A Strategy for Global Peace After Cold War : Policy: 75 years after Wilson articulated his 14 points, today's best foreign-policy minds update the list to reflect changes in the world.

Robin Wright covers global affairs for The Times

In the growing debate over the focus and effectiveness of post-Cold War strategy, Woodrow Wilson's famed "14 Points"--in 1918, the first global U.S. foreign policy--are making a come back. National Security Adviser W. Anthony Lake recently described the Clinton Administration approach as "pragmatic neo-Wilsonian," while critics complain about the absence of the kind of overall framework Wilson provided.

Now, 75 years later, leading U.S. analysts have complied a new set of 14 points. The composite reflects the vast changes in international standards and expectations between the beginning and end of the 20th Century.

One: U.S. foreign policy must be directed at making Americans safer, richer and happier. The cost of foreign initiatives, or involvements, should thus be reasonably proportionate to results.

"The government should be able to explain any initiative on this basis," says Walter Russell Mead, a political economist affiliated with the New School for Social Research in New York. "If it can't, it should do nothing."

"National interests" should be derived from the interests of the 60% to 70% that comprise the middle class. "If trade arrangements are bad for the middle class, for example, then they're bad for the country," Mead adds.

Two: The top U.S. priority should be improving domestic economic performance to help revive global economic growth; Washington should move to lower trade barriers and settle disputes blocking commerce.

"Other things should have been set aside so that (the North America Free Trade Agreement) got the attention it deserved. We should also be working harder on an agreement on trade and cooperation with Japan," says Samuel F. Wells Jr., director of the Smithsonian's Woodrow Wilson Institute.

Three: The United States must help fledgling democracies consolidate by fostering the economic preconditions for a middle-class world. Holding free elections is no longer enough.

"Without a commitment to consolidation, which is the logical sequel to containment (of communism), there may be retrenchment in some areas," says Erik Peterson, director of studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Four: U.S. policy should reinvigorate the Western alliance of North America, Europe and Japan, making it the cornerstone of intervention in foreign crises.

"An overriding principle of U.S. strategy will have to be new workable strategic bargains with Europe and Japan over the nature of their cooperation and over their mutual interest in promoting the expansion of international trade," says Sherle Schwenninger, director of the World Policy Institute in New York. "Very little good can happen in the world without a minimum level of cooperation between these three parties."

Five: The United States should make the North American Treaty Organization more of an equal partner with Europe by bringing its major powers into more command and civilian committee leadership roles. The goal should be sharing the burden of protecting Western interests.

"This would also create a European component of NATO, with European command structures that can be used when the United States does not want to deploy its ground forces for either security or humanitarian missions," says Wells.

Six: Collective action should be the basis of U.S. intervention whenever military action is required and has domestic consensus. Washington should lead only in major crises, while assuring no other major power gains a larger world role.

"If the United States has to play a leadership role, it'll have to pay a price. And in an increasingly chaotic world, it's likely to be a very high price. So we should be more selective,' says Benjamin Schwarz, a Rand Corp. analyst.

Seven: The top U.S. security priority should be pressing harder for a worldwide reduction in armaments, particularly in nuclear weapons, chemical and biological warfare and ballistic missiles.

The United States, the world's largest arms exporter, should also reduce its arms sales and arsenals to a level consistent with national-security interests.

"We'll never have proliferation solved. But we need to be more engaged in preventing countries trying to produce or sell weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems," says Wells.

Eight: The United States should support self-determination for peoples and nations in cases judged legitimate, and where a nation has majority support and self-rule is viable and responsible, particularly in accepting international law.

"We have to think through how far we want to go with self-determination. Once we raise expectations, theoretically there's no end to the process. There has to be a new international standard," says John Lewis Gaddis, Ohio University historian and author of "The United States and the End of the Cold War."

Nine: Human rights should be the top criterion in U.S. foreign aid and alliances, but relations must also be balanced with security and economic interests.

"Human rights is intertwined with foreign policy and has been since this nation was founded. What's changed is that the concept, which initially was only ours, has now reached near-global acceptance," says Mark Lowenthal, senior policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service.

Ten: U.S. foreign aid and development efforts must be more environmentally sensitive, specifically to what kind of growth the world can sustain. Efforts to move from a throwaway to a reusable economy need to be accelerated.

"Ecological sustainability will replace ideological conflict as the dominant organizing principle in international affairs in the 21st Century, because the global economy we have now is not sustainable," says Les Brown, president of Worldwatch Institute.

Eleven: In prioritizing goals, the United States should still give Russia preference.

"If we get it right, and Russia develops into a prosperous democracy, it will be a huge market. Our security will be much better. And the world's move toward democracy will be much advanced. So Russia still heads all lists," Mead says.

Twelve: As more states deteriorate from economic, political or social problems, Washington must engage in diplomatic triage--resisting urges or appeals to micromanage individual crises and focusing on broader global problems.

"There needs to be greater sensitivity to humanitarian issues--as long as the price of doing something is low enough and manageable. A lot of failed states will fall by the wayside because the price of building them back up is too high," Schwarz says.

Thirteen: The United States should promote absolute freedom of navigation outside territorial waters, except as legislated by international covenants.

"Despite changing international conditions over the past 200 years, freedom of the seas has remained a fundamental tenet of U.S. foreign and defense policy . . . because we're a major trading power and because we have regional security obligations and interests,' Lowenthal says.

Fourteen: Reinvigorate the United Nations by setting up mechanisms to better deal with emerging global problems.

But beyond a general agreement that the world body needs major adjustments, analysts' views vary the most on its role. The wide gap among U.S. foreign policy experts today is reflected in two views.

"There's not much to be gained in strengthening the United Nations. Some would argue that it's part of the problem. I won't go that far, but it's not a terribly useful vehicle. It's so bureaucratized and there are over 180 members. How can it get anything done?" says Samuel Huntington of Harvard University's Olin Institute for Strategic Studies.

At the other extreme, Schwenninger says the U.N. mandate needs to be expanded. "Democracies lack the will to fully execute the kinds of agreements that they are able to create." Although it will not be a panacea, the world body should also be given a military capacity to handle civil conflicts, national breakdowns and other disorders to avoid exhausting the great powers.

The underlying principle of today's 14 points remains a strong and active U.S. role in the world. Reflects Gaddis, "What we want today is no different from what Wilson wanted in 1918."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World