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THE WORLD FROM...Washington

The end of the cold war and the fall of the Soviet Union are forcing the vast foreign-policy machine to retool

WATCHING the spread of freedom may be inspiring. And lots of people think there are riches to be made in the former Soviet Union. But Washington is waking up to the fact that the New World Order is not without its hazards.The end of the cold war means Washington no longer has an easily identifiable adversary - a foreign policy purpose to rally around, a geopolitical problem that doesn't change, a focus for think tanks, policy papers, and interdepartmental meetings. The cold war was one of Washington's main industries. But its demise doesn't mean there aren't any dangers in the world, as Defense Secretary Richard Cheney keeps pointing out. So the policy class is beginning attempts to reorganize itself. Case in point: On Dec. 10, the Council on Foreign Relations (an island of Washington based in New York) inaugurated the Project on America's Task in a Changed World. James Schlesinger, former secretary of defense, ex-secretary of energy, once director of Central Intelligence, will serve as chairman. "We have to examine fundamental changes - political, military and economic - as they have occurred in every region of the world to see how they bear on American foreign policy," said Mr. Schlesinger in a statement. The Project's 31 members include: Morton Abramowitz of the Carnegie Endowment; Frank Carlucci, former secretary of defense; Adm. William Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; David Gergen of US News and World Report; and Jessica Tuchman Mathews of the World Resources Institute. Two days later, the Carnegie Endowment announced its own National Commission on America and the New World. Schlesinger is on this commission, too. So are Abramowitz, Carlucci, Crowe, Gergen, and Mathews. The Carnegie chairman, former ambassador to China Winston Lord, said: "With the end of the cold war, United States foreign policy has lost the moorings that have been taken for granted for almost half a century." From a political point of view, these two panels won't finish their work in time. The 1992 presidential election will be the first since World War II to be contested without a reliable adversary to stand tough against. The search for a substitute is already on. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is fading. With just about all US troops out of the region, the plight of the Kurds - though still dire - has all but disappeared from Washington concerns. Libya is proving a reliable, if minor, punching bag. Six years ago, then-President Ronald Reagan declared that Libyan support for terrorism meant a crisis existed between Col. Muammar Qaddafi and the US. Bombing followed. In a statement to Congress last week, President Bush said that crisis still exists. Japan is coming up fast as a reliable political opponent. By taking a group of US executives on his visit to Japan, Bush is doing something widely seen as aimed far more at US voters than the Japanese. Democrats continue to at least tap, if not bash, the Japanese. If Bush doesn't get tougher, Congress is likely to pass legislation punishing Japan for restricting imports from the US. Then there's the problem of embassy proliferation here. The Baltic nations, never recognized by Washington as part of the Soviet Union, and Russia, which inherits the Soviet Embassy, are set. But what about the 11 other republics? Are they all going to want their own real estate, preferably on the prime Massachusetts Avenue? Even if they can afford them, embassies in Washington are governed by complicated zoning laws. Space is tight. Kazakhstan still has nuclear weapons; it may not be satisfied if relegated to the Van Ness area, the embassy equivalent of the cheap seats.

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