Post-Cold War International Relations: Trends and Portents

Article excerpt

Two world wars and the establishment of totalitarian tyrannies have shaken our faith in progress; technological civilization has shown that it possesses immense powers of destruction, for the natural world as well as for the cultural and spiritual environment. The civilization of abundance is also that of famines in Africa and other places. The collapse of totalitarian communism has left intact the evils of the democratic liberal societies, ruled by the demon of money. As the scramble for global wealth unfolds, international banks, transnational corporations are anxious to play a direct role in shaping financial structures and policing economic reforms.

One can find modem societies repellent on two accounts. On the one hand, they have taken the human race and turned it into a homogeneous mass: modern humans seem to have all come out of a factory, not a womb. On the other hand, they have made every one of those beings a hermit. Capitalist democracies have created uniformity, not equality, and they have replaced fraternity with a perpetual struggle among individuals. The collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War have brought neither economic stability nor social democracy to the world. Instead of 'a New World Order', based on democracy, open markets, law and a commitment to peace, we witness a geopolitical disorder.

On the positive side, it has paved the way for the universal aspiration for democracy as the only form of acceptable government because of its vital self-correcting capacity. It is said that we now live in one world, often called a global village. It can be argued that in many ways, particularly in terms of instant communications, of economic value, of a desire to avoid war, of a functional integration, of disease control, monetary and trade policies and so on, we are more of an integrated global community than ever before.

The dynamic transfer of people, information, capital and goods is progressing on a worldwide scale. Globalisation and an expansion of information technology have given rise to a new wave of changes in international relations. In this global era, people from numerous countries and civilizations will be blessed with the opportunity to work together.

While discovering in the next section the general trends in post-Cold War international relations, this article does not deal with how to learn the tricks of international relations. It is rather a reflection on some pretty powerful underlying forces which govern our lives unless we understand and take control of them.

Trends in Post-Cold War International Relations

These general trends can be identified in post-Cold War international relations.

First, on the security front, we have observed the decline in the salience of strategic nuclear weapons. The world is in transition from nuclear to conventional deterrence at the central (global) level. In the Cold War era, the strategic pillar of mutual assured destruction (MAD) made conquest difficult and expansion futile by either camp. The futility of expansion accounted for robust deterrence. Moreover, nuclear deterrence was robust for at least two other reasons: (1) due to the futility of 'overkill', it was possible for the superpowers to reach a weapons parity, and thus equilibrium, bringing stability to the system; and (2) ever fearful of the massive destructive might of nuclear weapons, each superpower had a powerful incentive to constrain its followers, lest a reserve proxy war break out unwittingly.

Thus, on the security front, we recognize that there is a growing trend toward depolarization, with the United States as the sole superpower. With the danger of thermonuclear warfare greatly diminished, the world has become more peaceful. But at the same time, the revival of nationalism, fundamentalism and ethnonationalist disputes in some part of the world has become a threat to international peace and the integrity of nations. …