THE collapse of the communist bloc in Eastern Europe has ramifications that go far beyond readjustments in the United States defense budget. They go to the American position in the world and to activities designed to enhance that position. For more than forty years the thrust of American foreign policy has been driven by the cold war. The Soviet threat has been involved in almost everything the US has done overseas. Now that has been swept away. Not only can we look at the world afresh; the national interest requires that we do so.
This is more difficult than it appears at first glance. The first requirement, of course, is imagination, which is always in short supply; but there are more mundane problems too. The most important of these is bureaucratic inertia. There are dozens of activities involved, and somebody has a vested interest in continuing each of them. What follows is a random, incomplete sampling.
In the era of glasnost, the Voice of America has opened bureaus in Moscow and Warsaw. But from Munich, Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe keep blasting away at the people behind what used to be the Iron Curtain. These radios were started in the days when the Voice of America was jammed in the Soviet bloc; Radio Liberty was aimed at the Soviet Union, Radio Free Europe at what were then the satellite nations. Originally, they were clandestinely funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under the guise of public contributions from concerned citizens. Later, Congress brought them into the open with public money. But what purpose do they serve now?
Since 1946 the US has obligated the equivalent in 1989 dollars of $966 billion in foreign aid. Almost all of this has been generated by the cold war. Even when we hoped we were promoting economic development in India, or improving potato cultivation in Bolivia, we said we were doing it because prosperous Indians and better fed Bolivians were less susceptible to the blandishments of communist propaganda. Now we know that hungry Poles and Russians are not susceptible either.