Though the litany of wars is at present neither longer nor more ferocious than usual, for the first time in half a century they are not confined to the periphery but have taken root in Europe. Almost half a dozen, some momentarily quiescent, others not, they stretch from the Caspian to the Adriatic, all on approximately the same band of latitude, all as a result of the Soviet collapse. It is as if, in a planetary system, the black sun were suddenly removed.

But Russia always hides somewhere deep within itself the capacity to rise from the dead. As in the case of post-Versailles Germany, its pride has been injured and its resentments are building. Unlike post-Versailles Germany it enjoys a fully operable nuclear arsenal and the right to arm openly. If Germany went from Versailles to blitzkrieg in less than twenty years, the United States from Vietnam to the Gulf war in fifteen, if the course of the Great Depression was only ten, if Europe could descend into the greatest war of its history in 1939 and emerge rich and strong less than two decades later, if the paper buildings of Japan were ash in 1945 . . . how can we assume that Russia, where the clock has been ticking almost ten years in dissolution, will not resurrect itself within the space of a few American electoral cycles?

After the cold war the binding institutions of the West, with no spur to unity, are slowly fading away as other factors strengthen reciprocally. A persistent fascist electoral splinter in Europe oscillates between 5 and 10 percent, sometimes surging higher. Large remnants of the hard Left remain, and specialized parties have emerged to cater to those with disillusionment^ that change day by day. Faltering unification seems to indicate, at least in relative terms, the rise of underlying frictions. All that is needed to bring these elements to life is the pressure of a deeply distressed economy or a nearby war that divides habitual allies along habitual faults.

Mind you, this is the normal state of things. Dangerous, yes, but neither unusual nor unmanageable unless approached in the thrall of fashionable ideas. In the national-security debate today we have virtually no responsible assessment of the order of battle. The United States is now in the process of guaranteeing in Bosnia a peace agreement of extraordinary fragility. Given that, and that the Russians are inclined to back the Serbs, and the Germans the Croats (and that therein lies a pattern of disaster that cannot be thoughtlessly dismissed), who takes into account actual Russian force-projection capacity? Given that the United States has offered vague and mysterious guarantees to Ukraine, and appears to be committed to the expansion of NATO despite grave Russian objections, who debates with reliable precision the new military reality in Europe after the death of the Warsaw Pact and the senescence of NATO?1

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The answer is, virtually no one. The Clinton administration is no more interested in such things than Caspar Weinberger was interested in bringing feminism to Indonesia. Despite Jimmy Carter’s apparently infectious influence on the President, and the almost hysterical promotion of “peace” on several continents simultaneously, the administration is concerned with the election and the economy, and understands perfectly that it cannot mount an offensive of good works and holiday turkeys if its walking-around money goes to building airlift capacity and keeping up armored divisions.

Of course, as we approach the next presidential election I would not presume to label as sins my own party’s increasingly rare imperfections. Unlike liberals, who share the strange conviction that the real test of strength is surrender, Republicans (though hesitant vis-à-vis Bosnia) often cannot take yes for an answer. Like General Patton, who was uncomfortable with what he considered the temporary end of World War II, some Republicans and conservatives are eager to take advantage of Russia’s weakened condition and extend American sway to the “near abroad.” In this they share common ground with President Clinton, the guarantor of Ukraine, except that, whereas he, being tentative, would buckle at the first sign of a fur hat, they would be brave and buckle later.

They would have little choice. The Russian military is deployed not only throughout Russia, which in its great expanse borders on most of the former Soviet republics, but also as an expeditionary force (in numbers that match those of all the American troops left in Europe) on the Baltic in the isle-like Kaliningrad oblast, in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine.2 The United States has no more latitude in these remote places than does Russia in Puerto Rico, and yet some fervently want to wander in this wilderness.

Americans are once more engaged in weighing isolationism versus interventionism, a controversy settled again and again by the action and reality of the international system. So many times has history shown the idea of Fortress America to be untenable that it is now mainly the province of the tub thumpers. The more refined debate starts from the necessity to wield power abroad, but turns on the definition of when and where intervention is justifiable. Of course this is nothing new, but it is now particularly confused. Like a retinal grenade, the flash from the destruction of the blocs has blinded many people to what is important, and it is not possible to define what is marginal if you cannot designate the center.

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The center is Europe, which is not to say that everyone agrees.3 My views may betray my historical outlook, but it is a fact that Europe has been the cradle of the two world wars. It is the most interconnected region of the world, richer in “transactions” than any other. Western Europe alone manages six times the combined imports and exports of Japan, and a third again as much GDP as all of East Asia, which covers so much more of the globe and has produced so many economic miracles. As the hinge of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, it is of strategically inimitable importance. It is crowded, intricately divided, and the seat of great and conflicting historical movements with adherents in all parts of the world. It is immensely wealthy; it fronts on two oceans and encompasses many seas; it is tied by bonds of history, language, alliance, and trade to the second most prosperous region in the world, North America, more firmly than any other major group of nations is tied to any other. The birthplace of democracy and technology, and the home of three of the five major nuclear powers, it is intensely saturated with armaments and steeped in forceful military traditions that, once lit, burn more brightly than phosphorus.

Both the administration and, to a lesser extent, the opposition respond to these problems with accidental structures, with gardens planted not in rows but at random. Underlying all other errors is the belief that the deportment of nations in a state system no longer conforms to the fundamental rules that have described it throughout history. To this are added the brazen subjugation of foreign affairs to domestic policy and politics, and the perception and conduct of foreign relations according to the precepts of moralism, environmentalism, feminism, mercantilism, jingoism, pacifism, and God knows what else.

In looking at the problems of the day the practitioners of these extraneous doctrines may be required to believe, for example, that economic strength is military strength, that a war among three ethnic groups fighting within one territory is an invasion, that a defeated nation cannot reconstitute itself, that it is wise to expand the scope of a military alliance while simultaneously weakening it, that war is no longer possible because it has become unthinkable.

They consider every case that comes along as if it were a world unto itself or simply an arena in which to prove their values, refine their careers, or experiment with the new, as if each crisis in foreign relations were not influential in the progression of a more complex order and influenced by it in turn. They build without light and by chance as the abiding forces of the international system race forward unguided.

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II

With the passing of the bipolar world the leaders of the West have abandoned what they had once accepted as their first responsibility: to preserve the continental balance of power and by continual adjustment forestall war after war. The critical question is not what to do in Bosnia, or should NATO expand, but what is demanded to avoid a general war in Europe. In this regard the most perilous conduct is improvisation dictated by short-term pressure. Because our political culture is media-driven we tend to focus on effects rather than causes, and so the debate about European security has centered on subordinate considerations.

Were we deliberately to attend to the balance of power, which at its heart is a technique for immobilizing destructive action by disallowing the heady preponderance of any one nation or bloc, lesser problems would be easier of solution. Attention to the context in which they appeared would allow consistent determinations of what loss, defeat, sacrifice, and frustration would be appropriate in their regard. The risks and resources necessary for dealing with Bosnia, for example, should never have been allocated according to what was necessary to preserve the Bosnian state, or for simply humanitarian reasons, or to create object lessons for the former Soviet republics, or to counter an imagined Serbian conquest of Southern Europe. Instead, they should have been apportioned solely according to one criterion: how will action, or abdication, affect the overall equilibrium?

To date we have enjoyed one laissez-passer after another. Russia has decided that in view of its own problems and limitations Bosnia is, for the moment at least, outside its sphere of influence. But any one of a number of NATO missteps in Bosnia could have precipitated a different decision. To the objection that even if Russia had decided to counter NATO in Bosnia it simply would not have had the capacity to do so, comes the rejoinder that although Russia may not have the ability to control the situation in the former Yugoslavia, it does retain the power to block control. It could have done this merely by deploying a few airborne divisions in Serbia and making use a few times of the words rescue, friendship, and guarantee. Even had NATO looked to its overwhelming area superiority to face this down, the Russians could have expanded the confrontation to the Baltic states, where they have overwhelming area superiority, and we quickly would have been on the road to the old Europe, with every move made in the shadow of the strategic arsenals that you hardly ever hear about anymore.

That something like this has not yet happened has been a matter of luck rather than skill. The unusual unanimity of the Gulf war was like a hundred-year flood, and even this was mainly the province of one or two powers, with others carried in train mainly for the color of their pennants. Someday the accidental coalition of interests will not be so forgiving, not because I am a pessimist or people are bad or Warren Christopher should have stuck to the practice of law, but because nations have affinities, preferences, and allies, and they come to one another’s aid even if it means the risk of confrontation, which they often calculate wrongly.

The state of Europe today is analogous to what it was after the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the last century. Though chastened, humiliated, and stripped of its empire, France was still a major power that, like Russia now, could not be ignored. Having defeated the French with the same blistering shock that it would suffer itself a hundred years on at the hands of the Japanese, Russia pushed to the West, much as NATO is now pushing East.

Between the two were Austria, Poland, Prussia, and Saxony, in varying states of fear, power, or disrepair. And across a narrow band of water was Britain, floating as safely as a moon, and like the contemporary United States wisely unwilling to disengage from the continent.

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The Concert of Europe, which brought a peace that although often disturbed did not shatter for a century, was due not only to the rough equilibrium of power after the Napoleonic wars but to the ability of statesmen to sense, appreciate, and solidify it. But in our own utilitarian age, even less likely than architects to care for symmetry, equilibrium, balance, and the mysteries of proportion are statesmen, who, I imagine, do not anymore study maps with the same understanding and purposes of their counterparts in a different era. The beauty and necessity of close attention to maps in the conduct of affairs among nations are that it allows the glimmer of otherwise ineffable relations to show through as spatial expressions. A statesman must retain a vivid image of the lay of the land, and be able to manipulate it to accommodate the passage of armies, the range of missiles, the movement of trade, the meandering of rivers, the direction of railroads, and the accumulation of snows.

From an understanding of such things often flow elegant and extraordinary acts that, in turn, serve to illustrate the principles involved. After Napoleon’s defeat of Austria in 1805, Talleyrand urged him to be magnanimous for the purpose of keeping Austria a sound member of the international system. He wanted not only to lessen the chances of Austrian resentment, but also to keep a respectable balance between vanquished and victor. Able to understand that France would benefit more from a system in balance than from yet another triumph, Napoleon agreed. In this, Talleyrand’s successors include Castlereagh at the Congress of Vienna some ten years later, and Churchill, who early on came to understand the value of one of his most famous phrases, “In victory, magnanimity.” Talleyrand, Castlereagh, and Churchill were led to abhorrence of triumphalism not merely as a matter of character but through an intuitive understanding of the processes of history.

Probably because the United States is remote from the continental system, Americans have always had difficulty accepting balance-of-power politics, frequently mistaking them for the worst form of Realpolitik. And yet even if one fails to practice them, one practices them by default. The functioning of a complex system is as much influenced by neglect as by action. Failure to station American troops in Europe during the interwar period was no doubt just as influential in allowing Hitler to act unchecked as their deployment under the North Atlantic Treaty was influential in preventing Soviet hegemony.

Although you cannot avoid playing the game, the worst way to play it is to act within the system while following rules that have no relevance to it. This is what we have been doing since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, under a laissez-passer that will expire as soon as new centers of power coalesce—a resurgent Russia, for example, or the German domination of Central Europe. In the balance-of-power perspective, problems abroad look somewhat different than if seen through any other lens, whether it be the glass of human rights or of mercantilism, or the nauseating kaleidoscope of political correctness. Though the very words balance, equilibrium, and concert are beautiful and appealing, from Castlereagh to Kissinger their exponents have been reviled and misunderstood with the same angry frustration romantics reserve for neoclassicists. Regard for the balance of power is anything but the elixir of popularity, requiring as it does openings to longstanding enemies, the seemingly inexplicable abdication of painfully acquired advantage, and what may look like moral disregard but is, rather, the willingness to keep faith with morals while appearing to have abandoned them. Though it is seen as an embrace of power, its successful practice demands, after all, the neutralization of power.

It is this stepping back that the modern age, with its unameliorated passion for control, cannot tolerate. In insatiable activism alloyed with moralism, a bold and shameless faction can go forth into disaster all the while looking good. Not so with the practitioners of balance, who would, for example, rather stand back and let a small war come quickly to its angle of repose than intervene and keep it grinding out casualties for years. At the end of interventions the lines on the ground are often strikingly the same, but the dead always have more time to accumulate. Sometimes intervention is a terrible requirement of worldwide ideological struggle played out on the periphery as signal and symbol, but absent that it is seldom preferable. So to Bosnia.

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III

Flush against the Adriatic, shielded from the great expanses of Europe by mountain ranges, and off all major routes, the contested areas of the former Yugoslavia are first and foremost irrelevant to the balance of power. Indeed, from the balance-of-power point of view the most urgent requirement was to match their isolation with a quarantine devised to prevent internationalization. This was not, as some would maintain, politically impossible given the effect of repeated and horrific televised images. If it were, we would be witnessing interventions in Rwanda, the Sudan, and elsewhere. In fact, intervention has had from the start three justifications: to stand firm, on the Munich analogy; to save lives; and to keep order in Europe.

The Munich analogy has depended not only on demonizing the Serbs but in attributing to them powers and plans far beyond what they possess. Their interests have always been limited to two-thirds of Bosnia, bits and pieces of Croatia, and perhaps Kosovo: they are not headed for Trieste, much less Paris. The argument that showing firmness in Bosnia is necessary to send a message to tyrants elsewhere, notably in the former Soviet republics, is specious if only because NATO has absolutely no freedom of action in the former republics, and tyrants such as Saddam Hussein make their reputation precisely because they seem inherently deaf to even the most fervent signals. Saving lives is not justifiable as a motivation for intervention if the end result is that more lives are lost in a longer and deadlier war. Order, not the same thing as balance, is a senseless aim if unrelated to other considerations.

The only danger to European security as a whole would be to internationalize the Bosnian war, and therefore the most perilous course is the one we have chosen. Though, thus far, it has not been the cause of hostile alignments, the intervention is in process and the risk remains.

I come to these unorthodox conclusions not as a partisan of the Serbs (who, like the other factions, excuse or deny their own battlefield atrocities) but because of a map. At least as it is understood on the popular level, international action in Bosnia is predicated on an objection to the Serb conquest of what is commonly identified as 70 percent of the territory. It is upon this that their characterization as conquerors and aggressors rests. Reversing the conquests has been the aim of those recommending intervention, while the inability of the peace settlement to do so, by its acquiescence in the existence of a Serb republic, is now their plaint. My difficulty with this point of view begins with the map of the ethnic composition of Yugoslavia, on page 1,102 of the 15th (1978) edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

From the beginning of the conflict to the present day I have contrasted the delineation of Serb-controlled territory, in battle maps, with the Britannica‘s rendering of the areas where the Serbs live. Except for the areas that the Serbs have recently lost, they are the same.

Although the Serbs engaged in ethnic cleansing in those territories where they have always resided, it is not possible to say that they have conquered them. Those who are unconcerned with maps may have made the determination of Serb conquest a posteriori, based on the fact they often cite that the Serbs, although only 30 percent of Bosnia’s population, claim 64 percent and have until recently controlled 70 percent of its territory. This is a distributional error. Quite simply, the Serbs are more rural and have bigger landholdings than do their rivals.

After ethnic cleansing one cannot support the Serbs, but how is it possible to support the Croats and Muslims merely because in the first part of the war they did not ethnically cleanse with the same efficiency as their enemy? Prior to the Gulf war I was the first to suggest publicly, in the Wall Street Journal, that Iraq be held responsible for war crimes, and I want as strongly as anyone else for the perpetrators of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia to be brought to account. But if we are to adopt as a trigger for intervention the occurrence of war crimes or other inhuman acts, we shall need an army of twenty million men.

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Does all this mean that in preserving the balance of power its advocates are prepared to stand back as the terror of civil wars unfolds? Yes, if it is necessary to prevent a general war in Europe, a world war. By no means, however, is the balance-of-power perspective impotent in regard to problems on a lesser scale. The civil war in Bosnia would have ended long ago with far fewer casualties had it been allowed to find its own equilibrium absent UN prolongation. But this would not have been the only option.

At the time of the original Bosnian secession from Yugoslavia a statesman alert to matters of equilibrium would have treated favorably the Bosnian Serbs’ consequent desire for amalgamation with Serbia. Because the Bosnian Serbs were already where they were, the aggrandizement of Serbia would have been little more than a change in nomenclature that could in no way disturb the state system in Europe. He would have mobilized the international community to press for a partition and population exchange aided by the leading powers. They who insisted from the very beginning on preserving the artificially drawn Bosnian borders were horrified at the idea of a partition and population exchange. And yet, it may have been possible to accomplish this without the death of a single person.

But humanitarians often are uncomfortable with imperfection. And stepping back into the shadows to allow the division of Bosnia would have contradicted their very modern desire to program the entire course of events to fit the lines that Tito drew on a map that they do not even care to look at.

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IV

Like spain in the 30’s, Bosnia is a creature of the margins which draws blood that should be flowing toward the center. Remarkably, the marginal issue is generally approached with gravitas and fear, while the crux is treated with casual indifference. This, the drive to expand NATO eastward, represents much more than the simple augmentation of the alliance. It is a decision, albeit unconscious, to ignore the balance of power in Europe, and never has such a gambit failed to drive the continent toward war. Imbalance throws one side onto the defensive while tempting the other to intimidation. The anxiety that arose from this during the cold war is something that need not but will be replicated if NATO is unfurled toward the Russian steppe.

Though the campaign for NATO expansion is driven primarily by the desire to protect what once were the Soviet satellites, it swells from time to time with initiatives to shield one or another former Soviet republic, it includes various characters who hide in think tanks like nuts in a pudding and want to push American power to the Urals, it is a bit of splendid overkill from those who worry as I do about a resurgent Russia, and it provides a perfect answer to the fatuous question, “What shall we do with NATO?”

Ukraine, a state at present possessing 136 MIRV’d ICBMs and 44 strategic bombers, is like a battered divorcée whose jealous husband lives upstairs and will never die. Forever linked to Russia, Ukraine is closer to Moscow than Boston is to Syracuse. And yet in early 1994 the President of the United States apparently saw fit to guarantee its border. Perhaps Mr. Clinton was subsequently dogged by the realization that he would be unable to honor such a commitment except with strategic nuclear weapons, or perhaps he just felt pressed to make another commitment, for ten months later at a joint news conference with the Ukrainian president he said, “I would not say or do anything that would exclude the possibility of Ukrainian membership” in NATO.

To understand the Russian view of NATO extension, and justifiably or not the Russian view will determine Russian behavior, imagine a United States after its collapse under pressure from the Warsaw Pact. Antonov military transports land at American airports with loads of food and sundries. While inflation rages, hordes of Soviet and East European apparatchiks take over the best hotels in American cities, fanning out each day to appropriate businesses and instruct their executives in nationalization and socialist management techniques. Crime such as we have never seen makes the streets hell, American women in unprecedented numbers prostitute themselves for the chance to obtain luxuries from ruble stores, and the young want to dress like Cossacks (well, they do anyway, or, rather, who can tell?). On top of all this, the Soviets, who do exactly as they please in Europe, want to include Canada and Mexico in the Warsaw Pact, talk of and perhaps sign secret agreements guaranteeing the borders of independent California, and worry that reactionary elements in the dazed American military speak publicly of taking back Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Like every nation, the Russians have legitimate interests, and with no natural obstructions between Moscow and the Polish border they would have to be possessed of less than normal fear and abnormal bravery not to react to NATO expansion. And in NATO’s present state, expansion cannot be other than overextension. Suffice it to say that from a military point of view it is a slow-motion parody of earlier French and German invasions, with lines of supply that are far too long, estimates of enemy capacity that are insufficiently generous, and mortal lack of attention to geography. With an immense military build-up, which will not occur, it would be possible to stage eastward, consolidate, and solidify the expansion. By the time that was accomplished, however, Russia would be deep in the throes of rearmament, and compromising even the most advantageous calculations of force would be the presence of equal and potent strategic arsenals.

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Why provoke a defeated enemy merely for the sake of a preponderance of advantage that, if history has any validity, is certain to destabilize the entire continent? The proponents of expansion, I believe, simply have not considered the continental balance as a whole, have not accomplished the proper historical reckonings, and are moved almost entirely by what remains their strongest argument: that the West simply cannot abandon an integral part of itself, namely Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. Some would carry that logic further to include the Baltic Republics and Ukraine.

Although the West has managed to do just that for most of its history, and could do so again, and although the fate of these nations is a function of geography more than of our moral character, it is certainly true that it would be a great shame to abandon them to future Russian hegemony. What is both striking and opportune is that their independence is important to us not merely because we are sympathetic, but as a matter of avoiding its opposite, their subservience to a Russian military alliance and our consequent loss of strategic depth.

We and the Russians have in regard to these states the same interests and the same fears. Neither we nor they wish to surrender the roughly 400 miles of separation between us. Both we and they have a visceral aversion to the circumstance in which the other enjoys a preponderance of power in appropriating to itself the neutral zone. We never rested when the Red Army was only 700 miles from Paris, and they shall never rest if NATO (which to Russia in this instance means primarily Germany) establishes itself on the Polish border 500 miles from Moscow and St. Petersburg.

In this symmetry of interests and fears lies an extraordinary opportunity that, if taken at the flood, could bestow upon Europe a durable peace such as that which followed the Congress of Vienna. Throughout the 19th century the greater balance was stable enough to weather revolutions and minor wars even at its heart, because in the calm after the storm of the Napoleonic wars Castlereagh’s main objective was an intermediary system between France and Russia that would prevent the aggrandizement of either and keep them safely apart. His task was to strengthen the bloc of Austria, Prussia, and Saxony while keeping it, too, in balance, and, in testament to his design, only when Austria weakened irreparably a hundred years later did the European system collapse.

From the Baltic to Trieste lies a belt of relatively weak states that in alliance would threaten neither East nor West, that possess the potential military power to deter quick conquest, and that as a strengthened center could serve as the pivot upon which the two historically antagonistic blocs might rest in assuring balance. Radiating outward from the central triangle Warsaw-Prague-Budapest would be the neutral Baltic Republics and Finland to the north, neutral Austria and Switzerland to the west, the neutral former Yugoslavia to the south, and the neutral Ukraine to the east. Very briefly, the fundamental structure would include a clear declaration of neutrality, the development of north-south transportation routes, Western economic aid, the creation of a free-trade area, and the organization of a military alliance (based on the Swiss and Swedish models) for the defense of the core states. Unlike the former Soviet republics, each of these states has previously and successfully positioned itself between blocs.

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The Nations of Central Europe are now anxiously pleading for incorporation in NATO, but this will lead to the opposite of what is in their basic interest. I would warrant, for example, that Ukraine’s greatest hope of continuing independence would lie not in promiscuous and collapsible guarantees but in its transformation into an eastward step to Castlereagh’s strong center, and I am surprised that the governments of the center seem to believe that safety lies in tilting one way or another.

If they lean toward the preponderant power, they are vassals, and if they lean away it feels it must swallow them. Like Western Europe, which for so long has enjoyed the ideal protection of a patron from which it is politely separated by 3,000 miles of deep ocean, the states of the center instinctively seek alliance with the powers that do not crush against them. Naturally Western Europe is a far more attractive partner than Russia, economically and in view of its reliable commitment to liberal democracy. But all this will be to no avail if it is overdone, if it elicits from Russia a reaction of anger and panic, as certainly it will when the Russians, who look at maps and play chess, contemplate what they may still refer to as the correlation of forces.

How can a structure of neutrality and placidity be engineered from the raw material of states that are unstable and weak? If, indeed, they are, far better to build them into a buffer than to ally with them directly and be dragged wherever they cannot help going. The millions of ethnic Russians in the eastern sections of Ukraine, for example, are potentially a problem of irredentism that exactly parallels that of the Serbs in Bosnia but on an immensely grander scale.

Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and the others are weak and unstable in varying degree, as one would expect of real nations in real life. Their interrelations must, in turn, be approached with the same care for balance as the relations among the blocs. No grand design absolves Western Europe, for example, from attending to its own internal frictions. Castlereagh’s problems in fashioning the intermediary system arose less from the overall scheme than from maintaining a secondary equilibrium among the states of the center. In these things there is no end to caution and oversight, which is not only part of the challenge but a substantial part of the appeal. The system cannot be static, for a conception celebrated with no expectation that it will evolve will petrify like Marxism and pitch forward from its pedestal like a statue.

Why not treat Russia as an equal partner in guaranteeing the security of the center through a system of treaties that would formalize the design and remain subject to emendation so as to accommodate the inevitable changes over time? The arrangements would draw their strength not from the treaties but from the utility and appeal of the fundamental structure of which the treaties would be a clarifying expression. In this regard it may be useful to note that lawyers spend their lives dealing with cases as they come up, ad hoc, without reference to a whole. They are trained to work in a world of fictions in which they do not suffer the consequences of what they do, and an external sovereignty exists to enforce the agreements they write. None of this has any resemblance to international relations, in which the presence of lawyers is mainly a distraction and a danger. And yet our Secretaries of State tend to be precisely the lawyers who make the technical part so throbbing and the imaginative part so dull. What a pity, for nations will confound hopes and predictions and throw over the contracts of the law, at which point the lawyers will turn and say, this thing that we thought amenable to prediction and bound by agreement, this thing that we thought we could control with the logic of our profession is something else entirely, is a creature of passion, a matter of art.

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The creation of a strong intermediary system in Europe, a belt of neutral states, should be the first priority in the foreign relations of the United States. To forgo such an opportunity now would be the equivalent of imposing the badly structured peace of Versailles, of not moving against Hitler early, and of the Soviet rejection of the Baruch plan for the international control of atomic weapons. It will leave the field open to hastily improvised policies that arise from habit. Whether the habit be reflexive cowardice and appeasement or the blunt and stupid love for a fight, it will not likely be appropriate to a new set of forces in a new pattern of action. And yet it is doubtful that in the upper levels of a Department of State run like a personal-injury law firm anyone has given this a thought. They are too busy with unrelated cases to understand the elemental conception that applies to all.

Perhaps if a Republican President is elected in 1996 he will have both motivation and the time remaining to give some thought to the classical balance of power and its beckoning opportunities for our age and circumstances, but he shall have to overcome or disregard isolationists, pacifists, and those who know naught but to seek ephemeral advantage, and he shall have to move with dispatch, for we cannot float in these still waters forever.

1 For example, who in a position of power reflects on the revision of Russian military doctrine to allow the more promiscuous pre-Gorbachev view of limited nuclear warfare? See Mary C. FitzGerald, “Russia's New Military Doctrine,” Hudson Briefing Paper Number 148.

2 The Military Balance, 1995/96, International Institute for Strategic Studies (London, 1995).

3 True, Asia is of great importance, but China already dominates the East Asian land mass and cannot overwhelm the highly developed islands and “virtual islands” on the edge unless it adopts a maritime strategy requiring, at a minimum, the prior solution of its problems of infrastructure and per-capita GNP. In World War II, the Pacific theater was always subsidiary to the European, and for good reasons, including the vastness of the Pacific and the natural self-containment of East Asia, a fact not only of geography but of inclination worn deeply into the patterns of history.

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