In the days of U.S. expansion during the 19th century, a New York newspaper editor famously urged Americans looking for their fortunes: "Go West, young man, and grow with the frontier."
The West of endless possibilities is gone now, but the promise of another frontier has the United States looking in a new direction: North to its lands in the Arctic region.
President George W. Bush recently issued a broad directive outlining U.S. policy toward the Arctic, a region of growing interest for many purposes, including scientific research and maritime shipping routes. It reaffirms that with territory in Alaska fronting the Arctic Ocean, America is an Arctic nation with interests in the region as varied and compelling as those of fellow Arctic nations such as Canada, Russia and Norway.
It has been 15 years since the U.S. last reviewed its policy for the region, and much has happened in that time. With the increase in summer melting of Arctic sea ice, human activity is increasing, potentially leading to expanded fishing, energy exploration and other economic development, and pollution in the region.
The new directive highlights several areas where U.S. initiatives in the Arctic may be warranted, such as fisheries and tourism management, scientific cooperation, resource development and environmental protection.
In the Arctic region, the U.S. wants to cooperate with its neighbors and respect international law. The best way to address both the challenges and opportunities of the Arctic is through cooperation.