For the cold war generation, U.S. foreign policy toward the Asia/Pacific region was simple, straightforward, and secure. In the minds of America’s foreign policy and defense elites, the only point of reference that mattered was the Soviet Union; everything else flowed from there. That proved true whether Washington was taking sides in the long-standing dispute between India and Pakistan, warming to China, or reacting to Japan’s growing trade imbalance. It was true whether the U.S. was dealing with any of the three subregions: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, or South Asia.
Incoming UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, like his predecessor, is a highly skilled diplomat from the African continent. But the spectacle of the transition, unilaterally engineered by the U.S. in the midst of a Central Africa crisis that urgently called for considered attention, was not a promising indicator that the continent’s concerns would be taken seriously. “Unhappily, our opinions haven’t counted,” noted Ivory Coast President Henri Bedie. Washington Post foreign editor Jim Hoagland put it bluntly: “The United States contributed mightily to paralyzing the United Nations … by letting a vengeful attempt to oust Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali dominate the world organization while Zaire burned.”