The Cohen Courier would be different from most newspapers -- and never mind that it would have only one columnist. More to the point, is the way it would package the news. On July 17, for instance, it would not have had one story saying the Soviets had dropped their objections to a united Germany being in NATO and another story saying the administration had upped its estimate of the budget deficit. This would have been one story: the Rise of Germany, the Decline of the United States.
The Germans are now able to do what we once did: throw money at obstacles. An obstacle to German reunification was the insistence of Moscow that a united Germany be neutral. How serious Mikhail Gorbachev was about this condition is a matter of conjecture. After all, a Germany in NATO is a Germany linked to the West. Think of NATO not as an alliance but as a choke collar on Germany. Now you get the idea.
Still, Gorbachev needed to sell this idea to his own military and to his people. Their fear of a united Germany has been earned the hard way: about 26 million dead in World War II and Nazi atrocities beyond imagination. Add to that the fact that some people are still alive who remember World War I (yet another German-Russian war), and you can see why the very whisper of the word "Germany" gives many Soviets the shivers.
So what did Bonn do? Well, it argued, it reasoned and it accommodated. One of those accommodations is the stated intention of reducing its own armed forces. But it did something else as well: it offered Moscow oodles of money. For openers, Chancellor Helmut Kohl said he would give the Soviet Union $730 million cash and follow with about $3 billion in credits.
This is the kind of language Gorbachev likes to hear. From President Bush, though, he hears that the United States is willing to send the Soviet Union nothing more than experts to help it rebuild (re-invent, is more like it) its economy. Bush offers no aid, and indeed he has good reason not to. He says the money would be wasted. The Soviet Union lacks the most basic infrastructure -- a banking system, for instance -- to institute a market economy. It's reforms have been halfhearted at best. The lines in Moscow only get longer.
Bush's argument is not bad, but it's advanced by a government that has no choice in the matter. We're broke. Richard Darman's latest, honest-injun, estimate of the 1991 deficit is $168.8 billion. That's about $68 billion more than was forecast in January and way above the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings ceiling of $64 billion. The OMB director then said that unless Congress acted, all sorts of awful things would happen.
That deficit story is linked to what happened in the Soviet Union. Whatever the logic of Bush's argument that the Soviet Union needs expertise and not aid, it's money that just might enable Gorbachev to get through the next few years. With cash, he can buy food. With cash, he can house military officers who are living in tents. The one thing he cannot do is say to the Soviet people that in exchange for giving up Eastern Europe they will have a lower standard of living.
Once, the United States practiced "dollar diplomacy." Wonderful things were done with cash. During the Cold War, we had by far the better system and the better argument. We also had the most cash.
Now, however, we are broke, and our demeanor must match our purse. Thus Japan will do what it wants about China -- never mind Washington's objections. Thus Germany will become Europe's dominant power not because it has a large army but because it's rich. More and more, it -- and not the United States -- will be telling the Soviets what to do.
For years, Ronald Reagan and his acolytes said the deficit did not matter. For years, we were told that a mighty military would enable us to "stand tall." And, for years, we were told that a tax hike was not only not necessary but something close to a sin. Now, hobbled by the deficit, the United States plays a reduced role in world affairs. What Bush once called "voodoo economics" is more on target than he imagined. The pin has deflated our standing as a world power.