With the end of the Cold war at the end of the 20th century, international conflicts appear to have made a major shift. Military conflict between modern industrial state seems increasingly remote. The conflicts of the new 21st century appear to fall into two categories. The first is between Third World countries and the Industrial countries, a classic instance of the conflict between the haves and have nots. Here many Third World countries are deeply conflicting beteen modernization and traditional values. [Cook] The second is that between Third World countries. The classic example here is the simmering dispute between India and Pakistan over Khasmir, a conflict made especially dangerous because both countries have nuclear weapons. The current attention is on Islamic fundamentalism, but a key elementbin many conflicts of the late 20th and early 21st century are the increasing number of failed nations. Many observers in the optimistic afterglow following the end of the Cold war thought that the end of the East-West ideological struggle would result in in a declining number of conflicts around the world. Some authors have suggested that the 21st century will be marked by a clash of civilizations. [Hunnington] This does not mean clashes of rival world views as in the Cold War. Rather the danger may be a clash between anarchic, failed states and the successful industrial nations. There are in the world many anarchic failed states unable to achieve and democratic rule.
The major event of the second-half of the 20th century was the Cold War. Today there is a tendency to look back and say that the West's victory was preordained. It was not. But the victory of the West opened up tremendous optimism about the 21st century and the opportunities for individuals to persue a future unfettered by totalitarian constraints and open to develop their inate abilities and creativity. The major event of the 21st century is not yet clear. Historians are still debating what the major theme will prove to be. Several insightful historians have raised important issues. Frank Fukuyama began the processwith his thesis of the "end of history". He theroized that the West's victory in the Cold War meant the victory of liberal democracy and free markets. In fact all really sucessful countries do have democric countries and fee market economies. But for a wide range of hisorical, social, and religious reasons, not all contries have adopted this alternative and are unlikely to do so in the near future. Sammuel Huntington raises the issue of the "clash of civilizations", a far less otimistic outlook for the century. He argues that still firmly entrenched cultural and religious identities will be a major source of conflict in the 21st century. Thomas Fredman's "flat earth" raises all kinds of interesting insights about how time and distance have been eliminated by technology and the fundamental changes that have resulted. Despite the clear evidence that only countries with free market capitalism (unless a country is gifted with oil resources) there are still authors who question capitalism. The Chinese and Indian shift to capitalism has essentially answered the economic question in practical terms. There are still some countries that have not adopted capitalism, but they are all either economic failures or oil countries. The only center of resistance to capitalism appears to be academia. A good example is Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. She argues that that liberal cpitalism thrives on catastrophe. She even suggests that capitalism creates such disasters. While it is true that liberal regimes have not always handeled natural disasters well, there is little evidence that they set out to create crises. There is evidence, on the other hand, that socialist regimes have dne just that--the best example being the Ukranian famine engineered by Stalin. There may be an element of truth in her assessment, in that it is the failue of socialist regimes that resulted in the triump of capitalism, by this was not natural catatasprohes. Some examples can be found, but the vast majority of people benefitting from market economies in Asia, Europe, and North America have not done so as a result of natural disasters. They have done so basically because market economies create wealth and socialist economies destroy wealth. This is not to say that countries with market economies can not be improved by socialist reforms, but as abasic system, there is no socialist economies that have created bountiful life styles, and most have been guilty of gross human rights abuses, if not mass murder.
Since President Roosevelt and Primeminister Churchill met on board the Prince of Wales in 1941 to enunciate the Atlantic Charter, the United States and Europe have been united in a common shared vision of democratic socities. First under threat from the NAZIs and then Soviet Communism, America and Europe were united by a common threat. There was never total unity, but the great majority of people on both sides of the Atlantic were united in a common effort. The disolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War have changed the dynamic of the American-European relationship. Without a common threat the differing world views of Europe and America are becoming increasiungly apparent. It is not that Europe feels threatened by America, bur rather many Europeans have come to renounce a world outlook which renounces force as an instrument of national policy and look to multilateral cooperation and negotiaion to resolve differences. Americans while reluctant to use force, are continue to see military force as sometimes necessary. The mass demonstrations in Europe during early 2003 illustrated the dimensions of the split with the United States. This has resulted in differing views on how to approach the problem of Iraq's weapn's of mass destruction, but this this may be only the first of many major disagreements to come.
Fundamentalist muslems have proven very succesful in convincing the Aran and Islamic world in general that Islam is under assault from the West in general and America in particular. Osama Bein Laden is only the most extreme manifestation of the fundamentalist movement in Islam. Some see this as a developing cultural war between Islam and the West. The centrality of the Palestinian-Isreali conflict in the Arab mind has plasyed a major role in radicalizing the rest of the Arab world and the the Muslim world in general. Another factor is the nature of Whabism in Saudi Arabia and the willingness of Saudis to use oil money to support fundamentalism throughout the Islamic world. In fact, the idea that America leads a Western assault on the Arabs and Islam is so absurd that it is surprising that the notion has gained such currency, not only in the Islamic world, but even in Europe. The actual facts is that the major killer of Arabs has been Saddam Hussein and fundamentalist Iran. America has in fact intervened to protect Aab and Islamic people in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kurdistan (nothern non-fly zone in Iraq), Saudi Arabia, and Somalia (humanitarian mission). No other country (including Islamic countries) has acted so forcefully to protect Islamic people. It also shoiuld be noted that many of the countries listed are not oil producing countries and that the United States acted primarily for humanitarian reasons. The reason that the notion resonates is that there are fundamental differences between fundamentalists and the West on issues like democracy, freedom of religion and expression, fights for women, and many other aspects of modern life.
After the AlQaeda 9-11 attack there was considerable support for the War on Terror in America. The country was much more divided on the invasion of Iraq. Domestic sipport for the war has been eroded as a resuilt of the continuing attacks on American soldiers. While there is still considerable support for the War in Terror among both political parties, there is decling popular support. A good example of this is the Oliphant cartoon reporoduced in THe Eashington Post (June 5, 2004. It shows heroic images of Churchill and Roosevelt with President Bush showing up witha popgun on a ticyckle saying Ley! You guys want to play World War II?" Other captions read, :"Look! Look! A wartime president!" And "Be serious." Clearly some are not convinced of the dangers involved. Those dangers as well as appropriate and effective resonses are a matter of some debate. What I am unsure is well remembered that the heroic historic images of Churchill and Roosevelt that we recognize today was not how many Americans saw the state of affirs in 1940. The powerful Isolationist movement saw Roosevelt as a failed leader trying to send American boys into an unecessary foreign war.
Many observers in the optimistic afterglow following the end of the Cold war thought that the end of the East-West ideological struggle would result in in a declining number of conflicts around the world. Some authors have suggested that the 21st century will be marked by a clash of civilizations. [Hunnington] This does not mean clashes of rival world views as in the Cold War. Rather the danger may be a clash between anarchic, failed states and the successful industrial nations. There are in the world many anarchic failed states unable to achieve and democratic rule. The countries are dominated by often corupt sometimes virtually gangster regimes. While Communism no longer has the ideological strength it once had, large numbers of people in these countries are convinced that the success of the West is based on exploitation thus explaining the failure of third world states. It is of course in these failed states that UIslamic fundamentalism has been most successful. Any list of conflicts since the end of the Cold War shows failed states: Afghanistan, Burma, Camboidia, Congo, Haiti, Indonesia (East Timor), Liberia, Pakistan (Hhasmir), Serbia (Bosnia and Kosovo), Rawanda, Sierra Leone, and Somalia, Curiously this has caused Regan Republicans to turn the mantra of government as a threat to now seeing the need for government to maintain security. [Fukuyama]
We are somewhat puzzled by French policies. We understand that France is persuing a policy of "multipolsrity". This certainly a reasonable and defensable world view. We understand there is a substantial difference of opinion between America and Europe on a range of issues. We have discussed these on the HBC page on America and Europe. There appears to be more, however, involved in statements about America made by President Chirac. We understand that political motivations may be involved. Chirac may be triangulating. As a cebnter-right politican, by attacking America, he defuses attacks by the French left. One cpomment by President Chirac in particular struck me. He embarassed Primeminister Blair by suggesting publically that the split with America would not easily be repaired because "our American friends" do not "psy back favors". This appears to be the modern version of "perfidious albion".) Now the issues between American and Europe are real issues and I would be the last to suggest that eitherside of the Atlantic has a monopoly on truth or virtue. I do wonder how a French President can view the 20th century and say that America does not pay back favors. French citizens cheered the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) that begun to arrive in France in 1917. It was the AEF that played a key role in blunting the German offensive and breaching the Siegfried Line (1918). There was no doubt about the French view of America when President Wilson went to France after yhe War, the crowds that greeted him were tumultuous (1919). Less spectacular was the American food aid during and after the War whjich saved the lives of millions of children, including large numbers of French children. During World War II, DeGualle's Free French reveived Lend Lease equipment (1941-45) and fought the War with Ametican weapons. Without America, D-Day and the liberation of France (1944) would not have been possible. The American soldiers arriving in Paris and other liberated cities were received tumultuously. After the War the Marshall Plan (1948) played an important role in France's economic revovery. Throughout the Cold War, it was the American security umbrella that allowed France and the rest of Western Europe develop free of Soviet domination. History provides few instances of any country that not only owes it very natiional existence, but has so often been the recipoent of humanitarian, economic, and military assistance as has marked the French-American relationship. Thus we were shocked by President Chirac's sttatement.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was one of the great events oif the 20th century (1991). It was a shock to the Soviet people. There were few instances in history in which such a poweful empire imploded over such a short period. First it lost its colonies in Eastern Europe and then the Baltics. Russian polucy hass been to attempt to comntrol to various degrees the new post-Soviet states in Central Asia and thE Caucauses. Here the Russians have had varying degrees of success. But inly in Belarus have the Soviets created a new client state. Russia has become a petro state. The old Soviet industries are largely uneconomic. Large areas of the country such as Siberia were founded on the slave labor of the Gulag and now the economy is not coherently founded on ecomic realities. Russian industry produces few products that can exported or that is in grrat demand domestically. The arms industry is one of the few sectors that are efficent and compretitive. Russia economy today is founded on its huge energy exports. President Putin appears to believe that Russia's brief experiment with democracy has weakened the country and that a powerful central governmrnt is needed to maintain order and to control the ecomnomy. Outside onservers might say that Soviet totaltarian control and central planning has created the economic disaster, but this is not the conclussion that Putin has made.
Casual observers often equate elections with democracy. This of course a mistake. Stalin and Saddam held elections, at lest they went through the formalities. While electiions are only one aspect of democracies, they are a critical aspect of democracies. The Ukrarian Government attempt to rig the November 21, 2004 presidential election to ensure that the pro-Government candicate, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, would win. By the strandards of the former Soviet Union, the margin of victory was modest--a mere 3 percent. The Government formed bus concoys to shuttle supporters to multiple voting booths. Ballot boxes were stuffed. Other ballots were lost or destroyed. Poll workers were attacked. But the Ukraine is not a Stalinist police state. There were international observers. And their were Ukranians with video cameras. Young women seving as poll workers in some instanced faced down Givernment thugs. International observers reoported multiple instances of flagarant violations. Some prcecints reported higher counts for Yanukovych then there were voters. President Putin who had appeared with Yanukovych congratulated him and stated that he was convinced that the election had been fair. The Ukranian people were outraged. Then one of those magical events in history occurred, the Ukranian people simplly refused to allow their country to be stolen by a corupt oligarchy. The opposition candidate. Viktor Yushchenko, announced that he would not accept the results. Yushchenko with a face hardened by an attempt to kill him by poison soon received support by thousands of his supporters who streamed into downtown Kiev. Night after night in freezing weather the demonstrators made it impossibe for the Ukranian Government to operate, but demonstated peacefully. European and American officials in a rare show of unity expressed their concern about the obvious irregularities. The full story is not known yet known. There are reports that Putin dispatched riot control police. There are reports that President Kuchma considered ordering the security forces to disperse the demonstrators, but was concerned about their loyalty. The Government was not without its suporters. The push for democracy has come from the Ukranian speaking west whjichg is agrarian and Catholic. The Russian speaking east is more industrial and largely Orthodox did support Yanukovych, but not in the numbers claimed by the Government. The Ukranian Supreme court in televised hearings heard extensive evidence of irregularities and declared a new vote would have to beld (December 3). It is widely believed that Yushchenko will win the new election. The issues at stake is whether the Ukraine will move toward a democratic Europe or rejoin increasingly authoritarian and economically backward Russia and its sole remaining Slavic client state Belarus.
The Islamic Revolution in Iran is emerging as one of the primary issues of the early 21st century. Iran was on the perifery of world events until World War II when Iran became the primary route for American Lend Lease supplies to the Soviet Union. After the War Iran became more important as a najor oil producer. The Islamic Republic's persuit of nuclear weapons is the issue of greatest concern to the international community. The Islamic Revolution poses a variety of other issues, in particular its theocratic government, undermining democracy, support of terrorism, determination to destroy Israel, and its human rights record. Of primary interests is just what are the intentions of Iran.
Most major social events occur gradually and not unexpectedly. The Arab Spring wsas a rare surprise, both to the Arabs themselves and to those in the West who watch evemts unfold throughout the Arab world. Democracy is a rare commodity in the Arab world. The first real democratic elections took place in American-occupied Iraq and Isreali-occupied Plestine. The region was dominated by monarchies of different religious bents, including a theocratic Whabism at the heart of the arab world in Saudi Arabia, and autocratic rulers governing with varying degrees of brutality. Economically we see fairly affluent countrides based on oil exports or crony capitalism. No where do we see political freedom (democracy) or economic freedom (capitaism). Several Arab countries such as Nasser's Egypt and independent Algeria experiment with Socialism. No Aran country has yet to experiment with democracy and capitalism. The idea of democracy has, however, quietly percolated among young people throughout the Arab world. No one within and beyond the region fully understood this. The oil sheiks often allied with Islamic clergy had the money to suppressthe yearnings for democracy. The autocrats did not and the economic failure of statist ans crony capitalist economies led to deconten among a better educated youthful generation unable to find jobs and facing an increasingly bleak future. The first outburkst in Tunisia rapidly over through the Ben Ali dictatorship in Tunisia. The autocrats and their armies seemed so powerful and well entrenched. The autocrats had supressed the Islamic extremits like the Mulim Brotherhood. But they did not expect a sustained campaign from the more modern and poorly orgnized youth. And then the unthikable happened, Murbarka in Egypt and Qadafi in Libya were forced from power. Major disturbances continue in Bahrain, Jordan, Syria, and Yemen. The Arab Spring has been a movement of great prode among the young people of the Arab world. Shaking off entrenched dictarprship was exilerating and it was refeshing to hear thec ideals expressed by young people to Western journalists. These Journalists tend to describe the Arab Spring as a series of democratic revolutions. While it is true that the young people who set the Arab Spring in motion were influenced by democratic ideals that is not to say the Arab Spring will prove to be a democratic movement. The struggle for power is unfoldfing now and the Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood supressed by the authocrats are emerging as major contenders for power. It is unclear how religious and ethnic minorities as well as women will fare in countries where the Arab Spring suceeded. Democracy in the West includes notg only vote counting, but respect for minority rights and the rule of law. Anither major concern is economics. Whire democracy was a central driver of the Aran Spring, capitalism was not. And is only through findamental economic reforms instituonalizing capitalism that the economic stagnation of the non-oil countries can be revrsed.
Fredman, Thomas. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.
Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine.
Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man
Fukuyama, Francis. State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century (Cornell University, 2004), 160p. Fukuyama also argues that conservatives are increasingly seeing the need for government to regulate free markets after the Enron and other debacles. He also argues that conservatives are also more aware of the need for government to regulte science, especially biotechnology. The stem sell debate in America is a case in point.
Hunnington, Samuel. Clash of Civilizations: Remaking of World Order.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main specific war essay page]
[Return to Main military style page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [History]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]