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The historical phase of America's global dominance is behind us. Like any nation, the United States must, of course, reserve the right to act unilaterally when it feels its interests are threatened. But now there is a need for American leadership of a different sort.

As the gulf war demonstrated, America is best positioned to be the galvanizing leader of global collective security. It is the only nation capable of mobilizing effective international coalitions to tackle the post-Cold War problems that will arise.U.S. military strength, however, is the backbone of any collective response. The United States is still the world's leading military power. And we must keep it that way. One of America's chief foreign policy goals thus ought to be to ensure that no nation will ever be allowed to threaten the world the way the Soviet Union did.

Such a goal in the post-Cold War world is not incompatible with greater reductions than the Bush administration has proposed in the U.S. defense budget, including the withdrawal of most American forces from abroad.

America must not precipitously reduce its presence (thus inadvertently spurring remilitarization in Germany or Japan), but do so in tandem with the establishment of regional security structures in both Europe and Asia.

After 40 years of the exertion of U.S. power, it is high time for our European and Asian friends to pick up the greatest share of their defense requirements. They can afford it. The American people will demand it.

Although continued American engagement and some residual forces will still be required, I can see no reason why such a de facto devolution of the U.S. security posture in those regions cannot be completed by the year 2000.

In Europe, the United States must maintain the Atlanticist link through NATO, though the mandate of NATO itself must be modified.

Such a continuing U.S. role in NATO need not be incompatible with the developing capacities of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Western European Union, or for that matter the fledgling Franco-German army. Indeed, these efforts should be encouraged. U.S. policymakers still stuck in the Cold War mode must give up the attitude of "NATO or nothing."

Obviously, Europeans taking the lead in the security affairs that affect them most directly will be some time in coming. Their delinquent role in the Yugoslav crisis is not a promising beginning.

In Asia, the development of a collective security structure will take even longer. Asia has not had the comparatively unifying experience of Europe, where two blocs faced each other across clear dividing lines. Culturally, Asia is also a more complex mosaic.

Present-day Asia has even been compared to pre-World War I Europe because of the emergence of several potentially destabilizing contenders for regional hegemony - China, Korea, Japan. Indeed, Asia is the one region of the world where the traditional balance-of-power approach to stability has residual validity.

Given that reality, the United States is best positioned to disinterestedly help construct an enduring regional security structure. All the nations of the region, except North Korea, want us to remain engaged as a hedge against traditional enemies.

The United Nations has had a very promising record in recent years and thus deserves major U.S. support as a chief mechanism for the pursuit of collective security goals. Building on its recent successes, the United Nations should develop its capacities through assembling predesignated stand-by troops for use in peacekeeping as well as peacemaking missions.

Such larger U.N. responsibilities, however, will require that the United States, as well as other nations, provide the political and financial support commensurate with the U.N.'s mounting tasks.

To that end, the United States should pay its arrears to the United Nations immediately. Additionally, we should be prepared to spend much more on peacekeeping operations, though our relative share of the cost should decline as others pay more.

In the future, U.S. foreign policy must depart from the Bush administration pattern of emphasizing stability and the status quo at the expense of human rights and democracy.

The administration has been much too sympathetic to the old order. It hung on too long to Mikhail Gorbachev while snubbing Boris Yeltsin. It didn't finish off Saddam Hussein because of the fear Iraq would break up. It has also been too soft on the Chinese and much too late in recognizing the aspirations of independence - from the Ukraine to Croatia.

It is my belief that democracy and human rights are the building blocs of stability. It is the kind of stability that is also not inconsistent with the fundamental values of Americans. Democratic states, after all, have not historically waged war on each other.

Finally, the strategic approach of collective security is far better suited to the new realities than the old balance-of-power doctrine, which is no longer relevant.

The world has changed. To create a just and peaceful order out of post-Cold War disorder, the sole remaining superpower must also change its ways.

1992 New Perspectives Quarterly

Dist. by Los Angeles Times Syndicate