Tue, Mar 12, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Is the US stressing security too much?

Steven Clemons, executive vice president of the Washington-based New America Foundation, argued in a provocative paper presented last week in kaohsiung that, driven by its domestic needs and obsession with security, the administration of US President George W. Bush is failing to fundamentally deal with the driving forces that caused the Sept. 11 tragedy. He shared his observations in a recent interview with `Taipei Times' staff reporter Wu Pei-shih


Steven Clemons, executive vice president of the New America Foundation, says that if the US were less involved in cross-strait relations, it would make China and Taiwan more responsible in the way they handle issues.


Taipei Times: A major part of your paper ``September 11th, Globalization and the End of the High-Trust Era'' addresses the importance of the economic dimension of security. Can you elaborate on that?

Steven Clemons: I think the source of instability in the world is more of an economic nature and unless you figure out how to synthesize security and economics, you won't solve the problem. Bush's security team was put in place immediately, [but] compared with the Clinton administration, nobody is playing a dominant economic role in Bush's administration. This is a real problem.

Globalization depends upon a high-trust environment. If you remove that [high-trust environment], you end up more cynical, security-obsessed, dark vision, which I think is reinforced by President Bush's domestic needs.

This is an administration that wants to define itself by security, not by economics.

One thing that is most disappointing is the collaboration of our allies. What's amazing is that they all want to report things they have done in the war against terrorism. That's fine. But it sounds to me extremely like the vassals paying tribute to the king. The loyalty oath process in essence increases the fragility of the relationship much more.

It does seem to me that the collaboration we've achieved is real collaboration ... but what is missing is a more optimistic and fundamental part of the picture.

None of the international exercises [like the WTO negotiation in Doha and the APEC summit] yielded anything fundamentally different in terms of policy that would have been the case before Sept. 11.

This seems to me a good opportunity to put up the positive and optimistic collaboration. As a realist, I see the need for a much constructive kind of optimistic engagement.

TT: How do you then see the Bush administration's presence in Asia?

Clemons: America doesn't know what it is doing in Asia ... The lack of a fundamental economic design and an economic engagement plan for the region [in the Bush Administration] is disconcerting when you realize the biggest issue facing Southeast Asia is what Japan is doing with its currency. No major economies in Asia can afford another round of currency devaluation during a period of global slowdown. And the growth in the American economy is not robust enough to take the heat off of Asian economies.

Even in Taiwan, everybody is thanking President Bush for his soft-spot for Taiwan. But focusing only on the security dimension is a real mistake. The economics has got to continue to be stable because essentially it is in these areas of economic friction that could fundamentally drive a different kind of conflict to go on.

Today, the scary thing to me is that Bush and [National Security Adviser Condoleezza] Rice see this as a time where American power is rising, so [they] have to push our assets and presence. And this has created an activism in foreign policy, which is very interesting ... [but] focusing on security and not taking seriously enough the economic dimension of security ensures [that] the cycle of violence will continue.

I think Bush is genuine about going after the terrorists, but essentially I think the administration is failing to do what needs to be done to deal with the driving forces that caused Sept. 11.

Every nation has some realization of the constraints on them and of the challenges. But the Americans feel no constraints. We walk through the world as if we can totally do whatever we want. It's part of the American leadership's ego.

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