INAUSPICIOUS BEGINNINGS Principal Powers and International security Institutions after the Cold War, 19S9-1999 Edited by Onnig Beylerian and Jacques Lévesque Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2004. xii, 314pp, $75.00 cloth (ISBN 0-7735-2625-0), $29.95 paper (ISBN 0-7735-2626-9)
As was the case at the end of the two world wars, hopes were almost universally high by 1990 that a new world order would emerge out of the ashes of the last great military confrontation of the 2oth century-the Cold War. The dominant feature of international relations between 1945 and 1990, this war was at root an ideological confrontation between two markedly different socioeconomic systems. But people feared the Cold War's military stalemate most, underwritten as it was by the threat of nuclear war.
No single event marked the end of the Cold War. It was a process, beginning with a rapprochement between the Cold War's chief protagonists, Russia and America, in the mid-1980s. The superpower overtures on nuclear disarmament that marked this détente were swiftly followed by the "fall" of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the subsequent dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and, ultimately, the implosion of the Soviet Union itself. Thus, by 1990, people came to believe that Cold War swords could be beaten into post-Cold War ploughshares and that, with the apparent victory of the west over communism, the putative benefits of liberal democracy and free-enterprise capitalism could be spread worldwide. Indeed, freed from the political fetters of the Cold War, victors and vanquished alike could now work together to strengthen international security institutions, as they were supposed to have done at war's end in 1945. People believed that the litmus test of great power collaboration came in January 1991, when former Cold War adversaries worked together through the United Nations security council and helped forge a coalition victory over Iraq for its transgressions against neighbouring Kuwait.
All this, of course, is history. Nevertheless, it is this brief moment in time that provides the essential context for Inauspicious Beginnings. This is an important volume, not just for its erudition and its almost unique treatment of the institutional behaviour of a motley crew of post-Cold War "principal powers," but also because of the ways in which it sheds light on the "inauspicious beginnings" of the new world order that seemed to be emerging at this time. Inauspicious Beginnings does not fully capture the euphoria that ushered in the 19903; nor does it project a real sense of the tragic consequences of the failure of a better world order to materialize. …