Gary Hart's 'The Fourth Power' offers a fresh grand strategy

Climaxing an absurdly self-destructive indiscretion, Sen. Gary Hart, running for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, was photographed on a boat with the absurdly appropriate name of Monkey Business. Until the National Enquirer broke the story and the mainstream U.S. press rapidly followed, his campaign had been anything but absurd. Many of us who were writing about politics those days believed he was the smartest and the most appropriate candidate, or at least the likeliest Democrat, in the race.

Instead of Hart, Michael Dukakis was given the nomination, and George H.W. Bush was resoundingly elected. Hart returned to Colorado to practice law in relative invisibility, at least in the public eye. Quietly, however, he has continued to attend to matters of government, especially international relations, which as a long-serving member of the Senate Armed Services Committee he made a specialty while in Congress. His law practice has concentrated on international matters, and has involved more than 100 trips to the former Soviet Union. Author of 13 books, he recently ended a three-year stint as co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century.


Drawing on those experiences, Hart has written The Fourth Power: A Grand Strategy for the United States in the Twenty-First Century (Oxford University, 176 pages, $25). It is extraordinarily thought provoking. Hart writes with great clarity and directness, yet with profound sophistication. The book vividly underscores the tragedy of Hart's political self-destruction. He clearly is a person who has much to contribute in the mainstream of public life.

Rejecting the idea of a post-Cold War United States empire - either by choice or by necessity - he proposes a "strategy of a principled republic." The first three powers that are available to the United States are economic, political and military. His title and his main focus is on the fourth: "America's core principles, its canon of beliefs, are a fourth power, a positive advantage, in achieving the nation's larger purposes in the new century."


A radical change in world order arises, of course, from the end of the Cold War, the virtual eradication of communism. But, Hart declares, other, independent changes are as definingly important. He cites four current "revolutions": globalization, the information revolution, erosion of the nation-state authority and the transformation of war characterized by terrorism. The consequences are that "Tribalism, fundamentalism, privatization, and other forces of disintegration have begun to seriously challenge the authority of the state and its ability to guarantee social and economic stability."

He stresses that the United States has enormous power - economic force greater than the next four nations of the world put together. Its military is a dominant force. But, he argues, the world by nature hates "unrivaled power." And thus there will be an inevitable tendency to counterbalance the U.S.

His "grand strategy" is "to transform our domestic economy from one of consumption to one of production and, through long-term investment, to recapitalize our education and technology base and achieve energy security; to use the forces of globalization and information to strengthen and expand existing democratic alliances and create new ones; to employ those alliances to destroy terrorist networks and establish new security structures; and, guided by our historic principles, to lead international coalitions in spreading economic opportunity and liberal democracy and in nation-building, counterproliferation of weapons, and environmental protection."

Hart is infinitely proud of his country, and eloquently so: "We drive the world's prosperity. We are the champions of the ideal of democracy. We are the world's greatest source of optimism, energy, and hope. Global citizens by the hundreds of millions say that, while they disagree, sometimes violently, with the U.S. government, they respect and admire the American people. To compromise that reservoir of personal goodwill through belligerence is to squander one of our most powerful resources."

In his enthusiasm, Hart sometimes skates on the edge of naivete. Condemning earlier practices of expediency by U.S. foreign policy, for example, he bemoans the support of the Shah of Iran and then of Iraq in its war with a militant Iran, attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro and support for military coups in Latin America. He argues that the principle of "the enemy of our enemy is our friend" is essentially un-American.

The arguments against U.S. imperialism often ring of a sort of new isolationism. Hart argues the opposite. His proposal is for a very active, even aggressive diplomatic and economic effort to export American goodness to virtually any country in the world except those that already are industrially advanced and socially benign.

Hart seems dauntless in his conviction that openness and generosity of heart and purse will nourish and empower goodness in other countries, and ultimately in the world. This is beautifully estimable. But even in countries and areas where U.S. and international support has been generous and well intentioned, it has not prevented the rise of evil leadership.

He is acutely concerned for the decay of standards at the top levels of the national economy: "Unscrupulous executives and managers took every advantage of curbed regulatory watchdogs to inflate profits and earnings, cut accounting corners, plunder corporate treasuries, and launch their own gilded yachts. ... Free markets are those in which you are free to make choices, not free to deceive and manipulate."


Hart's view of the Bush administration's policies and practices are, as one would expect, colored by the fact that he has spent much of his life as a professional Democratic politician and President Bush is a Republican. But he argues that "neither party has shown interest in or any particular aptitude for strategic thinking."

Bush himself and his principal foreign policy advisers would be well served by reading and contemplating this book. Not because that might lead to some radical change in their policy - though Hart does so suggest - but because it provides definitions, a vocabulary, for talking about the future, both foreseeable and unforeseeable. And right now, this is not being done well on either side of the national political debate.