As President Clinton goes to Vietnam this week, he carries with him a heavy weight of legacy from America’s longest war. Some, of course, is personal: like many men of his generation, Clinton opposed the war and sought to avoid fighting it, decisions that had political consequences he could not have anticipated. He bears a national legacy, too. The Vietnam War still clings to Americans—to those who fought it and resisted it, to those who came of age while it was fought, and even to those who now jam college courses on the war, wondering what it was that so provoked their parents. The war has been credited with, or blamed for, everything from heavy metal rock music to the neo-brutalist architecture of the 1970s. But parts of its legacy are indisputable.
Progressive Unilateralism? U.S. Unilateralism, Progressive Internationalism, and Alternatives to Neoliberalism
In the recent debate on "permanent normal trade relations" (PNTR) with China, some progressives argued that failure to ratify the bilateral deal would constitute a retreat into "unilateralism." They asserted that U.S. unilateralism is a bad thing–so bad, indeed, that they supported PNTR even though they agreed with opponents that China’s entry into the WTO, facilitated by PNTR, would likely be bad for most workers in both China and the USA. 2 I think this position rests on a false premise. The policies of the United States–whether acting alone or in concert with other states–have often been at odds
with progressive internationalist principles, but they need not be. This
paper aims to justify this conclusion and to identify the conditions under
which unilateral U.S. actions can serve progressive internationalism.
Prime Minister Vajpayee has returned to India triumphantly after a visit to the United States, which was hailed as a success by President Clinton. A visit of this kind is a success if its objectives have been attained. Apparently what was achieved matched the objectives of both India and the United States. Three decades after President Nixon’s “tilt to Pakistan,” many now believe there is a tilt toward India.
The most prominent story in U.S. coverage of President Clinton’s March 2000 visit to India was the public rebuke issued to him by India’s ceremonial head of state, President K. Narayanan. At an official banquet Narayanan broke with protocol to chide Clinton for describing South Asia as “the most dangerous place on earth,” charging that such remarks would encourage the very violence Clinton feared. Oddly, though, Indian reporting of the event focused more on the tenor of U.S. reporting than on the remarks themselves. The difference reflected a contrast between the tones of American and Indian coverage that, though the reverse of what one would expect, confirms the very different perspectives of the U.S. and India on this chronically troubled relationship. American coverage was somber, focusing on Clinton’s failure to convince India to give up nuclear weapons. In India, where this outcome was never in doubt, reporting was more upbeat, seeing a belated American acquiescence to India’s nuclear status and role in world affairs.
The congressional debate over China’s trading status with the United States and its entry into the WTO has stirred a parallel debate among the directors and staff of Foreign Policy In Focus and within the two organizations—Institute for Policy Studies and Interhemispheric Resource Center—that sponsor the FPIF project. This essay is the second in a series of FPIF discussion papers examining the internationalist and nationalist tendencies within the fair trade movement in the United States. We invite readers to join the discussion by sending their comments to email@example.com for inclusion in the FPIF’s ezine, The Progressive Response.
(Editors’ Note: Foreign Policy In Focus has on several previous occasions produced policy briefs or reports supporting granting China permanent normal trading status and WTO membership. Neither of FPIF’s sponsoring institutions, IRC and IPS, have taken public positions on these issues, and other projects at IPS have raised questions about the terms of China’s entry into WTO. As a project, FPIF does not require that our experts adopt preordained policy positions, only that they articulate policy recommendations that are based on broad concern for global peace, sustainable development, and human rights. We recognize the controversial character of this policy brief, particularly for labor and “fair trade” advocates in the U.S., and we are including an accompanying page that briefly presents some dissenting voices. We solicit comments and critiques, which will be posted on our website.)
Organizations in East Asia and the United States as well as international networks are developing alternatives to militarized security that address the security of women, children, and the physical environment.