American strategy must be based on trends in the Third World. Current trends point toward a grim future characterized by:
• A reversal of the recent trend toward democracy;
• Instability, ungovernability, and, in some cases, anarchy;
• Economic stagnation and ecological decay;
• Primalism; and,
• The increasing importance of new security threats and new types of forces to confront them.
The Third World itself will split into a "third tier" of violent, ungovernable regions and a "second tier" which faces severe security problems but will be able to preserve some degree of stability. In the third tier, the extreme of ungovernability will be "failed states" with a total breakdown of order and civil administration, but many other states will see ungovernability ebb and flow, with parts of their territory permanently beyond government control.
A Strategy for the Future.
To meet the challenges of this new security environment, U.S. strategy for the Third World must be modified. A primary feature should be substantial disengagement, especially from the volatile third tier. We should promote human rights, but with modest expectations. Ecological sanity will also become an important objective. Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will affect nearly all strategic decisions.
Over the next 10 years, the chance of major American involvement in sustained land warfare in the Third World will drop to near zero. The most likely opponents will be gray area organizations, primal militias, warlord armies, and, for the short term, unstable "backlash states." To meet these future threats, the U.S. military must be able to perform both offensive and defensive missions. Offensive missions will include:
• Humanitarian and ecological relief and intervention;
• Strikes to punish enemies or enforce international actions; and,
• Traditional special operations.
Defense missions will include:
• Immigration control;
• Force protection during ecological and humanitarian missions; and,
• Strategic defense against weapons of mass destruction.
The dominant branches of the future U.S. Army will be Special Operations Forces, Military Police, Military Intelligence, Aviation, and Air Defense Artillery.
For the next decade, the Third World security situation is likely to undergo phased transition. Initially nation-states will still remain the most important political units and backlash states with large conventional militaries will pose the greatest danger. As a result, the conventionally-configured U.S. military will remain important. Eventually the Third World will enter a new phase. The third tier will disintegrate into ungovernability while nation-states and conventional militaries decline in significance. At that point, the primary forms of security forces will be militias, private armies, armed corporations. In preparation, U.S. forces should undergo substantial strategic disengagement. When our involvement is necessary for humanitarian and ecological relief, we can only be effective if we have undertaken a radical restructuring of our security forces. This includes not only reorganization and changed emphasis within the military, but also alterations of the fundamental relationship of the U.S. military and the nonmilitary elements of our security and intelligence forces.
AMERICA IN THE THIRD WORLD: STRATEGIC ALTERNATIVES AND MILITARY IMPLICATIONS
With the end of the cold war, the Third World became the centerpiece of American national security strategy. Europe remains important, but the thorniest security issues--U.N. peace operations, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, North Korea, proliferation--are Third World problems. "Major regional conflicts" in the Third World have become the basic conceptual building block of U.S. military strategy. 1 Unfortunately, though, the elevation of the Third World from the periphery to the center of U.S. national security strategy has not yet stoked a fundamental reexamination of the way we understand this part of the world. Today we face new problems armed with old ideas.
In a sense, it is difficult to consider the Third World a single entity. Certainly every Third World problem is enmeshed in a web of particulars. In Bosnia, for instance, policymakers must consider a thousand years of ethnic conflict, the legacy of World War II, the sensitivities of friendly Islamic states, and the debate over the future of NATO. Somalia is, perhaps, even more complex. A bewildering pattern of clan relations is blended with the residue of superpower competition and then combined with questions concerning the reconstruction of "failed states" and charges by African-American leaders that the United States historically ignores Africa. The list goes on: every real or potential problem, every conflict, is unique.
Faced with this complexity, it is easy to take an astrategic approach to the Third World, focus on particulars, sink into issue-relativism, and conclude that nothing learned in one region applies to another. But to do so is dangerous. The result is a garbled and incoherent policy unable to garner adequate domestic support. Without losing sight of particulars, the United States must approach the diverse parts of the Third World with a workable set of concepts, assumptions, values, techniques, and parameters, all forming the common language used by policymakers and the public to debate alternative approaches to specific issues. We need, in other words, a coherent strategy for the Third World, however broad and general.
Today, it is almost banal to note that every dimension of our national security strategy requires rethinking. But as a torrent of global change washed away old strategic assumptions, the Third World was largely ignored. This is understandable: other issues had to be confronted first. But the fact remains that most foreign policy crises since World War II have originated in the Third World.2 To the extent that our strategy in the Third World has been analyzed at all, policymakers, political leaders, defense professionals, and strategic analysts have assumed that most of our past strategy remains valid. All that is needed is adjustment--perhaps a little disengagement in particular regions, or a diminution of security assistance. Such tweaking of past strategy, however, is inadequate. The pace of change in the Third World is electric, the effect revolutionary. Our strategy must reflect this. What is needed, then, is strategic entrepreneurship to transcend old ideas or, at least, set the stage for transcendence. Future U.S. strategy in the Third World must incorporate emerging concepts such as ecological security, gray area threats, and primalism. For the U.S. military, the implications of such new ideas are immense.
Debate in Three Dimensions.
The evolution of American foreign policy and national security strategy has always followed a distinctly dialectical pattern. Debate on key concepts or issues leads to a loose consensus which then shapes day-to-day policy. This consensus determines not only how "in-basket" problems are handled, but what sorts of problems enter the in-basket. At some point, change in the global security environment or in domestic politics undercuts the consensus and sparks new debate. Eventually, a new consensus emerges. Today, the cold war consensus that guided American strategy in the Third World is shaken. Debate is raging in three dimensions, all reflecting disagreements with deep roots in our history. The eventual outcome--the new consensus--will form the foundation of our future national security and military strategy.
The first dimension of debate concerns the extent of American involvement in the world. The extreme positions are represented by isolationism and globalism. Until the 20th century, the United States followed a form of isolationism based on avoiding the political struggles of the European powers. The rationale for this was both philosophical and practical. Isolationism reflected the perception of American "specialness." We were a representative democracy based on open discussion of political issues and rule by the majority. Traditional statecraft, by contrast, was a game played by aristocratic elites. Its folkways were subterfuge and secrecy, its practice amoral. Beginning at least with Thomas Jefferson, many Americans believed that this moral superiority justified isolationism.3 Since conflict, according to this argument, invariably settles at the ethical level of the more unscrupulous antagonist, to become involved in European statecraft would embroil us in its Machiavellianism. At the same time, isolationism also had a more practical motive. Taking sides would alienate potential customers for our exports and require increased military spending. This final point was particularly worrisome: to most Americans, large standing armies seemed incompatible with representative democracy.
By the end of the 19th century, the consensus undergirding isolationism was eroding. Economics was the driving force. Facing a serious and sustained economic depression in the 1890s, American business and political leaders concluded that prosperity was contingent on access to overseas markets. Continued isolationism might allow the Europeans to carve the entire world into colonial empires and exclude or greatly curtail American exports. This would pose a danger not only to our economy, but also to our political system. Economic slumps always spawned political radicalism. Toward the end of the 19th century, this took a new, dangerous form as European immigrants brought socialism to the United States. The apparent solution was a more active foreign policy aimed at protecting access to overseas markets. This desire to nurture American business led us to acquire our own colonial empire and militarily intervene in the Caribbean, Central America, and Asia, thus establishing a tradition that eventually shaped our Third World strategy.
World War I was a major blow to isolationism--a "shove from Mars" in Selig Adler's phrase.4 The Second World War applied the coup de grace and most Americans concluded that only regular and extensive U.S. involvement in great power politics could prevent major conflict. In addition, most Americans believed the United States had a moral destiny to shape global politics.5 The result was abandonment of isolationism and, eventually, the embrace of global activism. As John Kennedy committed the United States to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe," Americans assumed an interest in every corner of the world. The Vietnam War and the economic problems of the 1970s tempered globalism, but our strategists continued to find national interests in places like Angola and Afghanistan that 19th century American leaders had probably never heard of.
During the cold war, U.S. foreign and national security policy was never purely isolationist or globalist, but reflected a shifting balance between the two. Today, the appropriate mix is again the subject of debate.6 For the first time since World War II, isolationism is receiving serious support. In fact, Alan Tonelson argues that debate between internationalists and a new breed of isolationists he calls "minimalists" will dominate the foreign policy agenda during the coming years.7 Minimalists range from populist politicians such as Ross Perot and Patrick J. Buchanan to foreign policy analysts such as Ted Galen Carpenter.8 Underlying their thinking is the belief that the Soviet threat forced a degree of insolvency on American strategy as commitments exceeded resources. Today the demise of the Soviet threat allows a diminution of commitments and a return to solvency.9 One important subcategory of minimalists supports U.S. engagement in Europe and the developed parts of Asia, but sees little rationale for extensive involvement in the Third World. Stephen Van Evera and Benjamin C. Schwarz represent this school.10 Internationalism is advocated by most of the traditional foreign policy elite, including President Clinton, most of Congress, and much of the media. In response to Van Evera and other critics of U.S. engagement in the Third World, writers such as Steven David contend that the United States does have serious (if not vital) interests which must be actively promoted.11 Some analysts believe that the world is moving toward division into great trading blocs, with the European Community destined to dominate Europe and Africa and Japan to control Asia. The future of the United States, they contend, lies with closer political cooperation and economic integration in the Western Hemisphere.12 Engagement in Latin America, then, is justified, while we should disengage from much of the rest of the Third World. In general, internationalism currently has greater support than minimalism or isolationism. While it might seem that Kennedy-style globalism is dead, Grant Hammond's contention is that "Humanitarian intervention is the Bush-Clinton version of `paying any price, bearing any burden' in the 1990s."13 Clearly some new balance must be found between global engagement and disengagement.
The second great debate in American foreign and national security policy concerns the basic philosophy undergirding our approach to the world, especially how we define national interests. One alternative is realism. This is the descendent of the sort of conservatism developed by philosophers such as Machiavelli and Hobbes. While there has always been a strain of conservatism in American politics, the realist approach to national security grew out of efforts by political scientist Hans Morgenthau and his followers to apply the wisdom of traditional European statecraft to U.S. foreign policy. This heritage is reflected in the assumptions of political realism. Most basic is the belief that the currency of international politics is power. "Interest defined in terms of power," Morgenthau suggested, "helps political realism find its way through the landscape of international politics."14 This is immutable. "For better or worse," according to Owen Harries and Michael Lind, "international politics remains essentially power politics..."15 A coherent strategy matches power and geostrategic interests which include tangible concerns such as access to sea lanes or raw materials and intangible objectives, especially preservation of a balance among the world's great powers. Realism also assumes that nations have discernable hierarchies of interests. The intensity of an interest determines how much and what kind of national power should be used to protect or promote it.
Because national power is so valuable, it must be husbanded and dispersed frugally. A state should only use it in pursuit of truly important things--a line of reasoning that led Morgenthau to oppose American involvement in Vietnam. This frugality leads realists to accept diversity in the domestic arrangements of states. What should determine U.S. policy toward a nation is its foreign policy and external behavior. Realists also believe statesmen must tolerate some instability. Since power in the international system is dispersed, conflict is inevitable. It can be controlled or managed, but not abolished. The major method of controlling conflict is the balance of power. Maintaining this is an extremely important national interest.
While realists recognize that the Third World has been the source of most instability and conflict in the modern world, they consider it unimportant. The ability of a state to cause damage is proportionate to its power. Great powers can cause great damage and minor powers only minor damage (so long as great powers recognize the systemic insignificance of minor powers and act accordingly). From the perspective of the international system, Third World states have little power, so to place too much emphasis on controlling conflict among them neglects the rule of strategic frugality and wastes valuable power. Furthermore, most Third World conflict cannot be resolved at a reasonable cost. Realists, then, seek to minimize the impact of conflict in the Third World--particularly internal conflict--and conflict between great powers and minor ones on the central balance of power. Unless a Third World state has some special geostrategic significance such as location on a key line of communication, possession of a valuable resource, or the potential to upset the great power balance (perhaps using nuclear weapons), the United States should limit engagement.
Idealists, by contrast, accord the Third World a pivotal position in international security. For them, the primary currency of world politics is not national power, but fundamental values such as individual liberty, political rights, democracy, and economic freedoms. Where realists see conflict in the international system as inevitable, idealists believe it can be transcended. The roots of idealism, then, are found in the liberal tradition of the Western Enlightenment, especially Immanuel Kant, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill, and, more recently, Woodrow Wilson. Global conflict, according to idealists, arises from the absence or repression of fundamental values; democracies seldom or never make aggressive war. The foreign policy of a state directly mirrors its domestic arrangements, so regimes such as Iraq or North Korea that repress their own people are often externally aggressive as well. The cure is transformation of global politics.
To foster the peaceful resolution of international conflict, idealists favor strengthening international law and organizations. This must be supported by active efforts to promote fundamental rights within states. For idealists, this is not only morally satisfying, but also has practical security benefits. Since conflict--whether between states or within them--is merely a symptom of some deeper problem, idealists believe root causes rather than manifestations must be attacked. Sustainable development, democracy, and institutional arrangements for the protection of basic rights will help ultimately solve conflict. A balance of power may temporarily diminish it, but by leaving root causes intact, makes future recurrences inevitable. U.S. foreign and national security policy must thus promote fundamental rights and the peaceful resolution of conflict. Our relations with a state should be determined by the extent it supports these goals. Unlike realists, idealists reject the notion that cultivating friendly dictators is sometimes a necessary evil. Domestic arrangements, they believe, determine external behavior. This means that a dictatorship can seldom be a peaceful neighbor, and thus undercutting dictators contributes to regional stability.
In his classic study Ideals and Self-Interest in America's Foreign Relations, Robert Osgood attempted to reconcile idealism and realism. 16 For future American strategy in the Third World, the two approaches remain compatible. They share, for example, the belief that Third World conflict is contagious and can spread if not contained (the realist option) or resolved (as idealists prefer). Both usually accept a leadership role for the United States. Even though realists and idealists admit that the United States must work in conjunction with friends and allies, they believe it can, in President Clinton's words, "serve as a fulcrum for change and a pivot point for peace."17 And, perhaps most important, traditional realism and idealism have both been state-centric, dealing primarily with regimes and seeing security as an international issue. They both, in other words, reflect the past nature of global politics rather than its future.
Despite the wide conceptual gap between idealism and realism, American strategy has always blended them. Most idealist appeals such as Truman's promise "to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation" were, according to Jonathan Clarke, "preceded by a clear-headed analysis of American geopolitical self-interest."18 In part, this intermingling of opposites was necessary because of the diverse audiences American national security policy must satisfy. Idealism, with its strong moral emphasis, is inherently more appealing to the mass public. Americans want to feel that our policy places us on the side of "good." Foreign policy elites tend more toward realism with its pursuit of interests stripped of moral overtones. The United States is most effective when, as in the Gulf War, our actions combine a clear moral component with rigorous promotion of geostrategic interests. Unfortunately, such issues are scarce.
Over time, the specific blend of idealism and realism in American strategy shifted to reflect world events, domestic politics, and the proclivities of top policymakers. Kennedy, Carter, and Reagan moved toward the idealist end of the spectrum, making freedom or human rights central to their strategies for the Third World. Nixon understood the world through a realist geopolitical lens (but used idealist language to sell detente) and Bush, despite rhetoric about a "new world order," leaned toward realism and a reliance on force.19 Always, though, it was a matter of blend and balance, shifting between fairly firm boundaries defining the acceptable limits of realism and idealism in American policy, and building a new consensus as the global security environment changed.
Today, the old consensus defining the limits of realism and idealism has eroded and the debate rages over the philosophical foundation of future American national security strategy. Realism has many articulate advocates among foreign policy analysts and strategic thinkers. It is well represented in influential journals such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Orbis, and The Washington Quarterly, and dominates others such as The National Interest and Global Affairs.20 "Neorealism" retains the general assumptions and beliefs of classical cold war realism, but uses economics and, to a lesser extent, historical security relations rather than ideology to prioritize American interests.21 By contrast, post-cold war idealists argue "the United States should take the lead in promoting the trend toward democracy."22 Key advocates include Joshua Muravchik and Morton Halperin--a former Clinton nominee for a Defense Department post.23 Some of the most interesting idealist initiatives come from the bipartisan, semi-official National Endowment for Democracy.24 This organization represents the institutionalization of idealism in an attempt to counterbalance the realist proclivities of the foreign policy elite.
The Clinton administration leans toward idealism. In an important September 1993 speech, National Security Advisor Anthony Lake stated, "the idea of freedom has universal appeal" and saw "a moment of immense democratic and entrepreneurial opportunity."25 With classic idealist logic, he suggested, "to the extent democracy and market economics hold sway in other nations, our own nation will be more secure, prosperous and influential, while the broader world will be more humane and peaceful."26 According to Lake, the successor to containment as America's grand strategy must be "a strategy of enlargement--enlargement of the world's free community of market democracies." But, as always, the administration's idealism was tempered by realism. Lake noted that the United States "must combine our broad goals of fostering democracy and markets with our more traditional geostrategic interests." In November 1993 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Warren Christopher appeared even further removed from idealism when, in key Senate testimony, he stressed traditional geostrategic concerns.27 The administration has also resisted calls to end China's most favored nation trading status as punishment for human rights abuses.28
The third dimension of debate over the future of U.S. national security strategy concerns the form of our engagement in the world. Unilateralists believe "if you want a job done right, you must do it yourself." To effectively shape the sort of world the United States seeks, they argue, we must act alone. Allies, driven by a different set of national interests, are often more a burden than a help. American foreign and national security policy has long been unilateralist in regions such as the Caribbean and Central America, and multilateralist in regions such as Europe where allies were necessary.
After the cold war, support for multilateralism surged. According to President Bush, "Where in the past many times the heaviest burdens of leadership fell to our nation, we will now see more efforts made to seek consensus and concerted action."29 This did not connote equality between allies, but a relationship where the United States is the senior partner or chairman. In effect, this was an attempt to use our role in NATO as a global model: there would be consultation, but final authority was to remain in Washington. The ultimate goal was what Patrick E. Tyler labeled "benevolent domination."30
Movement toward multilateralism seemed to accelerate during the first six months of the Clinton administration, with the United Nations the center of attention. Advocates of multilateralism, both in the administration and outside it, believed that as the cold war stalemate in the Security Council abated, the U.N. could finally play the active role in conflict resolution envisioned by its founders. Some writers even advocated U.N. conservatorship of "failed states" like Afghanistan or Somalia.31 Multilateralists were particularly heartened by changing notions of national sovereignty. "We are groping toward arrangements," according to Thomas G. Weiss, "by which egregious aggression, life-threatening suffering, and human rights abuses become legitimate international concerns more routinely."32 In fact, the decades-long decline in the rigid notion of national sovereignty that holds that affairs within a state's boundaries are only its concern--a decline sparked by the Holocaust, decolonization, and global opposition to racism and apartheid--is accelerating.33 Such changes in international attitudes could pave the way for humanitarian intervention.34 Supporters consider this both morally appealing--a resurgence and repackaging of the 19th century notion of the white man's "civilizing mission" in the Third World--and a practical way to augment American security. Andrew S. Natsios, for instance, argues "Humanitarian intervention applied carefully and with restraint is as much in the self-interest of the United States as geopolitical intervention."35
President Clinton and his top advisors initially placed great stress on strengthening the United Nations. During the 1992 election, Clinton called for a U.N. "rapid deployment force...standing guard at the borders of countries threatened by aggression, preventing mass violence against civilian populations, providing relief and combatting terrorism."36 Madeleine Albright, Clinton's representative to the United Nations, talked of "assertive multilateralism" forming a cornerstone of U.S. policy.37 Undersecretary of State Peter Tarnoff hailed multilateralism as a way to maintain influence during defense cuts.38 The administration was especially enthusiastic about more assertive forms of U.N. peacekeeping known as "second generation peace operations."39 This reflected a sea change in official American attitudes toward the U.N. from the skepticism of the Reagan era. Again, this change began during the Bush presidency when he committed the United States to take multinational peacekeeping more seriously during a speech to the General Assembly.40
By the end of 1993, however, the enthusiasm of the Clinton administration, Congress, and the American public for expanded U.N. peacekeeping had waned.41 More and more, policymakers recognized that rather than stretching scarce defense resources and sharing the burdens of global security, U.N. peace operations could draw us into conflicts we might otherwise have avoided.42 As a result, an administration policy paper on peace operations underwent several revisions with increasingly stringent conditions for U.S. involvement.43 And, Clinton was equally unhappy with the inability of the European nations to stop the war in Bosnia. We wanted the Europeans, as Grant Hammond points out, to do in Bosnia what we refused to do in Haiti.44 This failure, Clinton believed, challenged the idea that we could play the role of "one among equals" in the resolution of regional conflicts. Although still multilateralist, the Clinton administration entered 1994 much less sanguine about strengthening the United Nations or relying on other forms of cooperation. As with other dimensions of the debate over the American approach to the world, no consensus had yet emerged to give direction to national security policy. Debate still raged in all three dimensions.
The Changing Face of Security.
While the most dramatic changes in the global security environment during the past 5 years took place in Europe, trends in the Third World were equally profound. At first glance, these seem positive. With the Soviet Union and its proxies no longer instigating and arming internal war, Third World conflicts from El Salvador to Mozambique moved toward resolution. Regions like the southern cone of South America that seemed on the verge of war 10 years ago were now dominated by economic integration and cooperation.45 The overall economic stagnation and debt crises which dominated much of the Third World in the 1980s slackened somewhat in the face of market-oriented reform. This was most pronounced in places like Chile and Mexico, but even Sub-Saharan African nations which implemented strict reform packages suggested by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund reaped economic benefits.46 Political trends seem equally positive. In many parts of the Third World elected governments replaced dictatorships, leading to talk of a "democratic revolution." And the defeat of Iraq by a global coalition seemed to send a warning to other Third World states bent on traditional cross-border aggression. All of this could suggest a rosy future built on stability, security, and progress.
In reality, the long-term prognosis for the Third World is not promising. A confluence of political, economic, health, ecological, social, and security patterns portend danger, perhaps even disaster. American strategy must carefully assess these trends, project them into the future, and plan accordingly. Such thinking is necessarily based on informed speculation or "best guesses," but is the only way to avoid a reactive, short-sighted strategy.
Politically, the democratic revolution in the Third World has largely run its course. There are few remaining candidates for transformation from authoritarianism to democracy and many reasons to expect a reversal of the democratic revolution.47 In fact, backsliding-- reversion to some form of authoritarianism--is likely as new democracies face a plethora of economic, ecological, and social challenges. In country after country, it is becoming clear that simply holding elections does not build and consolidate a democratic culture.48 Beleaguered elected leaders, pressed by rising demands, disintegrating security, and stagnant economies, are likely to temporarily or permanently abolish legislatures and postpone elections as in Peru. In some regions, old-fashioned military coups will occur. Others will mimic Italy of the 1920s, Germany of the 1930s, or Argentina of the 1940s as charismatic extremists play on widespread frustrations to turn popularity into political power.
This reversal of the democratic revolution will be the first step in a long-term slide into ungovernability as traditional nation-states prove unable to meet either the tangible or spiritual needs of their subjects.49 "The nation-state," according to Kenichi Ohmae, "has become an unnatural, even dysfunctional, unit for organizing human activity and managing economic endeavor in a borderless world."50 President Clinton even noted its growing obsolescence with simultaneous trends toward supranational economic integration and subnational political fragmentation.51 In its extreme form, ungovernability generates "failed states" characterized by declining or destroyed public order, rising domestic violence, stagnating economies, and deteriorating infrastructure.52 Afghanistan is, perhaps, typical. There, according to Tim Weiner, "There is no civil law, no government, no economy--only guns and drugs and anger."53 Even states with a recent history of stability such as Algeria are tottering toward disintegration.54 In addition to Afghanistan, the current list of failed states includes Bosnia, Liberia, Mozambique, and Somalia. Potentially, the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa and the periphery of the former Soviet Union will follow.55 Short of outright chaos, many other Third World states will see ungovernability ebb and flow, with parts of their territory permanently beyond government control.
All of the traditional sources of national cohesion--a common culture and language, organization of a coherent national economy, administrative effectiveness, and the ability to provide security--are under challenge. As a result, according to Robert D. Kaplan, "the classificatory grid of nation-states is going to be replaced by a jagged-glass pattern of city-states, shanty-states, nebulous and anarchic regionalisms..."56 A common model may be medieval Europe, pre-Tokugawa Japan, or modern Lebanon where central governments control a few regions and, perhaps, the capital, but most day-to-day power is diffused. In the future Third World, weak central governments will coexist with the personal fiefdoms of charismatic leaders or warlords, or with autonomous regions defined by ethnicity, tribalism, race, or religion. Each of these small units will probably have its own security force. And like medieval Europe, the Third World will also see the rise of a number of independent "micro-states," often autonomous cities with no ties to a larger political unit or with allegiance to a loose grouping such as the Hanseatic League.
Economic trends are almost as dire. A handful of states in Asia and Latin America have experienced dramatic economic growth spurred primarily by export of manufactured products. For most Third World nations, however, rapidly growing populations, shortages of capital and human resources, inadequate and often decaying infrastructure, instability, corruption, and misguided government policies will prevent sustained economic development. Producers of primary products, whether agricultural or mineral, have undergone decades of relative economic decline in comparison to manufacturing or service economies. There is no reason to expect this to change. As the developed world continues the shift from manufacturing to information-based economies, there will be opportunities for Third World states to serve as manufacturing centers, but only a few will be able to take advantage of this.
Third World states are also increasingly incapable of assuring the basic health needs of their citizens. In many parts of the Third World, AIDS will contribute to ungovernability by delegitimizing the government and by killing many of the educated leaders and administrators.57 The same is true of Third World governments' inability to manage their ecologies. In fact, one of the most ominous trends throughout the Third World is serious degradation of the environment. From a combination of population pressure, destructive methods of economic development, rapid urbanization, and decaying infrastructure, most Third World nations suffer dire and worsening ecological problems. They range from deforestation leading to soil erosion, climate change, water pollution, and famine to more "modern" forms of decay such as severe air or noise pollution. All contribute to ungovernability and prevent sustained economic development. While attention to ecological issues is increasing among Third World elites, many still see environmentalism and economic growth as alternative choices rather than complementary objectives. "They have no realization of their own vulnerability," according to Crispin Tickell, "and want only to imitate the industrial world."58
Because ecological decay can cause conflict, an increasing trend is to redefine the concept of national security to include environmental issues.59 According to Thomas F. Homer-Dixon, the principal social effects of environmental degradation are decreased agricultural production, economic decline, population displacement, and disrupted institutions and social relations.60 From these, three types of conflicts can emerge: simple scarcity conflicts as people compete for river water, fish, and productive land; group identity conflicts arising when people of one group migrate away from their traditional homelands and are seen as a threat by groups in the areas they move to; and, relative deprivation conflicts when ecological decay heightens poverty.61 Ecological decay can also lead to interstate conflict, particularly over control of shared fresh water sources such as the Euphrates, Jordan and La Plata rivers.62
One of the most important social trends in the Third World is the search for frameworks of personal meaning, order, and value to replace those destroyed by modernization. Modernization brought mass movement from rural areas and villages where daily life was structured by traditional frameworks of meaning, order, and value to cities where traditional frameworks were weak or inapplicable. Building alternative frameworks has been a crucial and often unsolved challenge for Third World leaders. Usually, they approached this in one of three ways. One was to import Western social, political, and economic models. This was especially prevalent in former colonies. A second approach was to adopt an alternative ideology, often Marxism-Leninism or one of its variants. This offered a substitute for traditional systems of order and meaning which seemed, to Third World radicals, more attractive than Western democracy and capitalism. The third approach synthesized the old and the new, took some elements of Westernism, sometimes added a smattering of socialism, and blended them with components of the traditional framework. Such a synthesis occurred throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, in some Islamic countries such as Turkey, and in Asian states like Japan and Korea. It was often paired with a program of supranational identity such as Pan-Africanism, Pan-Arabism, or the Non-Aligned Movement.
The Iranian revolution showed that none of these approaches was fully satisfactory. Islamic extremism there, according to Robert Kaplan, was "the psychological defense mechanism of many urbanized peasants threatened with the loss of traditions in pseudo-modern cities where their values [were] under attack."63 Around the globe, modernizing Third World elites had been too quick to jettison traditional systems of personal meaning whether religious, ethnic, or tribal. They underestimated the power and persistence of tradition. By the 1990s, the attempt to find personal meaning, values, and order in traditional frameworks had spread throughout the Third World. This appeared in two interlinked forms. The first was religious fundamentalism, whether Islamic, Hindu, or some other. The second was what can be called "primalism" where politics is defined by subnational identities such as ethnicity or tribalism.
While primalism has long shaped the politics of Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and parts of the Middle East, by the 1980s it proved very much alive in Eastern Europe, on the periphery of the former Soviet Union, and even in the parts of Latin America with substantial Amerindian populations (Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Mexico). Former colonies, in particular, are susceptible to fragmentation from primalism. To more easily rule their colonies, the European powers deliberately emphasized primal identities in order to divide and conquer. For a while, the decolonization struggle and, to a lesser extent, the cold war, helped preserve the fragile unity of heterogenous Third World nations. Perhaps the starkest modern example of primal conflict arising from a form of decolonization is in South Africa. To help preserve apartheid, the white government there encouraged tribal and ethnic division. Today, of course, this not only shapes the political competition, but has also spawned conflict bordering on war.
Today, states without the sort of religious unity that exists in North Africa and the Middle East or, to a lesser degree in Latin America, have seen politics splinter along primal lines rather than political ones. Robert Kaplan argues that as nation-states disintegrate, religion can provide an alternative framework of order.64 But, as Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, and some of the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union show, Islam does not prevent primal conflict. In fact, many states of the Middle East and North Africa are seeing a resurgence of primalism. Algeria, where minority Berber tribesmen are forming self-defense forces, is an example.65 Even Turkey remains unable to quash a persistent Kurdish uprising in its mountainous southeast.66
August Richard Norton has argued that one of the major problems for Third World nations in the 1990s will be their difficulty meeting the "psychopolitical" and cultural needs of their citizens. Fundamentalism and primalism both illustrate the fragility and artificiality of Third World states. Both show the failure of a decades-long attempt to create a framework of meaning based on national identity. There is no reason to believe that the search for alternatives through fundamentalism and primalism will not intensify, further erode the legitimacy of national regimes, contribute to political fragmentation, and, in many cases, lead to ungovernability.
What, then, do these trends mean for Third World security? Three types of security challenges will dominate the Third World during the coming decades:
• low-level conflict ranging from widespread crime to a form of semipolitical organized crime called "gray area phenomenon";
• internal war against or between primal militias and fundamentalist insurgencies, or violence against groups forced to migrate by ecological decay and economic stagnation; and,
• interstate war instigated by what Anthony Lake calls "backlash states" with large conventional militaries and, increasingly, weapons of mass destruction.67
Often a single conflict will mix two or even three of these challenges.
A monopoly of organized coercive powers was one of the factors that historically contributed to the rise and consolidation of the nation-state. Central governments became strong in England, France and elsewhere because they could militarily defeat internal challengers. The state then attained legitimacy because it could protect people most of the time. In today's Third World, that is becoming increasingly rare. A range of groups from criminal cartels to ethnic militias can resist the state's military. This is not simply a doomsday scenario for the distant future, but today's reality. In much of the Third World, governments cannot provide basic, day-to-day security. Walls topped by concertina wire and backed by elaborate alarm systems are standard on even middle-class homes. In poorer neighborhoods, even dirt-floored, single-room houses have thick bars on the windows. More and more businesses have their own armed guards. Of course, this also describes conditions in parts of many American cities, but in the Third World it is the norm rather than an aberration. Defense and security are becoming essentially local concepts rather than international ones.68 Police are overwhelmed, and even militaries are unable to provide basic community security.